World War: One Bloody Excuse After another

IB Review, November 2014: Vol 1, no 2

For more on my novel, set in Poland, Prague, Paris and London, 1939-42, see A Chance Kill


2 thoughts on “World War: One Bloody Excuse After another”

  1. This is a well-written article and is a good summary of the main issues surrounding the myriad of factors which were involved with the beginning of World War 1. In many ways, this article parallels what is written in the textbook “History for the IB Diploma: Causes, Practices and Effects”, by Mike Wells (Cambridge Univ. Press), pages 15-18. However, in both of these cases, the listed causes are, more accurately, secondary causes. Hence, what has been written in these two examples is insufficient, because nothing is stated of what were the most basic causes of these two wars.

    The real issue is this: Why did people (especially national leaders) act as they did? What were their fundamental beliefs? There is, of course, no single explanation for the cause of WW1. However, what was, quite likely, the most profound, and wide-spread belief, tremendously influential in the minds of many leaders in Europe at that time, is summarized by these two words: social Darwinism. That term means the application to social and political life of the essence of Darwinism evolution. This topic has been developed in an excellent 14-minute video from the Discovery Institute, available on YouTube. The title: “The Biology of the Second Reich: Social Darwinism and the Origins of World War 1”. A history, description and explanation of this wide-spread belief has been even further documented in the excellent, detailed book “From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany”, by the historian Richard Weikart.

    Any attempt to explain the causes of WW1 and WW2, without a substantial treatment of the effects of social Darwinism, is completely inadequate. And, by the way, there are myriads of people, now in the 21st century, who still advocate many of the same beliefs of social Darwinism.

  2. A good point, JB. I do discuss nations seeking to assert themselves “over rival powers” and state that “Like France, Britain’s empire was an expression of its nationalism, particularly the idea that the British nation – and the British race – was superior to those in Africa and Asia.” But I don’t specifically use the phrase “social Darwinism.”

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