Letters to the Editor - September 2013

A selection of readers' correspondence with the editor, Paul Lay.

Share your thoughts with the readers of History Today.

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No One’s to Blame

It is hard to see how anyone could accuse the UK government of being insufficiently jingoistic in its marking of the First World War, but Gary Sheffield (The Great War Was a Just War, August) manages this. To describe it as ‘a war of national survival’ is absurd: does he think that the UK would have ceased to exist in any sense if it had lost? Many human beings did indeed did cease to exist. As Richard J Evans points out (Guardian, July 13th), the blame game should be avoided: ‘Every country had its strategic and ideological reasons for going to war in 1914.’

If one wishes to examine the causes of the war, a social system that relies on trade routes and markets, and so leads to countries quarrelling over their control, is the best bet. The British Empire (built on conquest and murder) is part of what the UK government was defending.

Sheffield trivialises the issue by characterising the view he disagrees with as the ‘Blackadder view’. Perhaps his own apologia should be characterised as the ‘Professor of War Studies view’.

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