Monthly Archives: July 2012

Guns of August, Chapters 17-18

Here we see a chapter on Belgium and a chapter on naval policy and strategy and the role of the “Great Neutral,” the United States.  The two topics are related, in that they are both areas in which Germany made serious miscalculations that would later cost her the war.  The first chapter in the section treats with the controversial issue of German atrocities in Belgium.  The Allies exaggerated these in their propaganda to the point that in the classroom and popular culture we lose sight of the fact that reprisals indeed happened.  Tuchman explores the reasons for the use of terror tactics, known as Schrecklichkeit, and the manner in which they backfired on Germany.  In the next chapter, we look at one of the great ironies of the First World War.  The German naval buildup was recognized at the time and afterward by historians as a long term cause of the war.  If this is true, why did the Kaiser insist upon a navy, and then refuse to use it?  The naval policies and strategies of the belligerents would have a huge impact on the war due to their impact on American neutrality.

Chapter 17

What was the purpose of the German use of terror, or Schrecklichkeit, in Belgium?

Why were German commanders and soldiers so concerned about supposed Belgian violations of international law, but not their own invasion of neutral Belgium?

What were the long term consequences of German reprisals in Belgium?

Chapter 18

What was the impact in Anglo-German relations of the German naval buildup prior to the war?  Why did Kaiser Wilhelm II insist on a navy?

What was German naval policy following the outbreak of the First World War?  What was the reasoning behind it?

What was “continuous voyage,” and why would that doctrine have an impact on neutrals?

Why did Woodrow Wilson want the United States to remain neutral?


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Guns of August, Chapters 15-16

Our attention now turns toward the Eastern Front with two chapters on the Russian offensive into East Prussia.  France depended upon her alliance with Russia and a Russian offensive into the strategically and symbolically important region of East Prussia.  German strategy depended upon a quick victory over France before Russia was able to mobilize.  What the Germans did not expect was Russia’s unwillingness to abide by a German schedule, and the “Russian steamroller” was set in motion before expected.  The results would be decisive, not least in the rise of the team that would wield de facto rule over Germany by the end of the war, Paul von Hindenberg and Erich Ludendorff (prior to his less-than-heroic role in the Beer Hall Putsch.)

Chapter 15

Why was Russian participation on the Eastern Front essential to the Allies?

What was the Russian war plan?  What were the weaknesses of the Russian Army going on the offensive?

Chapter 16

What changes took place in the German command on the eastern front, and with what consequences?

What did the outcome of the Battle of Tannenberg signify?

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Reflections on Writing a Good History EE

I have received the Extended Essay grades from last year, and was in general pleased by what I saw.  I noticed some common features that distinguished the EEs that received high marks, A’s and B’s, from the more average EEs (C’s.)  The following are thoughts which I have emailed to the students I am advising on their EEs, but I thought they might also be helpful to the rest of the class.

1.  Primary sources

Original research is the sine qua non of the extended essay.  High scoring extended essays show that extensive primary source based research took place.  The most reliable sources are close in date and proximity to the events being described.  Mine every resource you can to gain access to good sources.  If you use the internet, make sure you include the date you accessed the material (web sites change frequently.)

2.  Secondary sources

Make sure your secondary sources are the best and most reliable for the event.  Again, the high scoring essays relied upon peer-reviewed, print books and articles.  This is where you need to avoid not only the internet, but also print encyclopedias for anything other than a means to find more useful sources.  Again, you are not trying to just get by and slap together 4,000 words, you are trying to write an outstanding essay.

3.  Organization

The highest marked papers had a clear outline, with labeled sections that demonstrate the logical flow of the essay’s argument.

4.  Conclusion

The students arrived at original conclusions that demonstrated independent analysis of the research.  A and B papers went beyond mere repetition of the arguments of other historians.  The thesis of the paper was clear, bold, specific, and based upon evidence.  If you merely repeat existing arguments, you are guaranteed a C.

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Guns of August, Chapters 13-14

Here Mrs. Tuchman presents the Battle of the Frontiers, the initial fighting stretching from Lorraine to Mons in August 1914.  What struck me most was the blindness of Joffre and the GQG to the evidence of a massive German right wing, and lack of flexibility to change the original offensive plan.  The Battle of the Frontiers would have far-reaching consequences for the course of the war.

Chapter 13

Why was Joffre so blind to General Lanrezac’s intelligence reports and appeals for a change in strategy against the German right wing?

How and why did the Germans deviate from von Schlieffen’s original war plan?  What consequences do you believe this would hold?

What was surprising about General Sir John French’s demeanor and attitude upon the BEF’s arrival in France?

Chapter 14

What were the problems facing the French in their planned offensive in the Ardennes?

What were the short and long term consequences of the Battle of the Frontiers?

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IB Exam Results!

Dear Seniors,

Congratulations on an outstanding job!  The IB 20th Century History/History of the Americas class had an overall pass rate of 91%!  The SL section had a 100% pass rate, and the HL section had an 89% pass rate.  Moreover, the HL section achieved an average score of 4.21, which is higher than the global average of 4.09.  For those of you who put in the long hours of taking good notes, participating in class, reading extensively, and writing original answers to term lists and questions, your hard work has paid off!  All the best in your future studies and careers!

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Animated Map of the Western Front, 1914-1918

Hello, all,

In case you are getting bogged down in the military geography described by Mrs. Tuchman, I have provided a link to an animated map of the Western Front during the First World War.  It is included in the history pages of the BBC online, a great reference for getting started in studying the First and Second World Wars.

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Guns of August, Chapters 11-12

In this section, Germany and France begin their offensives in the manner of a revolving door—the German right against the Allied left, and the French right against the German left.  Emotions and national sentiment run high as Belgian fortresses hold out for a time against superior numbers, and French troops temporarily liberate parts of Alsace.  Meanwhile, infighting and rivalry among Britain’s generals will have an impact on the deployment of the British Expeditionary Force to the European continent.

Chapter 11

Why did German soldiers shoot Belgian civilians, especially priests?  Compare and contrast Tuchman’s account with later Allied propaganda.

What was the political and military significance of Belgian resistance at Liège?

Why did Joffre not provide for reserves for the planned offensive in Alsace?

Chapter 12

What were Lord Kitchener’s objections to the original plan to send a six division BEF to support the French?  What was the reasoning behind these objections?

How were British plans modified?

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