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Author Archive: "Geoffrey Wawro"

A Mad Catastrophe: The Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire

Readers trying to understand the complex origins of World War I must begin in the Balkans, and in the fading, somnolent court of Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz Joseph I. Why? Because the Great War — as the First World War would shortly be known — could not have begun anywhere else, or through any other agency than Vienna's. There had been great-power crises in Morocco, Libya, and elsewhere in the years before 1914, but none had flared into war. Even a succession of Balkan crises had failed to ignite war. But the July Crisis of 1914 did, precisely because of the German and Austrian gamble that Vienna had to fight that summer or go under.

Vienna in 1914 was Europe's real "Sick Man." Although the Ottoman Empire had claimed that title since the 19th century, the Turks had revived themselves with the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 and shored themselves up for the long haul. (The militarized Turkey of 1908 is still around today.) Even Constantinople's defeats in the two Balkan Wars (1912-13) had paradoxically strengthened the Turks by testing their reformed army and shearing off restive provinces in the ...

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