24 JANUARY 1936, Page 26

Before the War. Studies in Diplomacy. Vol. I. The Grouping

of the Powers. By G. P. Gooch. (Longman. 10s.)

The Calamity of 1914

A REVIEWER who remembers the pleasure and excitement of reading, and re-reading, History and Historians in the Nine- teenth Century need have no hesitation in saying that a new book by Dr. Gooch is sure of a welcome from scholars and a wide circulation among readers of good historical work. Before the War is the first of two volumes of studies in the relations of the Great Powers between 1897-8 and 1914. In this first volume Dr. Gooch describes the aims and methods of Lansdowne, Delcasse, Billow, Isvolsky and Aehrenthal. The second volume will deal with Grey, Poineare, Bethmann Hollweg, Sazonoff and Berchtold. Each volume therefore has a separate study of one representative of five of the six Great Powers, while the policy of a sixth Power, Italy, is suffi- ciently covered in the history of Franco-Italian and Halo- German relations.

Dr. Gooch was a pupil of Acton ; his work shows that he learned from his master the significance and discipline of history : a vigorous scientific conscience, and a desire to know the truth without favour of persons, creeds, or nation- ality. Consequently there is no attempt to take short cuts ; there is no false picturesqueness, no heightening of the colours for dramatic effect. The book loses nothing from this austerity. The story is interesting : it leads to a climax more terrible than that of any play, and the reader who knows the end will find thrills enough in marking the episodes, the movement of circumstance, and the blocking of ways of escape.

The movement of circumstance. More than twenty years have passed since the outbreak of the War, and most English- and French-speaking historians, in a discussion of War-origins, are inclined to give more weight now than they would have given two decades ago to this element of circumstance. They would incline to agree with Dr. Gooch that it is better to use the term " war responsibility " than the term "mar guilt," though they would point out that this change of term implies that the view held in 1919 that war must be counted a crime was not held in 1914. If war is a crime, then " war respon- sibility " must mean " war guilt." They would also point out that Professor Pribram, who made this suggestion of changing " guilt " into "responsibility" was the citizen of a State which in the days of its power gave high place and honour to Aebrenthal, Berchtold, and Conrad von Hoetzen- dorff, and that the people of Vienna were ready enough to cheer the ultimatum to Serbia. Finally, they would say to the whole school of German historians who protest too much against war guilt, that war responsibility is a grave charge, and carries with it certain grave consequences. There is also an " irresponsibility. " amounting to responsibility. It is possible that in his desire for historical impartiality, Dr. Gooch allows himself to be carried too far from the crude political realities of Imperial Germany, and that he evades the question of " war responsibility " by assuming too easily that all the Powers "played the same game of Maehtpolitik with different degrees of skill and success." If this were so, then " responsibility " must be shared equally between the Powers. There would be no difference between them from the point of view of intention of the will, and only historical accident would determine which Power actually put the match to the gunpowder.

But can one really say that there was no difference between the Great Powers from this point of view of " intention of the will" ? It may be that the line of difference cut across existing groups in Europe ; but surely the line can be traced. There was such a thing as militarism. Parliamentary control of foreign policy was far greater in some States than in others. Militarism was strong, and not generally unpopular, in Germany ; parliamentary control of policy was weak. Dr. Gooch describes the aims of German policy in a negative way by saying that Germany abandoned Bismarck's maxim of " limited liability." England and. France saw the positive and aggressive side of this policy of " unlimited liability " and British and French policies were largely determined by need of defence against the possible consequences of German aims.

Dr. Gooch is far too conscientious a scholar not to state the facts which count for and against Germany, but he hesitates to draw conclusions. He is more ready to criticise Deleasse and Isvolsky for their personal faults than to mention similar faults in Billow and Aehrenthal. Sometimes his care to avoid the prejudices of nationalist historians leads him to be unfair to Great Britain. In the essay on Billow, for example, he mentions Chamberlain's speech in defence of the methods of the British army in South Africa. He describes the anger which this speech caused in Germany ; he gives Billow's answer at some length. He does not say that Chamberlain's speech was made after many months of insulting German attacks on the behaviour of British soldiers. Again, in his desire to spare Germany from the exaggerated charges sometimes made against her, Dr. Gooch more than once tends to exonerate her by implication. He writes (p. 17U) that French and English writers generally attribute the contrast between the " smooth acquiescence " of Germany in 1904 towards the Anglo-French agreement and the " menacing gestures " of 1905 " ex- clusively " to the Russo-Japanese War and to a desire to

dissolve the Entente. (One may question the word " exclu- sively.") He agrees that the paralysis of Russia " encouraged Billow to rattle the sword " ; he adds, " but the proximate Cause of the change was the despatch of the French Minister to Fez." The reader is thus left in some doubt whether Dr. Gooch does or does not think that German Moroccan policy in 1905 was based primarily on a desire to break the Entente. Once again, Dr. Gooch's accuracy and care supply the answer. Re says on p. 168 that the early German acquiescence was " only a pose " ; on pp. 247, 251, and 252 he gives documentary evidence in support of the view that the safeguarding of German interests in Morocco was not primarily the motive of Billow's " sword-rattling." But why should one have to look up and down the book to find that the inferences which Dr. Gooch appears to draw are not those which he or his readers are likely to make after a full survey of the evidence ?