Mastering Modern World History

Fifth edition, Palgrave Master Series

by Norman Lowe

Source questions for Part I: War and International Relations

Chapter 1 - Germany and the origins of the First World War

Study the Sources A to C and then answer the questions that follow.

Source A

A lecture given in October 1913 by an Englishman, J. A. Cramb, who had lived in Germany for many years.


The German answer to all our talk about the limitation of armaments is: Germany shall increase to the utmost of her power irrespective of any proposals made to her by England or by Russia or by any other State upon this earth. . . . I have lived among Germans and I have been impressed by the splendour of that movement which through the centuries has brought Germany to her position today. But with the best will in the world I can see no solution to the present collision of ideals but a tragic one. England desires peace and will never make war on Germany. But how can the youth in Germany, that nation great in war, accept the world-predominance of England? The outcome is certain and speedy. It is war.

Source B

The diary of Admiral von Müller, head of the Kaiser’s naval cabinet, 8 December 1912 (meeting with the Kaiser and top military and naval personnel).


General von Moltke [Chief of German General Staff] said: I believe war is unavoidable; war the sooner the better. But we ought to do more through the press to prepare the popularity of a war against Russia. The Kaiser supported this. Tirpitz [Naval Minister] said that the navy would prefer to see the postponement of the great fight for one and a half years. Moltke says the navy would not be ready even then and the army would get into an increasingly unfavourable position, for the enemies were arming more strongly than we. That was the end of the conference; the result amounted to almost nothing.

Source C

Report of a conversation held in May or June 1914, written from memory by Gottlieb von Jagow, after Germany’s defeat in the war. In 1914 Jagow was the German Foreign Secretary.


On 20 May and 3 June 1914 our Majesties gave lunches in honour of the birthdays of the Emperor of Russia and the King of England. On one of these occasions – I cannot remember which – Moltke said he would like to discuss some matters with me. In his opinion there was no alternative to making preventive war in order to defeat the enemy while we still had a chance of victory. I replied that I was not prepared to cause a preventive war and I pointed out that the Kaiser, who wanted to preserve peace, would always try to avoid war and would only agree to fight if our enemies forced war upon us. After my rejection, Moltke did not insist further. When war did break out, unexpectedly and not desired by us, Moltke was very nervous and obviously suffering from strong depression.

Source:  Sources A, B and C are quoted in J. C. G. Rohl, From Bismarck to Hitler (Longman, 1970, extracts).

(a) What can be learnt from Source A about British attitudes towards Germany shortly before the outbreak of the First World War?

(b) To what extent do Sources B and C offer support for the view that the main responsibility for the war rests with Germany?

(c) Using the sources and your own knowledge, assess the relative strengths of the various theories put forward as causes of the First World War.

Chapter 2 - Trench warfare and the First World War

Study the Source, and the information in Chapter 2.

Source A

The first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1916 – a German account.

The men in the dugouts waited ready, belts full of hand-grenades around them, gripping their rifles . . . it was of vital importance to lose not a second in taking up position in the open to meet the British infantry which would advance immediately behind the artillery barrage.

At 7.30 a.m. the hurricane of shells ceased. . . . Our men at once clambered up the steep shafts leading from the dugouts to daylight and ran . . . to the nearest craters. The machineguns were pulled out of the dugouts and hurriedly placed in position. . . . As soon as the men were in position, a series of lines were seen moving forward from the British trenches. The first line appeared without end to right and left. It was quickly followed by a second, then a third and fourth . . .

‘Get ready’ was passed along our front from crater to crater. . . . A few minutes later, when the leading British line was within a hundred yards, the rattle of machinegun and rifle broke out along the whole line of shell holes.

Whole sections seemed to fall . . . the advance rapidly crumbled under the hail of shells and bullets. All along the line men could be seen throwing up their arms and collapsing, never to move again. Badly wounded rolled about in their agony.

Source:  Quoted in A. H. Farrar-Hockley, The Somme (Pan/Severn House, 1976).

(a) How useful is Source A for the historian studying the techniques of trench warfare?

(b) Explain why the war on the western front developed into a stalemate.

(c) How was the war eventually brought to an end and why was Germany defeated?

Chapter 3 - The League of Nations and its problems

Study Source A and then answer the questions that follow.

Source A

Speech by Maxim Litvinov, Soviet Foreign Affairs Minister, to the League at Geneva, 1934.


They [the aggressor states] are now still weaker than a possible bloc of peace-loving states, but the policy of non-resistance to evil and bartering with aggressors, which the opponents of sanctions propose to us, can have no other result than further strengthening and increasing the forces of aggression, a further expansion of their field of action. And the moment might really arrive when their power has grown to such an extent that the League of Nations, or what remains of it, will be in no condition to cope with them, even if it wants to. . . . With the slightest attempt at actual perpetration of aggression, collective action as envisaged in Article 16 must be brought into effect progressively in accordance with the possibilities of each League member. In other words, the programme envisioned in the Covenant of the League must be carried out against the aggressor, but decisively, resolutely and without any wavering.

Source:  Quoted in G. Martel (ed.), The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered (Routledge, 1999 edition).

(a) Explain what Litvinov meant by ‘the policy of non-resistance to evil and bartering with aggressors’.

(b) Outline briefly what was ‘the programme envisioned in the Covenant of the League’.

(c) Explain why the League of Nations failed to preserve peace.

Chapter 4 - German foreign policy and international relations, 1920–32

Study Source A and then answer the questions that follow.

Source A

Letter from Gustav Stresemann to the former German Crown Prince, written in September 1925.


In my opinion there are three great tasks which confront German foreign policy in the immediate future –

In the first place the solution of the reparations question in a way acceptable to Germany, and the assurance of peace.

Secondly the protection of Germans living abroad, those 10 to 12 million of our kindred who now live under a foreign yoke in foreign lands.

The third is the readjustment of our eastern frontiers; the recovery of Danzig, the Polish corridor, and a correction of the frontier in Upper Silesia.

Hence the Locarno Pact which guarantees us peace and makes England, as well as Italy, guarantors of our western frontiers.

I would utter a warning against any ideas of flirting with Bolshevism; we cannot involve ourselves in an alliance with Russia though an understanding is possible on another basis. When the Russians are in Berlin, the red flag will at once be flown from the castle, and in Russia, where they hope for a world revolution, there will be much joy at the spread of Bolshevism as far as the Elbe. The most important thing for German policy is the liberation of German soil from any occupying force. On that account German policy must be one of finesse and avoidance of great decisions.

Source:  E. Sutton, Gustav Stresemann, His Diaries, Letters and Papers (Macmillan, 1935).

(a) What information does Source A provide about the thinking of the German government with regard to foreign affairs during the 1920s?

(b) How far had Stresemann’s aims and objectives been achieved by 1932?

(c) What attempts were made to improve international relations during the 1920s and early 1930s, and how successful were they?

Chapter 5 - Hitler’s aims in foreign policy

Study the sources A to C and the information in Chapter 5.

Source A

Extracts from Hitler’s Secret Book written about 1928.


There is no spot on this earth that has been determined as the abode of a people for all time, since the rule of nature for tens of thousands of years forced mankind eternally to migrate. A healthy foreign policy, therefore, will always keep the winning of the basis of a people’s sustenance immovably in sight as its ultimate goal....An additional 500 000 square kilometres in Europe can provide new homesteads for German peasants, and make available millions of soldiers to the power of the German people for the moment of decision. The only area in Europe that could be considered for such a territorial policy therefore was Russia. A new nation must arise from this work which overcomes even the worst evils of the present, the cleavage between the classes for which the bourgeoisie and Marxism are equally guilty.....This does not necessarily bring Germany into conflict with all European great powers. As surely as France will remain Germany’s enemy, just as little does the nature of such a political aim contain a reason for England, and especially for Italy, to maintain the enmity of the World War.

Source B

Minutes of the Conference in Berlin, 5 November, 1937, recorded by Colonel Hossbach (extracts).


The Fuhrer continued:

The aim of German foreign policy was to make secure and to preserve the racial community and to enlarge it. It was therefore a question of space....

German policy had to reckon with two hate-inspired antagonists, Britain and France, to whom a German colossus in the centre of Europe was a thorn in the flesh, and both countries were opposed to any further strengthening of Germany’s position. Germany’s problem could only be solved by means of force. ....There remains still to be answered the questions ‘when’ and ‘how’. After this date [1943-45] our relative strength would decrease in relation to the rearmament which would by then have been carried out by the rest of the world. Besides, the world was expecting our attack and was increasing its counter-measures from year to year. It was while the rest of the world was still preparing its defences that we were obliged to take the offensive. Nobody knew today what the situation would be in 1943-45. One thing only was certain – that we could not wait longer. If the Fuhrer was still living, it was his unalterable resolve to solve the problem of space at the latest by 1943-45.

If internal strife in France should develop into such a domestic crisis as to absorb the French army completely and render it incapable of use for war against Germany, then the time for war against the Czechs had come. Or if France was so embroiled by a war with another state that she cannot ‘proceed’ against Germany....Actually the Fuhrer believed that almost certainly Britain, and probably France as well, had already tacitly written off the Czechs....Without British support, a warlike action by France against Germany was not to be expected.

Sources:  Sources A and B are quoted in Brown, R. & Daniels, C., Twentieth Century Europe: Documents and Debates (Macmillan, 1981)

Source C

Extracts from A.J.P. Taylor’s book The Origins of the Second World War.


We have a record of the statements that Hitler made that day [5 November 1937]. It is called ‘the Hossbach Memorandum’ after the man who made it. This record is supposed to reveal Hitler’s plans.   It is therefore worth looking at in detail. Perhaps we shall find in it the explanation of the Second World War; or perhaps we shall find only the source of a legend.....

Hitler’s exposition was in large part day-dreaming, unrelated to what followed in real life. Even if seriously meant, it was not a call to action, at any rate not to the action of a great war; it was a demonstration that a great war may not be necessary. Despite the preliminary talk about 1943-45, its solid core was an examination of the chances for peaceful triumphs in 1938, when France would be preoccupied elsewhere......There was here no concrete plan, no directive for German policy in 1937 and 1938. Or if there was a directive, it was to wait upon events....

The memorandum tells us, what we know already, that Hitler (like every other German statesman) intended Germany to become the dominant Power in Europe. It also tells us that he speculated how this might happen. His speculations were mistaken. They bear hardly any relation to the actual outbreak of war in 1939. A racing tipster who only reached Hitler’s level of accuracy would not do well for his clients.

Source: Taylor, A.J.P., The Origins of the Second World War, 1963 edition (Penguin), pp 168-72.

(a) In Source A what evidence is there that Hitler desired ‘lebensraum’?

(b) What similarities and differences can you find between Hitler’s statements in Source A and those in Source B?

(c) In Source C, why does Taylor think that Hitler’s exposition in Source C was ‘in large part day-dreaming?

(d)  Using your own knowledge, how far would you agree that Hitler’s intentions were similar to those of every other German statesman?

(e)  To what extent did later historians agree with Taylor that Hitler did not have ‘a concrete plan’ for Germany foreign policy to follow?

Chapter 6 - Hitler’s thoughts about the future

Study Sources A and B and then answer the questions that follow.

Source A

Extract from Hitler’s speech to the SS leaders, November 1938.


We must be clear that in the next ten years we will certainly encounter unheard-of critical conflicts. It is not only the struggle of the nations, which in this case are put forward by the opposing side merely as a front, but it is the ideological struggle of the entire Jewry, freemasonry, Marxism, and churches of the world. These forces – of which I presume the Jews to be the driving spirit, the origin of all the negatives – are clear that if Germany and Italy are not annihilated, they will be annihilated. That is a simple conclusion. In Germany the Jew cannot hold out. This is a question of years. We will drive them out more and more with an unprecedented ruthlessness.

Source B

Extracts from Hitler’s speech to the Reichstag, 30 January 1939.


I have very often in my lifetime been a prophet, and was mostly derided. In the time of my struggle for power it was in the first instance the Jewish people who received only with laughter my prophecies that I would sometime take over the leadership of the state, and then bring the Jewish problem to its solution. I believe that this once hollow laughter has meanwhile already stuck in the throat. I want today to be a prophet again: if international finance Jewry inside and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, the result will be not the bolshevization of the earth and thereby the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.

Source:  Both sources are quoted in Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936–45: Nemesis (Allen Lane/Penguin, 2000).

(a) What evidence do these sources reveal about Hitler’s state of mind, and about his thinking with regard to peace, war and the Jews?

(b) Using the sources and your own knowledge, examine the evidence for and against the view that the ‘Final Solution’ was forced on Hitler by the circumstances of the Second World War.

Chapter 7 - Causes of the Cold War

Study Source A and answer the questions that follow.

Source A

Stalin’s reply to Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtain’ speech, in an interview for Pravda,13 March 1946.


I regard it [Churchill’s speech] as a dangerous move, calculated to sow the seeds of dissension among the Allied states and impede their collaboration. Mr Churchill now takes the stand of the warmongers, and he is not alone. Mr Churchill has friends not only in Britain but in the United States as well. . . .

The following circumstances should not be forgotten. The Germans made their invasion of the USSR through Finland, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. The Germans were able to make their invasion through these countries because, at the time, governments hostile to the Soviet Union existed in these countries. As a result of the German invasion the Soviet Union has lost a total of about seven million people. In other words the Soviet Union’s loss of life has been several times greater than that of Britain and the USA put together. And so what can there be surprising about the fact that the Soviet Union, anxious for its future safety, is trying to see to it that governments loyal in their attitude to the Soviet Union should exist in these countries. How can anyone, who has not taken leave of his senses, describe these peaceful aspirations of the Soviet Union as expansionist tendencies on the part of our state?

Source:  Quoted in Martin McCauley, The Origins of the Cold War, 1941–1949 (Longman, 1995).

(a) Explain why Stalin regarded Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtain’ speech as ‘a dangerous move’.

(b) Using the evidence provided by the source, and your own knowledge, explain how far you would agree with the view that the USA was mainly to blame for the development of the Cold War between 1945 and 1953.

Chapter 8 - The USA and the war in Vietnam

Study Sources A and B and answer the questions that follow.

Source A

A memo from John McNaughten, US Assistant Secretary of Defense, setting out his worries about the way the war was going, March 1966.


[I am] very deeply concerned about the breadth and intensity of public unrest and dissatisfaction with the war . . . especially among young people, the underprivileged, the intelligentsia and the women. Will the move to call up 20,000 Reserves polarize opinion to the extent that the ‘doves’ in the United States will get out of hand – massive refusals to serve, or to fight, or to cooperate, or worse? There may be a limit beyond which many Americans and much of the world will not permit the US to go. The picture of the world’s greatest superpower killing or seriously injuring 1000 non-combatants a week, while trying to pound a tiny backward nation into submission, on an issue whose merits are hotly disputed, is not a pretty one. It could conceivably produce a costly distortion in the American national consciousness.

Source B

Report on the situation in Vietnam, prepared for President Johnson by a group of officers in 1968.


200,000 more troops will not strengthen the Saigon government, because the Saigon leadership show no sign of a willingness – let alone an ability – to attract the necessary loyalty or support of the people. It would mean mobilizing reserves and increasing the military budget. There will be more US casualties, more taxes. This growing disaffection, accompanied as it certainly will be, by increased defiance of the draft [call-up orders] and growing unrest in the cities because of the belief that we are neglecting domestic problems, runs great risks of provoking a domestic crisis of unprecedented proportions.

Source:  Both sources are quoted in Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (Longman, 1996).

(a) From the evidence in Source A, why was McNaughten unhappy about how the war was developing?

(b) Assess the value of these sources to an historian studying the impact of the Vietnam War on the American public.

(c) Using the sources and your own knowledge, explain why, in the end, the USA was unsuccessful in its aim of saving South Vietnam from communism.

Chapter 9 - The United Nations and the crisis in Hungary, 1956

Study Sources A and B and answer the questions that follow.

Source A

A UN General Assembly Resolution, 6 November 1956.


The General Assembly notes with deep concern the violent repression by the Soviet troops of the efforts of the Hungarian people to achieve freedom and independence. It calls upon the USSR to withdraw its forces from Hungary without any further delay. It requests that an investigation be made of the situation caused in Hungary by foreign intervention and a report given to the Security Council in the shortest possible time.

Source B

Statement by the new Hungarian government to the Security Council, 12 November 1956.


Soviet troops are here for the purpose of restoring law and order, and at the request of the Hungarian government. We cannot permit UN observers to enter Hungary, since the situation is purely an internal affair of the Hungarian state.

Source:  Both sources are taken from Keesings Contemporary Archives for 1956

(a) What evidence do these sources provide about the difficulties faced by the UN?

(b) ‘The problem with the United Nations Organization is that it has never been united’. Explain why you agree or disagree with this verdict on the UN in the period 1950 to 1989.

Chapter 10 - The end approaches for communism in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany)

Study the source and then answer the questions that follow.

Source A

An account of events in Leipzig on 8 October 1989.


Mikhail Gorbachev allowed it to be known he had warned Erich Honecker that Soviet troops would not be available for use against demonstrators in the GDR, telling him: ‘Life punishes those who hold back’. That evening there were demonstrations in Berlin and Dresden; the Stasi (secret police) broke up most of them with great brutality. . . .

But it was the following day in Leipzig that the great test came. Leipzig, where the Lutheran church had given great support to the demonstrators, was pre-eminent in the campaign for reform and democracy. Early in the morning of 8 October the Stasi went from factory to factory and office to office, warning people that they shouldn’t take part in the big demonstration which was planned for that afternoon. . . . Several thousand troops were deployed; they took up position on every street corner, and tanks and armoured personnel carriers were drawn up at all the main intersections. On the rooftops near the station, marksmen were positioned . . . the military and the Stasi had orders to fire on the demonstrators if there was no alternative way of stopping them. If the troops had opened fire, as in China, it might have worked. . . . The indications are that the army, and perhaps even the Stasi, lacked the will to carry out their orders. There is evidence that Soviet officials got wind of the possibility that a massacre was being planned and warned against it. The demonstrators marched through the streets and the soldiers watched them go. . . . The government was on the run. Nine days later, Erich Honecker resigned as party leader.

Source:  John Simpson, Despatches from the Barricades (Hutchinson, 1990).

(a) What can be learned from the source about the reasons for the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe?

(b) Explain why Gorbachev had warned Honecker that Soviet troops would not be available for use against demonstrators in East Germany.

(c) How did Germany come to be re-united in 1989–90 and what part did Helmut Kohl and Mikhail Gorbachev play in the process?

Chapter 11 - The USA and the Gulf War, 1990–1

Study the source and then answer the questions that follow.

Source A

Article in Fortune magazine, 11 February 1991.


The president and his men worked overtime to quash freelance peacemakers in the Arab world, France and the Soviet Union who threatened to give Saddam a face-saving way out of the box that Bush was building. Over and over, Bush repeated the mantra: no negotiations, no deals, and specifically, no linkage to a Palestinian peace conference. ‘Our jobs, our way of life, our own freedom, and the freedom of friendly countries around the world will suffer’, he said, ‘if control of the world’s great oil reserves fell into the hands of that one man, Saddam Hussein.’

Source:  Quoted in William Blum, Killing Hope (Zed Books, 2003).

(a) What does the source reveal about US motives for taking action against Saddam Hussein after his invasion of Kuwait.

(b) Show how Saddam Hussein’s forces were driven out of Kuwait and defeated.

(c) Explain why Saddam was allowed to remain in control of Iraq in spite of his defeat.

Chapter 12 - The USA and the New World Order

Study the Sources and then answer the questions that follow.

Source A

The view of Robert Kagan, an American writer on politics, in 1998.


The truth is that the benevolent hegemony exercised by the United States is good for a vast portion of the world’s population. It is certainly a better international arrangement than all realistic alternatives. . . .

The USA must refuse to abide by certain international conventions, like the international criminal court and the Kyoto accord on global warming. The US must support arms control, but not always for itself. It must live by a double standard.

Source:  Quoted in William Blum, Killing Hope (Zed Books, 2003).

Source B

The view of Ken Booth and Tim Dunne, two British experts on international politics.


We do not believe that the ‘United States’ is hated . . . it is the policies of successive US governments that are so hated: the manner in which the world’s sole superpower tends always to get its way; its sometimes brutal foreign policy and profitable project of globalization; its support for tyrants while mouthing the language of democracy and human rights. . . . In any human situation, such power tends to provoke the hostility of those who are not listened to, or who do not get their way, ever.

Set against this, as a society, the US is an idea to which countless victims flock, seeking refuge from tyranny and hunger. The USA is one of the few countries to treat immigration as an economic resource rather than a burden.

Source:  Ken Booth and Tim Dunne (eds), Worlds in Collision: Terror and the Future of Global Order (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002).

(a) How do these sources help to explain why there was so much anti-American feeling at the end of the twentieth century?

(b) Source B refers to the USA’s ‘sometimes brutal foreign policy and profitable project of globalization’. Using your own knowledge, explain whether you think this is a fair description of US actions in the 1980s and 1990s.

(c) In what ways did anti-Americanism manifest itself in the period 1980 to 2004?