Who Started World War I: Crash Course World History 210

Who Started World War I: Crash Course World History 210

Hi, I’m John Green, this is Crash Course World
History, and today we continue our discussion of how a regional conflict became World War
I. We’re also going to look at who started the war and although no one nation is truly
to blame, some nations are more to blame than others. Like America, for once? Blameless. Well, not
totally blameless. Largely blameless. Mr. Green, Mr. Green! That’s easy, the Germans
started the war. Well, Me from the Past, as it happens many
historians and British politicians would agree with you. I mean, you have an opinion that can be
defended. And I can’t wait for you to defend it. Uhh… maybe they just, like, really liked war? I’m
not really in the defending positions business, Mr. Green, I’m more in the like, bold proclamations
business. Yes, Me from the Past, noted. But it turns
out, there’s more to life than that. So the topic of who started World War I remains
one of the most controversial and interesting topics to discuss in World History, not least because,
you know, we’d like to avoid having another one. But in general, when we talk about World Wars,
as when we talk about World Cups, we pretty quickly end up discussing Germany. The idea that the root cause of World War
I was Germany, or more specifically, German militarism, continues to be popular. This
has been the case ever since the 1960s when this historian, Fritz Fisher, identified Germany
as the chief cause of the war. But Germany’s guilt for the war was also written into the
Versailles Peace Treaty, in article 231, and most of you will be familiar with the idea
that anger over that clause its incumbent debts helped lead to Hitler’s rise. Also, pretty much however you slice it Germany
was definitely responsible for starting World War II, and looking back that made it more
plausible that they would have also stated World War I, because, you know, they had a
history of starting wars. To be fair, the definition of a Western European nation is
“has a history starting wars.” Unless you’re the Swiss. Cue the Switzereel, Stan! Yeah okay, but the thing is attributing characteristics
like militarism or authoritarianism to entire national populations is a little problematic.
Also one nation’s militarism is another nation’s strong national defense, and when you live
in the country, as I do, that spends more on defense than any other nation, it’s probably
not that good of an idea to call people militaristic. There’s just something about that broad-brush
painting of an entire nation sharing a particular characteristic that feels a little bit propaganda-y.
Also, it wasn’t just Germans who were militaristic in 1914. The idea of “the glory of war” was
a very popular concept all over Europe, and really there’s no evidence that the German
people of 1914 were any more or less militaristic than the French or the Russians, They all
had poetry that celebrated heroic sacrifice and dying for the Mother and/or Fatherland. That’s not usually and. Maybe, though. I’m
gonna stay open minded. But there’s another problem with the whole
idea that the Germans were more eager for war than anyone else in Europe. That argument
relies a lot on the behavior of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the German leader, and the Kaiser did
make some pretty bellicose and stupid public statements, which in turn made people fear
that Germans were eager for war. So Wilhelm became kind of a stand-in for German aggression,
a literal cartoon villain, upon whom the world, especially the English, could project their
stereotypes. So I would argue that the German character
isn’t to blame for World War I, and in fact no national character has ever been to blame
for any war. But I am not going to let the Germans off the hook entirely. So you will remember that Germany offered
the so-called “blank check” that Germans would always support Austro-Hungarians’ ultimatum
to Serbia. And in some ways this empowering by Germany’s support encouraged Austria’s
foreign minister Berchtold to behave as recklessly as possible, under the mistaken impression that
this is what the Germans wanted him to do. So basically, Austria thought that Germany
wanted a war, so they were like, “Oh, we’ll just behave really recklessly and we’ll give
the Germans the war they’ve been so excited about.” But the Germans were offering the
Austrians the assurance of support in the hopes that it wouldn’t lead to war. So you could argue that in fact most of the
blame for starting World War I should fall on the shoulders of the Austrians, after all,
they were the ones who issued the ultimatum to Serbia, and they were the first to declare
war, although only against Serbia. But, the Germans were the first to declare war on a
major power, Russia, on August 1st, and the German advance on France through Belgium is
what brought Britain into the war. And those are pretty solid arguments that Germany turned
the conflict from, you know, a regional thing in the Balkans, which isn’t unprecedented,
to like this big pan-European war. But I don’t think we’re done assigning blame,
because we didn’t just have a pan-European war, we had a world war. Russia. Now you’ll remember that of all the major
powers, Russia was the first to mobilize its massive army, and it was Russia’s mobilization that
drew Germany, France, and Britain into the war. Putin is looking at me, isn’t he, Stan. I’m
just trying to–ah! you so scary! Stan, can you please make Mr. Putin go away,
I’m just trying to talk about history, I’m not talking about any current conflicts. And it makes me nervous to say this, but there
was really no good reason for Russia to mobilize in the first place. I mean, when Austria declared
war on Serbia on July 28th, the Austrians could not mobilize their own troops for two
weeks, because they were on harvest break. I mean, if we’ve learned anything about agriculture,
it’s that it’s hard to have a large-scale war without it, so we can’t go to war until
all the wheat has been farmed. But even if Austria had mobilized and attacked
immediately, their initial plan was an attack on Belgrade, not Russia, which by the way
was called somewhat confusingly, Plan B. Now, Vienna did have a plan to mobilize against
both Serbia and Russia, but they never used it. But even if Austria had launched an all-out
attack on Russia, Russia had begun its pre-mobilization, the period preparatory to war, on July 25th,
and while I usually don’t care about dates, with the start of World War I, very important,
because July 25th was before the Serbs had even responded to the Austrian ultimatum. And just as a general rule, it’s hard to play
the blameless victim when you’re moving all of your troops to the border. Hey, why are
you here again, Putin? So here we have Austrians and Germans receiving
reports of Russian troops massing on their borders, and you know, that seems kind of
like war. A lot of it comes down to how you understand Russia’s period preparatory to
war. I mean, do you focus on the “period preparatory”, or do you focus on the “to war”? Regardless,
Russia became the first power to actually put its war machine into motion. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. So talking about Russia leads us to some of
the more meta arguments about the causes of World War I because it’s difficult to understand
what Russia was doing when it mobilized without trying to understand why they mobilized. After
all, an Austrian attack on Serbia was hardly an existential threat to Russia, I mean, look
at the map. Russia’s huge, and at the time, probably had the largest army in Europe, if
not the world. So why would they care about what was likely to be a skirmish on the Bosnian
border? Well, here’s where geo-politics and history
come in. So, looking at the map, you can see that the Balkans are right next to the Dardanelles,
the straits that give access to the Black Sea. Russia needed to maintain influence there
in order to ensure traffic through those straits, especially if the Ottomans were going to form
an alliance with the Germans, which they did. Also, at least in its own estimation, Russia
was in danger of becoming a laughingstock in European politics: their humiliating loss
to Japan in the Russo-Japanese War was followed by Russia’s inability to stop Austria from
annexing Bosnia from the Ottomans in 1908, and that was the event that sparked Serbia’s
drive to expand its own territory. Its history of prior weakness meant that Russia’s foreign
policy makers feared that without some decisive action, Russia wouldn’t be taken seriously
anymore. In the wake of Austria’s ultimatum, Russian
foreign minister Sazonov concluded that Russia, quote, “Could not remain a passive spectator
whilst a Slavonic people was being trampled down. If Russia failed to fulfill her historic
mission, she would be considered a decadent state and would henceforth have to take second
place among the powers…if at this critical juncture, the Serbs were abandoned to their
fate, Russian prestige in the Balkans would collapse utterly.” Thanks, Thought Bubble. So judging from what we just learned in the
Thought Bubble, it was really the Ottomans. If they could have just stopped Austria from
annexing Bosnia in the first place, none of this would have happened. And if I may go
a little further back, there wouldn’t have even been an Ottoman Empire without the stupid
Romans. And of course the Roman Empire was largely dependent upon constant expansion
and looting, so if only the Gauls could have defeated Caesar, none of this would have happened. In short, no wonder Caesar was assassinated,
he was about to start World War I in 1900 years. I bring that up because that’s the tricky
thing about the blame game. You can trace the causes of World War I back a bunch of
ways. I mean, I can’t think of anyone who you can’t at least partially assign blame
to – well, I mean except the Mongols. Actually you know what, if they’d just kept
control of Russia, probably no World War I. Anyway, all of this only scratches the surface
of the arguments about who’s to blame for World War I. I mean, I haven’t dealt with
stuff like the alliance system or European imperialism, or you often hear about the naval
rivalry between Britain and Germany, and then there are the ideological causes, like nationalism,
and the Social Darwinist thinking that led people to believe that war was a natural and
inevitable state of human affairs. You can tell all those origin stories of the
Great War, and they’re important, but ours centers on diplomatic history. There are a
few reasons for this, first, the decision to go to war was ultimately in the hands of
a very small group of diplomats. I mean, even in the most democratic countries, Britain
and France, popular opinion didn’t force mobilization. Also, in most countries that’s still the case.
It’s still diplomats who decide whether to go to war. So understanding what makes governments
and diplomats decide to go to war is very important. But looking at the diplomatic causes of the
war also reveals something to us about the pitfalls of writing history. I mean diplomats
are famous for keeping pretty detailed records of their dealings, both at the time and in
retrospect, and then historians have to sift through all these sources and make choices
about which ones to emphasize. And sometimes, even which ones to believe, because of course,
often these sources are in direct conflict. Now, I’m no historian, but in creating this
episode, we had to make choices that many of you will disagree with. Either because
you don’t think we gave enough evidence or because you don’t like the things that we
emphasized, and that’s great. It’s these constructive and critical conversations that lead us to
dig deeper, to consult more primary sources, to read more broadly, and that in turn leads
to a richer understanding of the world and a more engaged life. All that noted, the alliance system was certainly
important and I’m sure you’ll be discussing it in your classes, and in comments. Thank you for watching, I’ll see you next
week. Crash Course is filmed here in the Chad and
Stacey Emigholz Studio in Indianapolis, and it’s made possible because of these people’s
hard work and also because of your contributions on Subbable. Subbable is a voluntary subscription
service that allows you to contribute directly to Crash Course for the monthly price of your
choice and it allows us to keep Crash Course free for everyone forever, so thank you to
all of our Subbable subscribers, and thanks to everyone who watches. As we say in my hometown, don’t forget to
be awesome.

100 thoughts on “Who Started World War I: Crash Course World History 210

  1. Germany really should have allied with Russia instead because before kaiser willhem was close friends with Russia.

  2. Has anyone else noticed that the guy from the past always has the same haircut as the guy from the present? It's rather suspicious.

  3. World war 1 was the bloodiest war of the 20th century Let's start with a brief history of how it all started first there was was the Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand (28th June, 1914) Austria-Hungary demands Serbia arrest the leaders of the Black Hand (23rd July, 1914)Serbia appeals to Russia for help(24th July, 1914)Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia (28th July, 1914)Germany declares war on France (3rd August, 1914)Moltke orders the Schlieffen Plan to proceed (4th August, 1914)The person is to blame here is obviously Austria-Hungary because the whole reason why Germany was even involved in this because was because Germany decided to help Austria-Hungary by declaring war on Russia (August 1st. 1914 )And France in (August 3rd 1914 )The German army prepared to attack France through Belgium, just as General Schlieffen had planned(This came in a downward spiral not having the right amount of materials and trying to do it in six weeks ) sad life

  4. this video can be shortened into few seconds like this:Serbian guy shoot prince of austria hungary then austria hungary declared war on serbia serbias allie russia declared war on austria hungary austria hungaries allie germany joined the war then they atacekd france and belgium whick lead to UK join and allies of those cunttries have bean joining the war and then we got a world war

  5. The map at 6:55 has several errors.

    Russia is shown controlling the now Kaliningrad area (was German) and not the caucasian region.

    Romania is shown controlling the Banat area (the pointy bit on its western corner), which was part of Austria-Hungary.

    Austria-Hungary is not shown controlling Croatia, Bosnia and South Tirol.

    Germany is not shown controlling Alsace-Lorraine.

    The Ottoman Empire is not shown controlling Istanbul and the areas around it.

  6. Serbia actually accepted everything except 1 thing on the ultimatum and Germany said that Austria-Hungary should except the response and have no war. So The German Empire isn’t entirely to blame for the start. They may have escalated it but had Austria-Hungary accepted it it would have been averted and maybe these empires could have stuck around and Germany could have been stronger than it is today.

  7. WWI was started by everybody. Beyond Geo politics all the generals had all these fancy new toys called 'machine guns' and 'airplanes' and they were very eager to try them out.

  8. I really love the way that Crash Course teaches history. It is as impartial as possible, it always has some revelation about humanity, and it is always very well argued. I learnt so much from here!

  9. Lousitania : Delclaring War to Germany.
    !!! Lousitania was shipping into an war area…. What have they think?

  10. The Serbs tried to blow Francis Ferdinand up with a pipe bomb but that bomb was a dud. When Princip saw Ferdinand he pulled out and shot him. He was NOT eating a sandwich.

  11. gavrilo….
    welp he shot my man france ferdinand
    which caused a domino effect of events
    if ww1 didnt happed hitler would be happy and not become a crazy mustace lad

  12. You haven't touched on the Prussia-France Rivalry that already led to a war some 40 years prior and the Schlieffen plan that was actually put in motion on the start of the World War I and was devised 10 years prior to it, meaning Germany did want war with France, which would've certainly led to a global conflict, given German tendencies toward making colonial gains and also France being allied to both Russia and Britain.

  13. There is a lot of talk about countries but I wonder about the personal characteristics of the leaders … would different types of leaders have acted differently?

  14. Oh John, you say you’re no historian. Yet you’re my favourite historian. What really IS a historian…really?

  15. "Who started World War I?"
    Gavrilo Princip, he assassinated archduke Franz Ferdinand and as a result made everyone paranoid and try to figure out how to respond.

  16. What is it with the numeration within the thought bubble? Is it leading to further explanations or sources? LOVE you channel btw!!!

  17. Austria wanted to fight the Serbs, the Hungarians didnt, also Hungary didnt want to be with Austria (we fought them but failed) so considering Hungary didnt want anything to do with ww1 its really unfair that at the end of ww1 Hungary lost its coast, its forests and 75% of their original land

  18. The direct cause of World War 1 was the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife by Bosnian-Serb teenager Gavrilo Princip. Everything else leading up to 1914 is a circumstance, not a cause.

  19. This video discusses a lot of circumstances, not causes. The direct cause of World War 1 was the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.

  20. Well Russia did have a reason to build up troops, if you remember they'd lost a war against Japan in 1904 and the tzar survived a revolution in 1905. Both of these events forced the tzar to build up a larger army.

  21. "I'm not really in the 'defending positions' business; I'm more in the 'bold proclamations' business." 🤣🤣🤣

  22. Mr Green,

    This is another disgusting video. My views:

    1. Hate mongering and anti Russian hatred filled morons like you should never become a teacher in any US school.
    2. Once again you ignored the epic 1,300,000 Indian soldiers who suffered and died for racist powers in Europe. We are racists too. No sense to acknowledge the enormous sacrifices of other nations. No wonder why we are called as Exceptionalist!

    Stop making such useless videos.👎

  23. France started WW 2 because of how harsh they treated Germany they were still bitter about the Franco – Prussian War

    That and Anti German Propaganda

  24. Britain was going to enter the war anyways, Germany was overtaking them as a world superpower, and the German navy was starting to rival the British navy. Belgium being invaded was just an excuse.

  25. It might be cough cough Serbia, who refused the REASONABLE Austria Hungarian ultimatum…it doesn't take much thought, Franz Ferdinand assassinated by Serbs using Serbian weapons and Serbian bomb, and it was beneficial for Serbia for the people who killed Franz Ferdinand to be killed as well, as they were from Young Bosnia who wanted to get rid of the Serbian king and Queen.

  26. Lmao Kaiser Wilhelm II was a villain…not that he cut down an estimated 40k trees (and replanted) and donated most of them to the locals personally(with one hand) after his exile. He was nationalistic, but not selfish, he allied with Austria Hungary and Italy over his own two cousins…he was largely in favor of German independence, and in order to ensure this, he needed a large military. We can also look at how kind he is by the consequences of the losers. Russia surrendered and had no consequences at all, whereas when Germany surrendered later, the consequences forced them into a depression. When he asked for asylum it took the Queen of the Netherlands only 12 hours to decide to let him in, and refused to let other countries take him and put him on trial, which could be seen as an act of war. Even Winston Churchill offered him asylum later, but he refused. He was also against Hitler btw. He asked to be buried in Germany ONLY if the monarchy was restored and that no nazi symbols be shown at his funeral. Hitler ignored the second one.

  27. 6:49 – Romania didn't own Banat, vojvodivna is not on the Balkan penninsula and why does Russia own Ostprussen and Memel

  28. crash course has biggest impact on the world in recent decade. it changes the way we see YouTube technology and education. thanks to green brothers.

  29. I feel that the entente were responsible for the war, when the archduke was killed by a maybe sponsored assassin from Serbia Germany and Austria-Hungary were just defending the selves

  30. 4:23 you know, a regional thing in the Balkans, which isn't unprecedented

    so funny the way he said it =)))))))

  31. 2:10 Yes very much so especially since Germany sits in the middle of Europe and has borders with outer countries to defend in at least two directions (east and west) and one of those (east) has no natural boundaries to speak of, and when the country you border to that side (Russia) almost conquered your precursor (Prussia) just over 150 years ago but only failed to do so because of militarism, well the militarism seems like a pretty good idea, especially since Russia has only gotten bigger since then.

  32. I would put forward the idea that most of the blame lands squarely on Franz Conrad von Hotzendoff. PROVE ME WRONG.

  33. Seems like all fought all the time. We crossed an ocean to join in the fray. Ahh the swiss army n their knives???

  34. Franz Ferdinand's assassination? Russia's paranoia about losing prestige? Austrian imperialism? Nah.
    I'll tell you who started World War One.

    HMS Dreadnought.

  35. Who caused WW1? It is Satan..because that was the time when our God forbid Satan from entering the Kingdom of Heaven..and he was so angry about it and he wants a revenge…

  36. Everything you said is pretty much right except you left out a few details. One of the biggest reasons for starting WW1 was because of the French wanting to destroy Germany which is actually true. At that time Germany was at its economic peak and was actually doing better then any other country. It had the highest literacy rate in the world at that time and had the best universities the world could ever provide. Its trading fleet was growing and it came up to 3000 merchant ships. Germany was thriving and was actually the best country to live in. This is one of the reasons why WW1 started, everyone was actually becoming jealous of Germany and feared that it would be better then them. That's why the British clashed with the Germans about if they should have a navy. The Germans just wanted to have a navy to protect their merchant fleet and British wouldn't allow them. Same thing almost goes with the French except the French were the only ones who actually really wanted war and their reason was the Franko-Prussian war which they lost. So basically the French just wanted revenge. Now Germany in the middle of all of this didn't care about wars, or aggression, or even taking territory and there is proof of this. If you look on a map of the empires of that time Germany is the only one that doesn't have that much land. The only land it occupied was its own country and a few puny little colonies in Africa that were very small. Whereas the British have a huge and enormous empire scaling North and South of Africa with Australia and New Zealand along with the Philippines and Canada. Same thing again with the French except they had Africa east to west and colonies in Vietnam and in other areas. America also had a huge empire. Yet here is Germany occupying barely any land at all. Now the last thing I'll say is that Germany was probably the most innocent country of the war and the only one then actually tried preventing it. Kaiser Wilhelm II along with the prime minister at that time were the only ones who actually saw what was happening and tried to stop it before it was too late but no one listened. Kaiser Wilhelm II sent letters to Tsar Nicholas II telling him that he shouldn't mobilize his armies at all because he knew it would lead to war.  A lot of people blame the Kaiser especially for the war yet he was the only one who actually tried to stop it as I said. He was a modern and very good monarch who cared for his country and the people of Germany loved him for it. Germany was not aggressive in WW1 and did not want to take any land whatsoever and was the good guy of WW1 and that's proven by historians.

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