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1914: The Ultimate What If?

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message 1: by Randy (new)

Randy | 10 comments Certainly the 20th Century has been the bloodiest in history. Often I wonder what would have happened if, in 1914, a chauffeur hadn't made a wrong turn and drove the Archduke right where Princip, who thought he lost his opportunity, was waiting. I doubt the assassinations would have happened, and I also doubt that the world would have fought two world wars.

I believe this because Europe was on an upswing in June of 1914. Germany and England where joining in naval maneuvers. Tension between the European powers were on a decline. That is why immediately after the assassinations few people thought there was a major crisis.

Of course if the First World War not been fought Russia probably wouldn't have gone communist, Hitler wouldn't have come to power, the Second World War wouldn't have been fought; and of course the Middle East wouldn't have been carved up by the West and we might not have the "Middle East Problem" we have today.

I guess my overall question is how could the course of history change so, so dramatically, and for the worse, because of one wrong turn? Is the possibility that history is so random too painful for most of us to even think about?

If so, how do we find faith?

Any thoughts, hopefully comforting?




message 2: by Terence (new)

Terence (spocksbro) Randy wrote: "Certainly the 20th Century has been the bloodiest in history. Often I wonder what would have happened if, in 1914, a chauffeur hadn't made a wrong turn and drove the Archduke right where Princip, w..."

'Fraid you'll get no comfort here :-)

There's no plan or meaning to "history." Even as we speak someone may be being gunned down whose death will spark another "Great War." On the other hand, just as something world-shakingly awful could happen, so too something world-shakingly wonderful could be happening - great doctors, philosophers, peacemakers, authors, etc., all are being born and inspired.

As to 1914 - it is fascinating to contemplate what might have happened. I'm not so sanguine that a Europe-wide war could have been avoided considering the Kaiser's personality and/or the truly desperate situation in Russia but it certainly would have been a different world, especially if the Ottoman Empire could have been held together for a few more generations.


message 3: by Randy (new)

Randy | 10 comments At least I know others share similar views.

Randy


message 4: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (last edited Jan 22, 2009 02:53PM) (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 29 comments I think it's quite probable that the situation in Ireland would have gone to hell in a handbasket even more quickly than it did in actuality.

It's also an interesting question as to when most European countries might have adopted woman suffrage, without the effects of the war. (A large number of them enacted it in 1918-1920; the major exception being France, which waited until 1946.)


message 5: by Donald (new)

Donald (donroc) | 15 comments What if TR had won in 1912? Could he have mediated the crisis and prevented war given his stature.


message 6: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 14 comments I think a European war would have broken out eventually. In this case it took a political assassination to bring down the whole pack of cards.

Remember only a few year earlier the Agadir crisis in Morocco almost brought the European powers to war.

The economic power was changing too fast between Germany and Britain, also France was aching for a chance at revenge after the Franco-Prussian war and France's defeat.

War was inevitable, despite the fact most heads of state were related to each other.


message 7: by Bruce (new)

Bruce Hello Randy,

Thanks for the thoughtful post. Unfortunately, like Marley's Ghost, I have no comfort to give. Like Manuel, I think that the Great War would have started even without the assassination. All of the great powers in turn of the century Europe had so tied themselves into knots with agreements such as the Anglo French entente, the Anglo Russian Convention, the agreement protecting Belgium, and dozens of others. If it had not been Sarajevo, something else would have come along.


message 8: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggyullmanbell) | 41 comments "War was inevitable, despite the fact most heads of state were related to each other."

Or, perhaps because of it. Remember, the whole mess in the Middle East is based on sibling rivalry between the decendents of Abraham's sons. How different things might have been/be if Sarah had not kicked Hagar and her son out of the tent those many years ago.





message 9: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 14 comments It was assumed that since they were all grandsons of Queen Victoria; the cousins who ruled Britain, Germany and Russia would step in to stop any potential conflict.

Unfortunately family ties couldnt do anything to control the unleashed nationalism once the war started.
King George even changed his last name from Saxe-Coborg Gotha to a more patriotic "Windsor"

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at those awkward family reunions after the war.

For example Queen Sophie of Greece was King George's cousin and queen of an allied country; however she was also sister to the Kaiser. When she visited England after the war, it was stressed how Greece had been an ally of Britain and her German ties were conveniently overlooked in the press.


message 10: by Gary (new)

Gary Corby (garycorby) | 1 comments Manuel wrote: "It was assumed that since they were all grandsons of Queen Victoria; the cousins who ruled Britain, Germany and Russia would step in to stop any potential conflict..."

Anyone who's been to an average family Christmas party could predict this wasn't going to work.



message 11: by Jenna (last edited Feb 18, 2009 07:32PM) (new)

Jenna | 12 comments I agree with Manuel that it seems high likely even if Franz Ferdinand had not been assassinated that a war likely would have broken out. As historians have frequently noted, though the assassination was a catalyst, it was not the cause -- which had its roots much deeper than an assassination. The nations were all jostling for power, and "jingoism" was rampant.

On the other hand -- was there truly any great statesman in power in 1914 that might have helped smooth feelings over?


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 29 comments Was there a great statesman in power in 1914 that might have helped smooth things over?

Ofhand, my answer is "no."

Certainly not in Germany or Russia.


message 13: by Randy (new)

Randy | 10 comments I know many historians feel that if it wasn't the assassination something else would have triggered World War I, but I still say the evidence doesn't support that argument. True, there may have been another cause, but maybe not. Tension between the great powers was on a decline, partly because the competition for new colonies had cooled. That is why right after the assassination few thought there was a crisis. I wonder, again, if we're just afraid to accept that history is often random, partly because it is at the mercy of public opinion. True, there were monachies in 1914, but if the Czar, who had lost a war to Japan, hadn't acted he would have been overthrown. The German and French public also supported the call for war. (War, back then, was considered glorious.) I guess what I'm getting at is this: Is there any way to take randomness out of the course of history or is it inherent (the way it is inherent in the movement of sub-atomic particles)?
William Shirer often asks the question in his book, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, what if some small incident hadn't happened (like Hitler being asked to spy on an obscure political party shortly after World War I) would Hitler have come to power?
I would argue that democratic governments are not the answer to eliminate the effects of randomness. After all, democracies wrote the Versaille Treaty. Democracies refused to revise it. And a democracy - France, especially - could have easily crushed Hitler when he invaded the Rhineland, but didn't.

Randy


message 14: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 14 comments Sorry Randy
I dont agree.

Great Britain and Germany had been having a naval arms race since 1905.
German industry was about to overtake or match Britain in many key sectors.
By 1914 Germany was the leading trading partner in virtually every country in Europe, including Britain.


Coal Production 1900:
G Britain 250 million tons
Germany 150 million tons

Coal Production 1913:
G Britain 300 million tons
Germany 500 million tons

Pig Iron 1900:
G Britain 10 million tons
Germany 10 million tons

Pig Iron 1913:
G Britain 11 million tons
Germany 30 million tons

Rail Road Construction built 1900:
G Britain 50 thousand Kms
Germany 300 thousand Kms

Rail Road Construction built 1913:
G Britain 50 thousand Kms
Germany 400 thousand Kms

Sooner or later, economic forces were going to push these two titans into conflict.




message 15: by Hotspur (new)

Hotspur (HotspurOT) | 5 comments My thoughts are that if the Grand Duke wasn't assassinated, it only would have been something else coming along to start things.

As has been brought up here a few times, both sides were spoiling for a fight-- not over the Balkans, precisely, but likely over something related to Anglo-German naval rivalry, and it probably would have been Germany that started it.

The Kaiser had mixed feelings about his English cousins, but was incredibly anxious to prove he was their equal on the world stage. It was a subject of mania with him. A mixture of rampant jingoism, xenophobia, racism and strong streak of infantile behavior does not a great statesman make, alas.

H.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 29 comments I seem to recall that Bismarck always feared that a general war might erupt - and probably over "something stupid in the Balkans."

Unfortunately, he was long dead in 1914.


message 17: by Stef (new)

Stef (buch_ratte) | 4 comments Randy wrote: "I guess my overall question is how could the course of history change so, so dramatically, and for the worse, because of one wrong turn? Is the possibility that history is so random too painful for most of us to even think about?"

Randy,

why do you think history changed for the worse???? You can't say that the turn of history was really for the worse. Not that the 20th century was a glorious one but what would our world be like if Germany and Austria had won WW I? Would it be a better world? Or would it be worse?
There are too many what ifs in history to say one event is responsible for all the bad things in our world.
You ask what would have happened if the chauffeur hadn't taken the wrong turn. Eventually even without the wrong turn it would have come to a war because there had been a bomb attack on Franz Ferdinand the same day. Or someone else might have tried it at another place...


message 18: by Randy (new)

Randy | 10 comments Possibly there would have been a war even if the chauffeur hadn't made a wrong turn, but possibly not.

If the war was inevitable, as most will argue, then why did no one think there was a crisis immediately following the assassination? While the bomb was a serious incident, the Archduke survived, and it's therefore possible Austria-Hungary would not have issued such a stern ultitmatum.

The fact is, the relations between all the major powers was on an upswing. Germany and England were having joint naval maneuvers on the day of the assassination. To me that doesn't sound like countries that are headed to war.

And if the war hadn't been fought 10 million soldiers would not have died, and World War II would not have happened, and fifty million people wouldn't have died.

Randy


message 19: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggyullmanbell) | 41 comments Randy wrote: "Certainly the 20th Century has been the bloodiest in history. Often I wonder what would have happened if, in 1914, a chauffeur hadn't made a wrong turn and drove the Archduke right where Princip, w..."

Wars are not fought over a single triggering incident. Wars are fought and whatever is used as an excuse for them is decided after the fact. However, had Germany won WWI the circumstances which allowed Hitler's rise might not have occurred. But, if not him - someone as bad or worse.

What history wants, history gets.


message 20: by Donald (new)

Donald (donroc) | 15 comments A "Hitler" would have arisen in defeated France, which had dreams of la Gloire and excessive antisemitism exacerbated by the Dreyfus affair. The founder of modern antisemitism (19th century) was French although I have happily forgotten his name.


message 21: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 14 comments I think many people forget that Europe had been at peace since the Congress of Vienna at the close of the Napoleonic wars. Yes there had still been fighting among individual European countries with some of their neighbors, but European wide wars had been unknown for almost a century.
The biggest change to this mix was the rapid industrialization of unified Germany.
Sooner or later economic tensions were going to make war unavoidable.
Randy mentions Germany and Britain were having naval maneuvers as proof that tensions were lower, however the naval arms race was still going on. I dont see this as proof of lower tensions.

The saddest part is realizing that a 20th century war was fought with 19th century tactics.


message 22: by Stef (new)

Stef (buch_ratte) | 4 comments Randy wrote: "Possibly there would have been a war even if the chauffeur hadn't made a wrong turn, but possibly not."

What is your source for the wrong turn??? To be honest I spent a lot of hours in the library this last week ot find a source for it. I own several books on WW I but no where is a wrong turn as the reason for the tragedy of Sarajewo ( I am not sure about the spelling in english ) mentioned.

I have to agree with Manuel that there is no proof for a declining of tensions in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. There had been a war on the Balkans in 1912/13 and even after it the situation there wasn't really peaceful. Austria-Hungary as well as Russia had their own interests on that part of Europe. Serbia was dreaming of a "Yugoslawia" with the help of Russia while Austria-Hungary wanted to integrate them into their empire.




message 23: by Randy (new)

Randy | 10 comments The wrong turn has been written about in many books, eg. The Archduke and the Assasin, by Lavender Cassels, p 178-179.

On the subject of randomness in history, see my new post about the Kennedy assassination.


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