Abstract Title

Malicious Intent? A new look at the July Crisis of 1914

Abstract

The traditional view is that, of the powers involved in the crisis, Britain was the only one that made a substantive proposal to defuse it. Specifically: Britain proposed a multilateral conference at which the antagonists could compose their differences; Germany, in not backing the proposal, blithely ignored the only real opportunity to resolve the crisis peacefully.

My research shows that, on the contrary, it was the proposal itself that in fact ratcheted up tensions.

This proposal was rooted in a conversation between Sergei Sazonov, the Russian foreign minister, and Sir William Buchanan, the British ambassador to Russia, on July 25 Sazonov told Buchanan that the crisis, in his view, was not a local affair between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, but that it was an issue in which all European powers had standing.

Buchanan then relayed this conversation to his superior, Sir Edward Grey who was the British Foreign Secretary. Grey seizes upon the Russia idea for a conference and decides to make the proposal himself. With Grey proposing the conference, Britain turned the crisis from a crisis between Austria-Hungary and Serbia into a European Crisis. But was Sazonov’s and thereby Grey’s reading of the document correct? In my opinion, no. Using documents from the British Foreign Office, as well as the Five Power Memorandum, I aim to show how Britain escalated the crisis instead of diffusing it.

Modified Abstract

The traditional view is that, of the powers involved in the crisis, Britain was the only one that made a substantive proposal to defuse it. Specifically: Britain proposed a multilateral conference at which the antagonists could compose their differences; Germany, in not backing the proposal, blithely ignored the only real opportunity to resolve the crisis peacefully.

My research shows that, on the contrary, it was the proposal itself that in fact ratcheted up tensions.

Using documents from the British Foreign Office, as well as the Five Power Memorandum on Serbia from 1909, I aim to show how Britain escalated the crisis instead of diffusing it.

Research Category

Political Sciences/Philosophy/History

Author Information

Joseph McNeelyFollow

Primary Author's Major

History

Mentor #1 Information

Dr. Ralph

Menning

Presentation Format

Oral

Start Date

April 2019

Research Area

Diplomatic History

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Apr 9th, 1:00 PM

Malicious Intent? A new look at the July Crisis of 1914

The traditional view is that, of the powers involved in the crisis, Britain was the only one that made a substantive proposal to defuse it. Specifically: Britain proposed a multilateral conference at which the antagonists could compose their differences; Germany, in not backing the proposal, blithely ignored the only real opportunity to resolve the crisis peacefully.

My research shows that, on the contrary, it was the proposal itself that in fact ratcheted up tensions.

This proposal was rooted in a conversation between Sergei Sazonov, the Russian foreign minister, and Sir William Buchanan, the British ambassador to Russia, on July 25 Sazonov told Buchanan that the crisis, in his view, was not a local affair between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, but that it was an issue in which all European powers had standing.

Buchanan then relayed this conversation to his superior, Sir Edward Grey who was the British Foreign Secretary. Grey seizes upon the Russia idea for a conference and decides to make the proposal himself. With Grey proposing the conference, Britain turned the crisis from a crisis between Austria-Hungary and Serbia into a European Crisis. But was Sazonov’s and thereby Grey’s reading of the document correct? In my opinion, no. Using documents from the British Foreign Office, as well as the Five Power Memorandum, I aim to show how Britain escalated the crisis instead of diffusing it.