Arrogance and Anxiety (Magill's Literary Annual 1982)
Today the fear of global war seems to vie with the fear of economic disaster. In Europe, pacifists have demonstrated against the stationing of American missiles on their territory; in America itself, Cassandra-like voices have been raised again and again to decry the danger posed by the ever-quickening arms race. The terrible anxiety, the fear that some unexpected incident might bring about a war nobody wants, has its roots, it is clear, in the collective memory of that first presumably accidental world cataclysm of modern times: the Great War of 1914-1918, which ended more than forty years of uninterrupted peace among the Great Powers. Why did the assassination of the Austrian Crown Prince, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, by an obscure Bosnian Serb set off a chain reaction that ended by unleashing a long and bloody war?
L. L. Farrar, Jr., a Professor of History at Boston College, has devoted himself for a long time to that currently unfashionable branch of Clio’s art, diplomatic history. In this closely reasoned work, he assesses the many theories propounded by scholars concerning the origins of the War of 1914, and arrives at a conclusion of his own, one that emphasizes the characteristics of the Great Power-system as a whole rather than the guilt or innocence of any one Great Power. The grim fatalism and mechanistic determinism of this book may disturb some readers, yet Farrar’s main argument, although not acceptable to everyone, certainly deserves...
(The entire section is 2383 words.)
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