That debate, as readers of this blog will realize, is about 1914 and all attendant circumstances. Who caused the catastrophe and why? Indeed, was it a catastrophe and if not why not? That sort of thing. Tory Historian's blog raised one or two important issues about the confusion in various aspects of the Great War debate and the need to look beyond the Western Front and its poetry. This is more of a contribution to the discussion about how and why the war could not be contained as another smallish Balkan spat and became the conflagration it did. In his book Diplomacy Harold Nicolson had a chapter on Types of European Diplomacy as he thought that too many diplomats but, more importantly, far too many politicians viewed representatives of other countries are being no different from the British of a certain class and background. This is not a matter of racism (of which Nicolson was definitely guilty though not much more than many of his contemporaries) just an admirable acceptance that countries are different, as are their cultures, history and politics; therefore their representatives will be different, too. Even now that is not all that clearly comprehended by politicians or commentators.
It might be admitted, incidentally, that British statesmen are peculiarly prone to this illusion. They are so accustomed, in domestic controversies, to invoke the principle of fair dealing and to rely upon settlement by compromise, that they do not understand that such conceptions are not always present in the minds of foreign negotiators.

It was difficult, for instance for those who worked under Sir Edward Grey to convince him that the envoy of some Balkan country did not possess the same sort of traditions, intuitions and principles as he had inherited himself: he was inclined to regard them, if not perhaps as Old Wykehamists, then at least as Old Marlburians. If subsequent developments led him to revise this opinion, he would feel that that a gros dexeption had been practised upon him and would regard the foreign statesman who ahd failed to live up to Old Marlburian standards as a man of irredeemable iniquity.
Needless to say, Grey was a Wykehamist himself but mutatis mutandis, that attitude still pervades our corridors of severely diminished power.


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