Sir Edward Grey, Germany, and the Origins of the First World War: A Re-Evaluation

Mombauer, Annika (2016). Sir Edward Grey, Germany, and the Origins of the First World War: A Re-Evaluation. The International History Review, 38(2) pp. 301–325.



Historians have variously condemned British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey for contributing to the escalation of the July Crisis of 1914, and praised him as an heroic advocate of peace. Addressing this conundrum, this article first assesses historiographical debates around the significance of Grey’s policy towards Germany in the events that led to the outbreak of the First World War. It then traces Grey’s foreign policy vis-à-vis Germany on the one hand, and the Entente on the other. Finally, it provides an innovative analysis of Grey’s policy from the vantage point of Berlin, arguing that in July 1914 decisions taken by the governments of other countries escalated the crisis and were taken regardless of Grey’s position. The article concludes that current historiography overestimates British agency in July 1914 and that Grey was not as important to the outcome of the crisis as both his critics and his defenders have claimed. His actions could not change the minds of those on the continent who were bent on war.

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