Edge of War - Netflix
There are those who start war, and those who have war thrust upon them. The outcome of war is well-documented, but the nuanced beginnings are often forgotten. The stage is set for dramatic new history, set immediately before the first strike. Edge of War is a documentary series that explores the personalities, words and actions of those that take their countries to battle. These stories of larger-than-life individuals are based on historic accounts and newly uncovered information. Academics, historians and those caught in battle testify to the complex political, military and personal reasons for the deadliest action.
Runtime: 60 minutes
Edge of War - Causes of World War I - Netflix
The causes of World War I remain controversial. World War I began in the Balkans in late July 1914 and ended in November 1918, leaving 17 million dead and 20 million wounded. Scholars looking at the long-term seek to explain why two rival sets of powers – Germany and Austria-Hungary on the one hand, and Russia, France, and Great Britain on the other – had come into conflict by 1914. They look at such factors as political, territorial and economic conflicts, militarism, a complex web of alliances and alignments, imperialism, the growth of nationalism, and the power vacuum created by the decline of the Ottoman Empire. Other important long-term or structural factors that are often studied include unresolved territorial disputes, the perceived breakdown of the balance of power in Europe, convoluted and fragmented governance, the arms races of the previous decades, and military planning. Scholars doing short-term analysis focused on summer 1914 ask if the conflict could have been stopped, or whether it was out of control. The immediate causes lay in decisions made by statesmen and generals during the July Crisis of 1914. This crisis was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by a Bosnian Serb who had been supported by a nationalist organization in Serbia. The crisis escalated as the conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia came to involve Russia, Germany, France, and ultimately Belgium and Great Britain. Other factors that came into play during the diplomatic crisis that preceded the war included misperceptions of intent (e.g., the German belief that Britain would remain neutral), fatalism that war was inevitable, and the speed of the crisis, which was exacerbated by delays and misunderstandings in diplomatic communications. The crisis followed a series of diplomatic clashes among the Great Powers (Italy, France, Germany, Britain, Austria-Hungary and Russia) over European and colonial issues in the decades before 1914 that had left tensions high. In turn these public clashes can be traced to changes in the balance of power in Europe since 1867. Consensus on the origins of the war remains elusive since historians disagree on key factors, and place differing emphasis on a variety of factors. This is compounded by changing historical arguments over time, particularly the delayed availability of classified historical archives. The deepest distinction among historians is between those who focus on the actions of Germany and Austria-Hungary as key and those who focus on a wider group of actors. Secondary fault lines exist between those who believe that Germany deliberately planned a European war, those who believe that the war was ultimately unplanned but still caused principally by Germany and Austria-Hungary taking risks, and those who believe that either all or some of the other powers, namely Russia, France, Serbia and Great Britain, played a more significant role in causing the war than has been traditionally suggested.
Edge of War - Arms race - Netflix
By the 1870s or 1880s all the major powers were preparing for a large-scale war, although none expected one. Britain focused on building up its Royal Navy, already stronger than the next two navies combined. Germany, France, Austria, Italy and Russia, and some smaller countries, set up conscription systems whereby young men would serve from 1 to three years in the army, then spend the next 20 years or so in the reserves with annual summer training. Men from higher social statuses became officers. Each country devised a mobilisation system whereby the reserves could be called up quickly and sent to key points by rail. Every year the plans were updated and expanded in terms of complexity. Each country stockpiled arms and supplies for an army that ran into the millions. Germany in 1874 had a regular professional army of 420,000 with an additional 1.3 million reserves. By 1897 the regular army was 545,000 strong and the reserves 3.4 million. The French in 1897 had 3.4 million reservists, Austria 2.6 million, and Russia 4.0 million. The various national war plans had been perfected by 1914, albeit with Russia and Austria trailing in effectiveness. Recent wars (since 1865) had typically been short—a matter of months. All the war plans called for a decisive opening and assumed victory would come after a short war; no one planned for or was ready for the food and munitions needs of a long stalemate as actually happened in 1914–18. As David Stevenson has put it, “A self-reinforcing cycle of heightened military preparedness ... was an essential element in the conjuncture that led to disaster ... The armaments race ... was a necessary precondition for the outbreak of hostilities.” David Herrmann goes further, arguing that the fear that “windows of opportunity for victorious wars” were closing, “the arms race did precipitate the First World War.” If Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been assassinated in 1904 or even in 1911, Herrmann speculates, there might have been no war. It was “... the armaments race ... and the speculation about imminent or preventive wars” that made his death in 1914 the trigger for war. One of the aims of the First Hague Conference of 1899, held at the suggestion of Tsar Nicholas II, was to discuss disarmament. The Second Hague Conference was held in 1907. All the signatories except for Germany supported disarmament. Germany also did not want to agree to binding arbitration and mediation. The Kaiser was concerned that the United States would propose disarmament measures, which he opposed. All parties tried to revise international law to their own advantage.
Edge of War - References - Netflix