Tuesday, March 10, 2015


"For a fully documented account of how the Auswaertiges Amt doctored Die Grosse Politik, see Holger Herwig, "Clio Deceived: Patriotic Self-Censorship in Germany after the Great War," International Security 12 (Autumn 1987), 5-44."
Stephen Schuker, "Reply to 'THE GREAT WAR REVISTED OR THE LAST GASP OF THE 'OLD HATS' ?". Diplomat of the Future. 16 February 2015, in www.diplomatofthefuture.blogspot.com.
"The most obvious shortcoming of the Grosse Politik stemmed from its very nature as a publication from the files of the former foreign office. In other words, the collection does not include the highly important, indeed critical materials of several other, powerful planning agencies: the General Staff, the War Ministry, the Naval Office, the bureaus responsible for economic preparation for the war....Of course, not all materials, even in a forty-volume series, and there is little doubt that many documents were suppressed or even destroyed. Moreover, some of the documents published were shortened with potentially damaging sections deleted."
Holger Herwig, "Clio Deceived: Patriotic Self-Censorship in Germany after the Great War". International Security. Fall 1987, p. 15.
"I went over to see [Sir Walter] Monckton one day this week at the Ministry of Labour in St. James's Square to talk about the 'Windsor' papers --- captured German documents which show how the Germans tried to get a hold of the Duke in 1940 when he was in Portugual....Cabinet decided --- feebly and under pressure from the PM [Sir Winston Churchill] --- to try to suppress the Windsor papers. There is sure to be a row with the historians who will regard this as tampering with history. The PM and [Lord] Salisbury are to see the British editor, Miss Lambert, and try to 'persuade' her. She has already threatened to resign if her historian's conscience is assailed. We shall see".
Sir Charles Arthur Evelyn Shuckburgh. Descent to Suez: diaries 1951-1956. (1986), p. 100.
Do allow me to be the very first to offer my gratitude to Professor Stephen Schuker for replying to my piece last month, dealing with the ongoing historiographical debate over the origins of the Great War. In the very same, Professor Schuker was along with Professor John Röhl, made to carry the ball for the aforementioned 'old hats' of the older, Fritz Fischer school and generation of historians. In the course of my piece, I criticized Professor Schuker for raising what I thought was something of a red herring. Namely that the famous Weimar German, collection of diplomatic documents, Die Grosse Politik, covering the years from 1871 to 1914, were in Professor Shucker's words 'doctored'. Well, as you can see from his response, Professor Schuker is able to cite a most reputable source for his claim. And now having read Holger Herwig's essay which was subsequently was turned into a book, I will admit that Professor Schuker was indeed correct in his claim as it pertains to Grosse Politik. With that being said, this fact by itself does not change very much as it relates to Professors Schuker and Röhl's attacks on the new, revisionist scholarship relating to the origins of the Great War. As I stated in my piece, both gentlemen are quite careful to stay clear of actually critiquing the scholarship of Christopher Clark, Sean McMeekin, and Stefan Schmidt. Instead we are treated to a species of semi-ad hominem attacks on the revisionist school and on Professor Clark in particular. However, even when looking at the issue of the doctoring of Grosse Politik, which I am now agree was indeed 'doctored', what do we make of this fact? As the citation above from the diary of the high foreign office official, Sir Evelyn Shuckburgh clearly shows, it is in the nature of both governments and bureaucracies to endeavour to either 'hide' or indeed as the example of the so-called Windsor papers show, suppress documents which may be deemed to be 'sensitive' or embarrassing 1. However, the uniqueness of the doctoring of Grosse Politik becomes even more questionable, once we note that Weimar Germany was not the only combatant to doctor and or suppress diplomatic papers which were thought to be less than supportive of the national narrative that the war was caused by the enemy nation or nations. Specifically, of course I am referring to France, which as was noted first by the late, great Luigi Albertini in his magnum opus, The Origins of the War of 1914, that from the publication of the infamous Yellow Book, to their post-bellum memoirs, that Poincaré, Viviani, Paléologue all engage in falsification of the voluminous evidence that: a) France and in particular Paléologue 'egged on' (in Albertini's words) Russia to mobilize against both Austria and Germany; b) that Austria mobilised first prior to Russia 2. And it is in particular a new and much more critical examination of the Balkan policies of the Entente Powers, which the revisionist historians have focused on. In short, while I greatly appreciate Professor Schuker's kindness in replying to my prior piece on this subject, his rebuttal does not in any way or fashion cause me to change my position. Indeed, insofar as Professor Schuker, like Professor Röhl refuses to engage in any substantive fashion with the revisionist school, my own prior opinion is not only upheld but fortified.
1. On the 'Windsor Papers', see: Andrew Morton, "How Britain covered up the friendship between Hitler & Edward VIII". The New York Post. 1 March 2015, in www.nypost.com. Should one add, that Annika Mombauer, who Schuker cites with evident approval in his article and who is of course a protégée of John Röhl, in her own collection of documents dealing with the origins of the Great War, notes of Grosse Politik: "For the purposes of compiling the present addition of collected documents, individual documents contained within the volumes of Die Grosse Politik have been included without undue concern about their authenticity".See: The Origins of the First World War: Diplomatic and military documents. Edited and translated by Annika Mombauer. (2013), p. 12.
2. See in particular: Volume II, pp. 582-595, and Volume III, pp. 112-164. Both in: Luigi Albertini. The Origins of the War of 1914. Volumes I-III. Revised Edition. Edited & Translated by Isabella M. Massey. (2002). My comments above in no way gainsays the fact that Albertini himself, while highly critical of both French and Russian actions in bringing about the war, placed a higher degree of fault with Germany and Austria. However, given the fact that Albertini was a Liberal, Italian Nationalist of the pre-war school, it would be difficult to imagine that he would be able to overcome a life-time of prejudices as per this issue.


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