How Wars Begin: Europe and the World, 1700-1945

History 24

Spring 2016
Day & Time: 
W 200-300

“How do wars begin?" This is perhaps the most constant theme of the historian. Wars make up most of European history. In every civilization, there have been wars. Wars have come in all kinds of ways—wars of conquest, wars of imperial rivalries, wars of family disputes, religious wars.” These words were written by the late British historian, A.J.P. Taylor thirty years ago, and they apply with equal force to the world of today. This course will examine the origins of seven wars—more from an immediate, than from a long-range standpoint, though the latter will be considered as well. The immediate origins of wars, that is, the time when government officials set their hands to the declarations of them, often have little do with the long-range causes. Some examples: accidents of time, personal rivalries between senior officials of a government, mistaken assumptions about the intentions of the enemy. This course will examine the immediate origins of the wars noted by Taylor above, while not ignoring their long-range causes and, above all, the personalities, some of the most striking of all time, of those who brought them on.