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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