“Military Doomsday Machine”? The Decisions for War 1914

Holger Herwig


This manuscript analyses the decisions for war taken in the capitals of the major powers of Europe, during July and August 1914. The July crisis triggered the greatest and most destructive event of modern history. It has become central to theories about the outbreak of war in the fields of international relations and strategic studies. It assesses the major theories used, over the past century, to explain these decisions, and compares them to the evidence on the matter.  It is argued that decisions for war were made by small groups of men in each capital, taken on instrumental grounds, based on realpolitik, deliberate—part of a move in a competition, which they thought they understood.  The system worked as intended, but with effects no one expected.

Full Text:



  • There are currently no refbacks.

JMSS is a publication of the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

JMSS gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council.