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Introduction Few historical areas can have aroused as much debate as that of the origins and causes of WW1 The thousands of documents and eyewitness testimonies collated have allowed historians to construct exceedingly detailed illustrations of what happened in the days months and years leading to the outbreak of war Despite having researched in many cases identical material there is no end of disagreement among historians as to who or what caused the war Just some of the more plausible theories include apportioning the blame to Germany Austria Russia Serbia France Britain everybody collective responsibility nobody accidental war and Capitalism It is difficult to believe but perhaps unsurprisingly considering the historical talent involved each case is stated with such conviction and sense that in isolation all appear essentially unquestionable While some of the theories can be dismissed as fundamentally flawed a more convincing reason is needed to explain the multitude of conflicting exegeses The above suggests that on the one hand WW1 was massively over-determined and on the other that no effort to analyse the causal factors involved can ever fully succeed1 Most previous attempts have failed to procure a satisfactory answer because they have attempted to reduce the various contributing factors to some fundamental cause This is riddled with problems but there arises an even greater difficulty every cause announced has itself got a cause ad infinitum Therefore any effective account while recognising the multitude of interwoven causes must pick a cut-off point where causes stop being causes and start being conditions Long-range factors were part and parcel of the mood and the realities of early twentieth-century Europe This was the world in which the nations and their leaders had to operate and the truly significant question is how well they did so2 I contend that the problem here is one of ambiguity it is to be expected that people answering different questions will procure different answers To this end the heterogeneous affair
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