This week, you should be reading chapters 4-6 in Guns of August. These are fun chapters, especially concerning Russia. Tuchman provides fun foreshadowing about Tsar Nicholas’ problems as a wartime leader which would eventually spell his doom. I was thinking that it is bad enough to be an autocrat, but Nicholas’ problem was that he was an incompetent autocrat. By the time you are in chapter 6, the First World War has begun, and German armies are about to roll into neutral Belgium. Note that much of what Tuchman argues in that chapter has been superseded by more recent research.
Here are some questions to consider as you read:
What were the differences between the war plans of the British Army and Navy?
What aspects of Britain’s commitment to Belgium’s defense might have caused the French to worry?
What were the weaknesses of the Russian Army? Why did it fail to reform following the humiliating defeat of the Russo-Japanese War?
Assess Nicholas II as a ruler. How might his characteristics as a leader have an impact on Russia’s progress in the war?
Was a two front war inevitable for Germany? What opportunities were available to avert the onset of the First World War? Why were they not taken?
Based upon the information provided in the chapter, what do you believe is Tuchman’s thesis to explain the immediate causes of the First World War?