Burden of Guilt

How Germany Shattered the Last Days of Peace, Summer 1914

Daniel Allen Butler

Date Published :
July 2010
Publisher :
Illustration :
16 pages b/w photos
No associated books available.


The conflagration that consumed Europe in August 1914 had been a long time in coming—and yet it need never have happened at all. For though all the European powers were prepared to accept a war as a resolution to the tensions which were fermenting across the Continent, only one nation wanted war to come: Imperial Germany. Of all the countries caught up in the tangle of alliances, promises, and pledges of support during the crisis that followed the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Germany alone possessed the opportunity and the power to determine that a war in eastern Europe would become The Great War, which swept across the Continent and nearly destroyed a thousand years of European civilization.

For nearly nine decades it has been argued that the responsibility for the First World War was a shared one, spread among all the Great Powers. Now, in The Burden of Guilt, historian Daniel Allen Butler has substantively challenged that point of view, establishing that the Treaty of Versailles was actually a correct and fair judgment: Germany did indeed bear the true responsibility for the Great War.

Working from government archives and records, as well as personal papers and memoirs of the men who made the decisions that carried Europe to war, Butler interweaves the events of summer 1914 with portraits of the monarchs, diplomats, prime ministers, and other national leaders involved in the 1914 crisis. He explores the national policies and goals these men were pursuing, and shows conclusively how on three distinct occasions the Imperial German government was presented with opportunities to contain the spreading crisis—opportunities unlike those of any other nation involved—yet each time, the German government consciously and deliberately chose the path which virtually assured that the Continent would go up in flames.

The Burden of Guilt is a work destined to become an essential part of the library of the First World War, vital to understanding not only the “how” but also the “why” behind the pivotal event of modern world history.

About The Author

Daniel Allen Butler, a maritime and military historian, is the bestselling author of “Unsinkable”: The Full Story of RMS Titanic, Distant Victory: The Battle of Jutland and the Allied Triumph in the First World War, and The First Jihad: The Battle for Khartoum and the Dawn of Militant Islam. He is an internationally recognized authority on maritime subjects. Butler lives and works in Los Angeles, California. Daniel Allen Butler was educated at Hope College, Grand Valley State University, and the University of Erlangen.


Chapter I: Two Bullets in Sarajevo
Chapter II: The Vials of Wrath
Chapter III: Counselors and Kings
Chapter IV: War Plans
Chapter V: An Ultimatum from Vienna
Chapter VI: Mobilization in St. Petersburg
Chapter VII: “Willy” and “Nicky”
Chapter VIII: A Warning in London
Chapter IX: Decisions in Berlin
Chapter X: Resolution in Paris
Chapter XI: The Last Chance
Chapter XII: The Burden of Guilt
Postscript “No Man’s Land”

Appendix I The Austro-Hungarian Note to Serbia and the Serbian Reply
Appendix II The “Willy-Nicky” Telegrams
Appendix III Germany’s Demand for Passage through Belgium, August 2, 1914
Appendix IV Sir Edward Grey’s Speech Before the House of Commons, August 3, 1914

Sources and Bibliography


“At last a book which dares to point the finger of responsibility for the Great War of 1914-1918 at Germany… Many books have been written which tell the story of the Great War: the battles, the personalities, the heroism, but here, long overdue, is essential reading for those who wish to understand why, as well as how, the First World War began. Well written in an interesting ad easily readable style, the author has drawn upon a rich source of government archives, records and persona; papers of the key figures that shaped the path to war in the summer of 1914

- The Armourer

“presents a controversial analysis of the diplomatic and political events leading up to the start of World War I…rests the blame for the conflict squarely at the feet of Germany arguing that deliberate actions or inactions by German leaders at key moments in the crisis forced the world inexorably to war.”

- Book News, Inc.

“…a well argued and written case for blaming the Germans alone for allowing WWI to happen”

- Cross and Cockade

“…essential reading for anyone wishing to understand not only the “how” but the “why” behind one of the most pivotal events of world history.”

- Lone Star Book Review

“Author Daniel Allen Butler has taken the long accepted premise that World War I was the combined fault of all the European world powers at the time and argues that it was Germany alone that was responsible for beginning and prolonging the bloody conflict.”

- Military Heritage

“Historians have contended for nearly a century that responsibility for the war was a shared one between the Great Powers; Butler in this thought provoking cook, challenges that view.”

- Soldier Magazine

“…makes a strong case for German war guilt stronger…leads the readers through the events and diplomatic foreplay from June to August 1914…Without German agitation, the conflict might have been avoided.”

- Western Front Association

“WWI was not an accident or a failure of diplomacy. This is not speculation, it is a fact, and good to see the record set straight…This is by far the most enlightening book I have read for many years.”

- Windscreen, Winter 2011

“…lively and informative analysis of the events leading up to The Great War and political leaders who were involved.”

- The Maple Leaf

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