MT Week 3_The Failure of Peace by Negotiation in 1917 - The...

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The Failure of Peace by Negotiation in 1917 Author(s): David Stevenson Source: The Historical Journal , Vol. 34, No. 1 (Mar., 1991), pp. 65-86 Published by: Cambridge University Press Stable URL: Accessed: 11-10-2016 23:56 UTC REFERENCES Linked references are available on JSTOR for this article: You may need to log in to JSTOR to access the linked references. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at Cambridge University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Historical Journal This content downloaded from 158.143.192.135 on Tue, 11 Oct 2016 23:56:24 UTC All use subject to
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The Historical journal, 34, I (iggi), pp. 65-86 Printed in Great Britain THE FAILURE OF PEACE BY NEGOTIATION IN 1917* DAVID STEVENSON London School of Economics and Political Science I The First' World War was launched in the belief that force could be an effective instrument of policy. Underlying the decisions of July and August I9I4 was a hard core of calculation, based on the advice to governments that the fighting would be fierce but short, and that its political and economic repercussions could be contained. In addition, because the two sides were closer to military equivalence than in previous crises, both could believe that they had a reasonable prospect of victory. But such equivalence, given the weapons technology of the day, might also deny either coalition a speedy, surgical triumph. And it is from the prolongation of the war as well as its inception - from its not being over by Christmas - that its historical importance derives. Among the consequences were eight million dead, and the dislocation of the Western economic system. Without the war it is unlikely that either Lenin, or Mussolini, or even Hitler, would have come to office. As far as such things can be said with certainty, the First World War was a precondition of the Second. A four-month rather than a four-year con- flagration would have had other, now unknowable, consequences. It would not, presumably, have had these. None of this is said to denigrate research into the origins of the war. But to explain its outbreak without explaining its continuation is to leave half the historical problem unresolved. There are two very general reasons why the war went on in circumstances that seemingly invalidated every assumption prevalent at its outset. The first is that the process was one of incremental, sequential decision. The choice facing, say, the British leaders after the * I should like to thank Karen Partridge for typing this article.
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