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Joll, James. The Origins of the First World War. 2nd. ed… New York : London: Longman Pearson Education, 1992.

James Joll (1918-1994) was Stevenson Professor of International History from 1967 until his retirement in 1981, becoming an Emeritus Professor, at the University of London, and author of Europe Since 1870 (1973).[1] According to The New York Times, Joll was in the British Army during World War II and part of the Special Operations Executive in the German and Austrian sectors. Additionally, he was a visiting member, in 1954 and 1971, at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. In 1958, a visiting professor at Stanford, and in 1962, a visiting lecturer at Harvard. Between 1946 and 1967, he held posts at Oxford. He had a broad arc of interests which allowed him to illustrate numerous areas of modern history. Joll’s other books include The Second International (1955), Intellectuals in Politics (1960), and The Anarchists (1964).[2]

In his book, Joll sought to surmise the causations of the war. To do this he focused on the prewar mood of 1914 between 28 June and 4 August 1914; exploring the varied “political, intellectual and moral beliefs” of the belligerents and how these mores may have impacted the decisions their leaders made.[3]

As the 1980’s grappled with the ongoing Cold War and debates over armament build up and the legal right to invasion, the 1984 release of The Origins of the First World War, with its illustrations of prewar stockpiling of armament and escalating social and political tensions between belligerents, was fortuitous as it emulated the issues of the day between the United States, NATO, West Germany, Russia, and the Warsaw Pact.

In 1977 while discussing deterrents, West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt said, “negotiate and, if need be, arm yourself.”[4] Moreover, with the ongoing armament buildup by members of the Warsaw Pact, which included the SS-20 missile, NATO, to counter this action, held a special meeting on 12 December 1979, of Foreign and Defence Ministers (Double-Track Decision). This meeting was held to discuss installing 572 medium-range nuclear missiles, Pershing II, and cruise missiles, across Europe by 1983.[5] [6] On December 24, 1979, Russia invaded Afghanistan. In April 1980, Schmidt called for negotiations on a mutual limitation of arms.[7] Furthermore, in 1983 the Reagan administration announced the Strategic Defense Initiative. In 1985, the administration publicized the increase in the United States Navy to 600 ships; to combat any future Russian aggressions. [8] [9] [10]

Additionally, in 1983, to protest NATO’s Double-Track Decision of December 1979, more than a million people rallied against it under the auspices “No to Nuclear Armament.”[11] And in May of 1985, President Reagan told the graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy, the “Way to Prevent War Is to Be Prepared for It.”[12]

In the Editor’s Forward of Joll’s book, in viewing the tensions of the time, Professor Harry Hearder remarked, “certain general points – very often negative ones – can and must be learnt from history.”[13] Perhaps he was alluding, to resolve their present dilemma, world leaders needed to learn their history of past conflicts. Even Schmidt, in 1980, referred to the ongoing international tensions and costly arms race between superpowers as resembling pre-World War One Europe just before the August guns fired[14].

Professor Joll started in July 1914 with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. He explained his methodology as a “pattern of concentric circles,” then working outward discussed the multitude of political decisions, miscalculations, and how these convoluted and emotional choices ultimately led to war.[15] Furthermore, as Joll expanded his analysis outwards to include the pre-war arms race, he also discussed how 1890’s European diplomacy triggered the decision making in July 1914. He stated, “to understand the men of 1914 we have to understand the values of 1914; and it is by these values that their actions must be measured.”[16] These values and actions were indicated in his chapter Militarism, armaments and strategy, and were indicative of “long national traditions and constant repetition of national myths.”[17]

Joll conveyed, it was the long past mores that hampered both decision-makers and civilians, such as the German’s belief in Zeitgeist. [18] He indicated, this enthusiastic adrenaline elevated their traditions and cultures above all else, creating a move for national recognition and independence. This nostalgic drive caused political and economic instability at home and within the international diplomatic – monetary structure.[19] Colonel Dragutin Dimitrevic, a.k.a. Apis, founder of the Black Hand, indicated the coming war between Serbia and Austria was defined by their commitments to longstanding “traditions” and “culture”.[20] According to Joll, this nationalistic emotional ride makes it impossible to ascertain an accurate assessment of the causation of the war.[21]

In further chapters he explored whether the birth of the war could be found within the tenets of imperialism or capitalism. However, this avenue of inquest did not reveal a smoking gun. Moreover, Joll suggested to navigate the complexity of history, there needs to be a “two-tier” approach, first, a focus on individual leaders and the decisions they made; investigating how their choices changed the path of history and impacted millions for decades. Second, there needs to be an examination of the long-term consequences an historic event may have had on economic and social growth, as well as exploring the varied facets the environment may have had on that event.

John F. V. Keiger indicated Joll’s reasons for the outbreak of the war are complex, moderate and subtle, “he seems to cast no blame on anyone in particular.”[22] Michael Balfour, remarked, Joll started with a “factual narration”, yet ended with “philosophic musing”.[23] Moreover, Michael Biddiss suggested, Joll’s information on the pre-1914 arms race demonstrated how each belligerent was impacted by the resurgence of traditions within their diverse societies, and how this accumulated into what would now be labeled “the military-industrial complex.”[24] M.R.D. Foot, voiced, Joll is “particularly convincing” when discussing how stockpiling arms and propaganda in a belligerent would provoke another combatant into greater counter-measures.[25]

Lastly, I agree with Joll, by examining the prewar mood of 1914, such as, intellectual, moral beliefs, and the political dogma of each belligerent, we may start to piece together an informal sketch of the multidimensional factors which fueled the origins of the First World War.

Bibliography

Abramson, Rudy. Los Angeles Times, Reagan Renews Vow for 600-Ship Navy : ‘Way to Prevent War Is to Be Prepared for It,’ He Tells Academy Class. May 23, 1985. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1985-05-23-mn-8052-story.html (accessed 02 08, 2022).

Balfour, Michael. “Review of The Origins of the First World War., by J. Joll.” International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-) 61, no. 1 , 1984: 152–53. https://doi.org/10.2307/2619808.

Becker_Schaum, Christoph, Philipp Gassert, Martin Klimke, Wilfried Mausbach, and Marianne Zepp, Editors. The Nuclear Crisis: The Arms Race, Cold War Anxiety, and the German Peace Movement of the 1980s. New York : Oxford: Berghahn, 2020.

Biddiss, Michael. “War and Wisdom [Review of The Origins of the First World War, by J. Joll.].” Government and Opposition, 20(4),, 1985: 547–550. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44483261.

Foot, M. R. D. “Reviewed Work(s): The Origins of the First World War by James Joll: The Origins of the Second World War in Europe by P. M. H. Bell: The Origins of the Korean War by Peter Lowe.” Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies , Summer. Vol. 19, No. 2., 1987: 306-309. https://www.jstor.org/stable/4050454.

Graham, Bradley. The Washingon Post, Schmidt Defends His Missile Proposals. Jun 21, 1980. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1980/06/21/schmidt-defends-his-missile-proposals/6fa66e80-36d7-4118-8733-826eeef0e877/ (accessed 02 08, 2022).

Joll, James. The Origins of the First World War. 2nd. ed. . New York : London: Longman Pearson Education, 1992.

KEIGER, John. F. V. “Review of THE ORIGINS OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR, by J. Joll].” History 71, no. 232 , 1986: 320–21. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24415358.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Special Meeting; of Foreign and Defence Ministers The “Double-Track” Decision on Theatre Nuclear Forces)Chairman: Mr. J. Luns. Dec 12, 1979. https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/official_texts_27040.htm (accessed 02 09, 2022).

Pace, Eric. “James Joll, 76, British Historian; Studied Origins of World War I.” The New York Times, Jul. 18, 1994: 8.

Robbins, Keith. “Review of The Origins of the First World War, by J. Joll & P. Hearder.” The English Historical Review 102, no. 403, 1897: 529–30. http://www.jstor.org/stable/572382.

Will, George F. The Wasington Post. Opinion: If you want peace, prepare for war. Aug. 10, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/if-you-want-peace-prepare-for-war/2018/08/10/b0bd7276-9c04-11e8-b60b-1c897f17e185_story.html (accessed 02 08, 2022).

Williamson, Samuel R. “The Origins of World War I.” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 18, no. 4 , 1988: 795–818. https://doi.org/10.2307/204825.

  1. James Joll. The Origins of the First World War. 2nd. ed. ( New York : London: Longman Pearson Education, 1992),Front cover.
  2. Eric Pace, Eric. James Joll, 76, British Historian; Studied Origins of World War I. (The New York Times, Jul. 18, 1994), 8.
  3. James Joll. The Origins of the First World War. 2nd. ed. ( New York : London: Longman Pearson Education, 1992), 8.
  4. Schaum Becker, Christoph, Philipp Gassert, Martin Klimke, Wilfried Mausbach, and Marianne Zepp, Editors. The Nuclear Crisis: The Arms Race, Cold War Anxiety, and the German Peace Movement of the 1980s.( New York : Oxford: Berghahn, 2020), 191.
  5. North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Special Meeting; of Foreign and Defence Ministers The “Double-Track” Decision on Theatre Nuclear Forces) Chairman: Mr. J. Luns. Dec 12, 1979.
  6. Bradley Graham. The Washington Post, Schmidt Defends His Missile Proposals. (Jun 21, 1980).
  7. Ibid. 125.
  8. Bradley Graham. The Washingon Post, Schmidt Defends His Missile Proposals. Jun 21, 1980.
  9. George F Will. The Wasington Post. Opinion: If you want peace, prepare for war. (Aug. 10, 2018).
  10. Rudy Abramson. Los Angeles Times, Reagan Renews Vow for 600-Ship Navy : ‘Way to Prevent War Is to Be Prepared for It,’ He Tells Academy Class. May 23, 1985.
  11. Schaum Becker Christoph, Philipp Gassert, Martin Klimke, Wilfried Mausbach, and Marianne Zepp, Editors. The Nuclear Crisis: The Arms Race, Cold War Anxiety, and the German Peace Movement of the 1980s.( New York : Oxford: Berghahn, 2020),28.
  12. Ibid.
  13. James Joll. The Origins of the First World War. 2nd. ed. ( New York : London: Longman Pearson Education, 1992), vii.
  14. John. F. V. KEIGER, Review of THE ORIGINS OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR, by J. Joll]. (History 71, no. 232 , 1986), 321.
  15. Ibid. 6.
  16. 240.
  17. 6
  18. 153, 238.
  19. 252.
  20. 90.
  21. 239.
  22. John. F. V. KEIGER, Review of THE ORIGINS OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR, by J. Joll. (History 71, no. 232 , 1986), 322.
  23. Michae Balfour, Review of The Origins of the First World War, by J. Joll. (International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-) 61, no. 1 , 1984: 152.
  24. Michael Biddiss. War and Wisdom Review of The Origins of the First World War, by J. Joll. (Government and Opposition, 20(4), 19850, 548.
  25. M. R. D. Foot, Reviewed Work(s): The Origins of the First World War by James Joll: The Origins of the Second World War in Europe by P. M. H. Bell: The Origins of the Korean War by Peter Lowe. ( Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies , Summer. Vol. 19, No. 2., 19870, 307.