There have been many pieces published on the causes of the First World War, and among them there lie many different opinions as to who or what was truly at fault.The purpose of this essay is to compare the views of three historians, Fritz Fischer, Gerhard Ritter and Konrad Jarausch; each took a different approach to the examination of the war guilt question and as a result also derives a different answer to it.
Fischer's work is rich with archival evidence, which by his analysis, confirms the guilt of the German state.Ritter's work, more a rebuttal of Fischer's work than a thorough diagnosis of historical documents, does not provide as much textual evidence, but his argument for the guilt of Austria-Hungary is still clearly put forth.Jarausch, whose work does not staunchly condemn or defend any one person or state, was outfitted with a new piece of evidence – a diary that was kept during those crucial months by Bethmann Hollweg's aide, Kurt Riezler.The Riezler diary provided Jarausch with valuable insight into the personality of the German chancellor and it is him and his decisions that Jarausch chose to center his work around.Jarausch makes an evident attempt to remain more objective than the former two, and as such seems to come the closest of all three to documenting the emotions and reasoning behind the infamous decisions of July and August 1914.
Fischer, Ritter and Jarausch all paint the same general picture of the European political atmosphere before Ferdinand's assassination.Germany had developed the feeling that she was being left behind and her hopes of remaining a significant power in the future were becoming increasingly dismal.They address the sense of inevitably that was felt in regards to future armed conflict in Europe and the increasing concern over the buildup of the Russian army.Fischer also mentions the Reichstag elections which brought a large number of Social Dem…