In the era of mass communication the media have often been regarded as central players in foreign politics including processes of decision-making leading to military conflict.[1] But are they to blame for the outbreak of World War I? Is it really appropriate to consider them “warmongers” as Bernhard Rosenberger did in his study on the role of the German press before and in 1914?[2] Readers of Christopher Clark’s bestseller The Sleepwalkers – How Europe went to War in 1914 might get a different impression: the author dedicated only a relatively short chapter of this impressive book on the origins of World War I to “The Press and Public Opinion”.[3] Nevertheless, Clark suggests that the press played an important role in the creation of “a deep and widespread readiness to accept war” and he mentions it in various contexts of diplomatic history.[4] The responsibility of the (mass) media in the way that led to the First World War has often been discussed in a perspective limited to one or only a few powers. An early effort towards a comparative synthesis is an article published by Sidney Bradshaw Fay (1876-1967) in 1932. Even if it was not based on a systematic analysis of high quantities of press material, its general conclusions do not seem to have been seriously challenged by subsequent research.[5] This is especially true for the rather “indirect” nature of the media impact on the decisions of July and August 1914.[6] In his most influential book 1914 – Comment les Français sont entrés dans la guerre (“1914 – How the French entered the war”) Jean-Jacques Becker analysed among other sources the French press, underlining that “enthusiasm” for war existed, but that it was by far not the only (and before the actual departure of the soldiers in August 1914 not even the predominant) feeling displayed in French provincial newspapers.[7] This impression has been confirmed by Thomas Raithel in a comparative study dedicated to the making of the French Union sacrée and the German Burgfrieden.[8] For the almost two decades between the Kruger Telegram Crisis (1896) and the Balkan Wars (1912-1913), Dominik Geppert’s study on British-German “press wars” gives detailed insights into the complex interactions between media and politics.[9] Long-term media effects of the First Moroccan Crisis have been analysed in a tri-national perspective by Martin Mayer,[10] and the role of public opinion during the Second Moroccan Crisis is the subject of a book published by Thomas Meyer.[11] Despite the light these and other studies[12] have shed on the subject, the role of the press in the process leading to the Great War has never been assessed in a detailed comparative study covering all great powers.[13]

Agenda Setting and Framing

Recent research has underlined the relevance of media theory and quantitative empirical research for a better understanding of the interaction between the media and foreign policy in the age of imperialism: John Maxwell Hamilton and his co-authors used “agenda setting” and the “framing theory” to analyse press effects during the Spanish-American War,[14] whereas Bernhard Rosenberger had earlier applied these approaches to the German press before 1914.[15] Hamilton and his co-authors see the advantage of these theories in the empirical evidence of the underlying assumptions which have been confirmed by various studies.[16] Agenda setting is a phenomenon described on an empirical basis for the first time in the 1960s: according to one of the pioneers of the agenda-setting approach, Bernhard Cohen, the press “may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about”.[17] Framing theory goes one step further, assuming that the media can also present an issue in a particular perspective by highlighting one of its possible dimensions.[18] Both approaches – agenda setting and framing theory – seem to be compatible with recent trends in media history. On the one hand, they refrain from perceiving the media as a mere “mirror” of “public opinion”,[19] but on the other hand they admit a media impact on political thinking and behaviour in a given society that is strong enough to justify their inclusion in the study of international politics in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[20]

Cinema and International Politics before 1914

What does the word “media” mean before August 1914? In the years preceding the outbreak of the First World War, the (mass) media were not limited to the press. Films were already an important element of popular culture.[21] In 1913, the producers of the newsreel Animated Pathé Gazette claimed that its three weekly issues were “seen by more than 20 million people”.[22] Even if cinema originally focused on “attraction”, its impact on the political agenda setting of the pre-war years must have been relevant: when millions of people get used to seeing monarchs visiting their troops or launching warships on the screen, they might come to believe that armies and fleets are rather a source of national glory than a waste of money.[23] In his cultural analysis of the “Great Naval Game” before 1914, Jan Rüger has emphasised the importance of cinema not only as a media of entertainment, but also as a sign “of the political entitlement of ‘the masses’”. [24] According to the American magazine Moving Picture World published in December 1913, a European film on the Balkan Wars – The Secret of Adrianople – was what nowadays one would call a “blockbuster”.[25] Cinema was without doubt one of the most important channels of global communication.[26] But what could have been the political impact of scenes such as “British trawlers shelled by Russians” after the Dogger Bank Incident in 1905 or “The formidable American fleet” showing a huge battleship in an impressive bird’s eye’s view in 1914?[27] As long as detailed studies about the interaction between foreign policy and moving pictures before the Great War do not exist, it seems impossible to discuss this and similar questions in the present article. This is why the focus is once again on the press, but one has to keep in mind that field is not complete.[28]

“Press Wars” between Britain and Germany: Kruger Telegram Affair (1896), South African War and Naval Race

In January 1896, a telegram to Paul Kruger (1825-1904), president of the Transvaal Republic from Wilhelm II, German Emperor (1859-1941) triggered what Dominik Geppert has called the “first German-British press war”.[29] One day after the publication of the text, the readers of The Times found the following comment in the newspaper:

The German Emperor has taken a very grave step which must be regarded as distinctly unfriendly to this country. He has telegraphed to the President of the South African Republic congratulating him on the fact that “without appealing to the help of friendly Powers, he and his people have succeeded in repelling with their own forces the armed bands which had broken into their country, and in maintaining the independence of their country against foreign aggression”.[30]

The author of this leader found it particularly shocking that Wilhelm’s telegram seemed to admit the possibility of a German military intervention in favour of the Boers of the South African Republic which he located “distinctly within the sphere of British influence in regard to its foreign relations”.[31] The “bands” mentioned in Wilhelm’s telegram were none other than the British troops who had participated in the so called “Jameson Raid”, a semi-private enterprise aiming to protect the rights of British immigrants in the Republic.[32]

Did the highly aggressive press, echoed on both sides of the British Channel,[33] cause a real danger of war? On 8 January Le Temps, an important French newspaper comparable to The Times, mentioned a “warlike noise” dominating the British and German presses and qualified the situation as “serious”.[34] Despite this contemporary alarmism it seems more probable that the importance of the Kruger Telegram Affair as analysed by Dominik Geppert lies in its long-term effects and in the negative images of the other it created in both countries.[35]

German press criticism of British policy in South Africa accompanied the whole South African War fought by the British army against the guerrilla forces of the Boers culminating in the internment of thousands of civilians, women and children in concentration camps, where many of them died from starvation and illness.[36] These facts gave rise to anti-British comments not only in German newspapers, but also in other countries: on 17 September 1901 the French republican left-wing paper La Lanterne described the intolerable conditions in the British camps, mentioning the shocking case of a mother who was not allowed to see her ill child dying alone in a hospital.[37]

This is just one example demonstrating that indignation about Britain’s war in South Africa was not confined to Germany,[38] but the German government tried to use the anti-British feelings in a particularly aggressive way for the legitimation of their naval policy.[39] On the British side, the very popular construction of a powerful German fleet led to “navy scares” orchestrated by politicians, experts and journalists in the British press especially in 1905 and 1909.[40] As Domink Geppert and Andreas Rose have demonstrated, British military experts and the Admiralty did not really fear German sea power, but they used the aggrandisement of the German fleet and the anxieties it caused as an argument for an accelerated construction of British warships.[41] As a member of the liberal government, Walter Runciman, 1st Viscount Runciman of Doxford (1870-1949) even accused navy propagandists and journalists nourishing the “naval scare” of unpatriotic behaviour, whereas the cabinet had endorsed the much more reasonable formula “safety without superfluity”.[42] The mechanism of “navy scares” and the political abuse of public fear were already criticised by the Economist in 1910, which stated after the sudden end of “those terrible alarms” that “though the scare is over, the sufferings of the taxpayer are only beginning.”[43]

In spite of the aggressive tendencies in a lot of British and German newspapers, there were also attempts to “disarm” the press including organised visits of German journalists to Great Britain and of some of their British colleagues to Germany in 1906 and 1907.[44] In 1913, the governments of Germany and France even cooperated in their efforts to avoid “press wars” and the German Foreign Office tried to check chauvinist propaganda that could have been occasioned by the centenary of the Battle of Leipzig.[45]

The American “Yellow Press” and the Spanish-American War (1898)

Whereas “press wars” between Germany and Britain have never led to military conflict, the American intervention in Cuba (1898) has been considered a “newspaper-made war”.[46] In the years 1895-1898 Spain tried to suppress an uprising against her colonial rule in Cuba.[47] William Randolph Hearst’s (1863-1951) New York Journal even claimed that it had “brought on” this war because it was near to the “masses” and “believe[d] that on large questions of right or wrong, on issues of national policy, their judgment is always likely to be sounder than that of the objecting few.”[48]

The American “yellow press” criticised the methods used by the Spanish army as inhumane and barbarian and demanded an intervention of the United States on humanitarian grounds.[49] The highly emotional character of the Anti-Spanish campaign can be illustrated by an issue of the [Los Angeles] Herald: before the outbreak of the war the paper published a cartoon showing women and a child murdered by a Spaniard armed with a bloody sword and a torch. Uncle Sam is pointing a gun at the murderer in order to stop the atrocities committed on Cuban civilians.[50] On the next page, the paper presents horrible images referring to “Fearful Cases of Starvation in Cuba”: allegedly the drawings were based on photos taken in Spanish “reconcentrado camps”.[51]

Pictures like these might have contributed to convince the American public that the intervention decided after the explosion of the US warship Maine attributed to Spanish forces and other incidents was a moral duty for the United States.[52] Hamilton and his co-authors have conducted a quantitative survey of American newspapers on the eve of the war. After analysing agenda setting and framing effects on the basis of 789 newspaper articles, the authors conclude that the press did not “start the war”, but that that they “shaped public opinion to create an environment for declaring war”.[53] Even if this result seems to be disappointing, as it does not really exceed the results obtainable within a qualitative design, the value of the survey lies in the answer the authors give to the generalisation problem that qualitative research is almost unable to resolve on its own.[54]

The Bosnian Crisis (1908)

Compared to the Spanish-American War, the crisis triggered ten years later by Austria-Hungary’s annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina involved a far more traditional style of power politics. On 6 October 1908, Austria-Hungary officially annexed the part of the Ottoman Empire which had already been under her control since 1878.[55] As the territories inhabited by an important Serbian population were also an object of Serbia’s territorial ambitions, conflict with Belgrade was inevitable.[56] In a secret deal, the foreign ministers of the Dual Monarchy and Russia, Count Alois Lexa von Aehrenthal (1854-1912) and Count Alexander Izvolsky (1856-1919) respectively, had agreed that St. Petersburg would tolerate the annexation. In return Vienna would endorse Russian demands for an opening of the Straits.[57] Public opinion and the media came fully into play when the annexation was actually accomplished: it provoked not only an “Austrian-Serbian press war”,[58] but also political pressure on Izvolsky and a public outcry in Russia, Serbia’s orthodox protector.[59] Russian press comments cited in the French paper Le Figaro give an impression of the nationalist emotion this event triggered in Russia: the newspaper Novoe vremia wanted the Russian Foreign Minister to claim compensation for the annexation, especially the opening of the Straits, and it rejected the idea that Russia could be appeased by “little gifts”. For another newspaper, Sviet, the annexation meant the end of “Slavic effort” and a “triumph of Germanism” in the Balkans; if Russia was not “exhausted” by her defeat in the Russian-Japanese War of 1905 she would mobilise.[60] On 10 October 1908, the liberal imperialist Grigorij Trubeckoj wrote in Golos Moskwu:

The blow delivered to Slavdom in a part of Europe, is above all a blow delivered to the reputation of Russia as a Slavic Great Power. This is not about some territories alien to ourselves, this is about the historic, sacred interests of Russia, which have always found a vigorous echo not only in the hearts of educated people, but also in the masses.[61]

According to Caspar Ferenczi the attitude of the moderate right-wing papers following Novoe vremia was particularly influential during the Bosnian crisis.[62] For this newspaper the annexation was an attack on the “Slavic Idea”: an act “perceived as intolerable for Russian society, because the Slavic Idea was only the accomplishment of a Russian idea [...]”.[63] Ferenczi underlines that – despite its aggressive tone – the Russian Right did not want the tsarist Empire to go to war on the Bosnian issue, but at the same time, it was opposed to concessions which could draw the attention of the St. Petersburg’s foreign policy away from the interests of the Balkan Slavs.[64] The rejection of compensation is in contrast to the extract from Novoe vremia published in Le Figaro on 9 October,[65] which may have been chosen by the French journalists because France was not interested in backing Russia’s policy in the Balkans in 1908.[66] In December, Le Figaro even accused Izvolsky of trying to humiliate Vienna by demanding autonomy for Bosnia-Herzegovina.[67] After what Christopher Clark has called the “balkanisation of the French-Russian alliance” in 1912 the situation would be quite different.[68]

On the Austrian side, the Neue Freie Presse accused Serbia of war-mongering and warned it that the “indulgence” of the Dual Monarchy would not be endless and that violations of international law would entail “misfortune” and even the “suicide” of a country led to catastrophe by an irresponsible dynasty whose access to the throne had been preluded by murder.[69] The way this newspaper presents the Serbian monarchy is an impressive example of its anti-Serbian spirit.[70] But even in Vienna the acceptance of the annexation was not unanimous: the socialist Arbeiter-Zeitung perceived it as a dangerous precedent for further territorial change in the Balkans and especially as a bad example for the smaller states: “Can we complain when we see the flames flaring up at our walls?”[71] Furthermore the paper condemned Aehrenthal’s action as a serious blow against the salutary “regeneration of Turkey” initiated by the Young Turks.[72]

The crisis ended when Russia was forced to tolerate the annexation under pressure from Germany and Austria-Hungary: both powers had threatened St. Petersburg to reveal Izvolsky’s earlier acceptance of Aehrenthal’s plans.[73] But the diplomatic victory achieved by blackmail led to deep resentment in the Russian press: right-wing papers deplored “national shame” and the “humiliation” of Russia becoming a “quantité négligeable”.[74] Even if war had been avoided in 1908/9, this “frame” would play an important role again in July 1914, when the Balkans would be once more – as in 1912 and in 1913 – on the top of the European agenda: in the Russian Council of Ministers of 24 June 1914, Foreign Minister Sergei Sazonov (1860-1927) said that Russia “could not remain a passive spectator while a Slavonic people was being deliberately trampled down”.[75] “If Russia failed to fulfil her historic mission”, he added, “she would be considered a decadent state and would henceforth take a second place among the powers.”[76]

The Moroccan Crises in the French Press

In a study published in 1931, Eber Malcolm Carroll analysed the role of the French press in the two Moroccan Crises (1905 and 1911).[77] In this context, the basic mechanisms of media interaction seem to be quite similar to those of British-German “press wars”.[78] At the beginning of the First Moroccan Crisis, important sections of the French press did not want a confrontation with Germany and they even refrained from backing the French Foreign minister Théophile Delcassé (1852-1923) whose policy of “pénétration pacifique” had triggered the dangerous tensions between the two countries.[79] After Delcassé’s resignation it became clear, however, that the German government wanted more than the removal of this colonial antagonist and that their real aim was to destroy the Entente cordiale between France and Great Britain.[80] On 14 June 1905, the German Professor Theodor Schiemann (1847-1921) stated in the newspaper the Kreuzzeitung that a war with Great Britain would automatically lead to war with France.[81] In an interview with a correspondent of the French newspaper Le Temps, he repeated this threatening prevision.[82] The interview seems to be a typical case of semi-official communication between great powers.[83] Even if Schiemann emphasised the strictly private character of his opinions, the author of the article insinuated that he had an enormous influence on German foreign policy, a fact underlined by the false modesty the professor used to describe his relationship with Wilhelm II.[84] At the end of the interview, the French correspondent remarked that Schiemann’s “personal views” were very close to the ideas he had already in the “most authorised circles involved to the highest extent in the direction of the Empire’s foreign affairs”.[85] According to the Journal des débats, the interview demonstrates Germany’s transition from “Bismarckian policy” to a policy “that could be qualified as Napoleonic”.[86] On 10 July the same paper quoted a speech the socialist leader Jean Jaurès (1859-1914) had not been allowed to give in Berlin: Jaurès complained that Germany would use France as a “scapegoat in case of Anglo-German conflict” and that she treated her like a “satellite” (“nation vassal”). This, he concluded, “had profoundly wounded the conscience of every Frenchman without exception”.[87] In the eyes of the German Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow (1849-1929), the “arrogant language of the semi-official French press” (“wegen der unerhörten Sprache der offiziösen Pariser Presse”) and French “threats” aimed at the “intimidation” of Germany could lead to war between the two countries.[88]

Martin Mayer has demonstrated that the agenda-setting effects accompanying the first Moroccan Crisis were not symmetrical in France and Germany: whereas French public opinion was deeply concerned about the Schiemann interviews in July, the feeling of a direct risk of war reached Germany almost five months later.[89] In October 1905, Le Matin published an article threatening the German coast with a British invasion in the event of a French-German conflict.[90] According to its editor, the former Foreign Minister Delcassé had informed the cabinet about a military guarantee allegedly given by Great Britain in the very session that led to his fall.[91] Lauzanne’s evident intention was to discredit the French government chaired by Maurice Rouvier (1842-1911) because of their “cowardice” towards Germany; in this perspective, Delcassé’s resignation was interpreted as the result of massive German intrigue and pressure on a cabinet desirous to avoid war with the Reich even at the expense of the nation’s interests and honour.[92] The veracity of the revelation about British military guarantees and of the belated denial issued by Reuters was discussed in the German press.[93] What the Berliner Tageblatt called “the Delcassé affair” seemed to have an impact on the arms race: The German Chancellor von Bülow was convinced that the Matin articles would endorse the construction of more warships.[94]

The Second Moroccan Crisis brought Europe even closer to the abyss of war.[95] According to Gerd Krumeich, the German act of sending a warship to Agadir in 1911 (the famous “jump of the Panther”) gave French public opinion the impression that Germany was ready to use military methods in a colonial conflict between great powers.[96] A French intervention against insurgents in Morocco gave the Secretary of State of the German Foreign Office, Alfred von Kiderlen-Wächter (1852-1912), the opportunity to demand colonial compensations: in return, Germany would accept a French protectorate over the North African monarchy.[97] Kiderlen-Wächter tried to use “public opinion” – and for pre-war politicians that meant essentially the press – as a kind of diplomatic weapon.[98] Friedrich Kiessling described the arrival of the warship Panther as a typical “media event” the German government had staged in order to emphasise their claims.[99] Of course, this turned out to be a dangerous game as public opinion was not a thing politicians could “switch on and off”.[100] Martin Mayer suggested that the first Moroccan Crisis had created “warlike […] and undemocratic behaviours” in the concerned societies, including intolerance towards diverging opinions – especially towards those suspected of being “unpatriotic”.[101] Returning to the concept of the “Spiral of Silence” (Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann) Rosenberger has demonstrated in a similar perspective how the long-term effects of this social mechanism can almost eliminate moderate positions aiming at peaceful solutions and how it can contribute to lead societies into wars they perceive as an inevitable fate.[102] In 1911, the French Socialist newspaper L’Humanité described the impact of the crisis between France, Britain and Germany in a way that came quite close to this observation:

At this moment, the newspapers make France speak: France will do this; France will do that; proud and impassive, she will follow her way right to the end, etc., etc.
Actually, nobody knows what France will do, because she is silent, she is dumb, ignoring all the diplomatic talk between her leaders and the German leaders.[103]

The internationalist left-wing paper depicts a political atmosphere in which the press and provincial elites assembled in the councils of the French departments claimed the right to represent a patriotic public opinion and in which expressions of pacifist attitudes were punished by social isolation and even repression. The Humanité mentions the case of a teacher denounced in Le Temps for singing Lamartine’s famous Marseillaise de la paix with his class.[104]

The July Crisis 1914

In comparison with the two Moroccan Crises, media events do not seem to have influenced diplomatic action during the July Crisis of 1914 in a decisive manner: the shots of Sarajevo admittedly dominated the press agenda for some days, but generally they were not “framed” in a way that made people expect the imminence of a European war – maybe with the exception of the Austrian press which underlined the responsibility of the Serbian government and the necessity of determined action immediately after the crime.[105] The anti-Serbian campaigns in the press of Austria-Hungary and the lesser-known Russian coverage of the crisis were highly emotional and aggressive.[106]

Nevertheless, Gerd Krumeich is right in stating that “social objectives or objectives of internal politics” had no immediate impact on the decision-making in July and August 1914, even if he admits that politicians were surrounded by the “waves of public opinion”.[107] In France, the trial of Madame Henriette Caillaux (1874-1943) was without doubt the most important press story before the Austrian-Hungarian ultimatum and sometimes even after that diplomatic moment.[108] Even without quantitative research, the study of important French dailies gives the impression that the agenda setting was far from leading the country into a European confrontation; the main triggers of the escalation were not press campaigns against Austria-Hungary or Germany, but real diplomatic events, especially the ultimatum of 23 July 1914.[109] It is true that the press “framed” these facts in a particular way – emphasising for example the menace of the German declaration and belittling the complete mobilisation of the Russian forces published the same day.[110] But all in all it would be incorrect to consider the newspapers the most important “warmongers”[111] in the short-term perspective of the last weeks of peace: the socialist Humanité even favoured a strong veto to war as long as possible, like its Austrian equivalent, the Arbeiter-Zeitung,[112] and the British press analysed by Martin Schramm were in no way responsible for the diplomatic escalation – perhaps with the exception of the Northcliffe papers.[113] As in France, the agenda setting highlighted other events – the trial of Madame Caillaux and the serious troubles in Ireland.[114] Even the Austrian-Hungarian ultimatum condemned by the French newspapers was welcomed by important sections of the British press, and liberal journalists joined the interventionist line imposed on the cabinet by Edward Grey (1862-1933) after a period of hesitation.[115]

Russia might have been an exception. According to Jörg Baberowski, the fragile tsarist regime “used patriotism as a means of pacifying internally a divided society”, responding to nationalist emotions and expectations promoted by large sections of the press including liberal papers.[116] This seems to fit in with the results of Ferenczi’s study dedicated to the difficult period after the Russian-Japanese War and the Revolution of 1905. The trembling autocracy had to gain the support of what he called the “relevant public opinion” – that means the elite represented by the press – and the greatness of a Russian Empire protecting the Slavs was an issue on which consensus could be based.[117] If the Russian media as the presumed representatives of the “relevant public opinion” really played the role of a driving force in the escalation of July 1914, this does not imply that Russia was intrinsically more “aggressive” than other powers;[118] if one accepts the relevance of Ferenczi’s study for 1914, this phenomenon could rather be explained by the social and political instability and a crisis of legitimacy resulting from a complex process of modernisation in the aftermath of military defeat and Revolution.[119]

Maybe a parallel can be seen with the Ottoman Empire: it had also suffered a period of defeat and internal transformation when it entered the war on the side of the Central Powers in November 1914.[120] According to Sabine Mangold-Will, the ideas of “regeneration” and “revenge” for the loss of territories in the First Balkan War played an important role in the mental preparation of the Empire’s intervention.[121] In August 1914 the non-delivery of two British dreadnoughts purchased by Constantinople led to an anti-British press campaign.[122] It seems doubtful, however, that newspapers largely controlled by the Young Turks and limited by their political paradigms can be considered an independent factor influencing the foreign policy of the Ottoman Empire.[123] There is much more reason for this assumption in the case of another country entering the war after August 1914: the United States. Charlotte Lerg shows that the American press contributed to a reinterpretation of the Monroe doctrine in the years between 1914 and 1917, transforming it from an argument against intervention into a programme for the worldwide defence and even expansion of democracy.[124]

In the immediate context of the short period between Sarajevo and the outbreak of the conflict it would be difficult to maintain that the political and military elites were driven into war by the press.[125] In this respect the global conflict beginning in August 1914 was certainly not a “newspaper-made war”.[126] Nevertheless, recent research has shown that the media played an important role in a long-term perspective by creating a mental, intellectual and discursive setting in which aggressive and risky conduct could be justified as a legitimate means of defending national interest and prestige.[127] In this respect, they contributed to the making of what Hamilton and his co-authors have called an “enabling environment”,[128] in which the stubborn and aggressive action of the great powers obsessed by the idea of weakness and decline became acceptable, plausible and even “unavoidable”.[129] As Rosenberger has demonstrated on a quantitative basis for the German press, this media effect was not necessarily linked with articles “favouring” military solutions, but resulted in the increasing “familiarity” of war as the necessary outcome of a world characterised by interminable conflicts with powers perceived as increasingly hostile to the German readers’ country.[130] Returning to a concept used by J. A. Hobson, Martin Mayer and Dominik Geppert have established that the press was a crucial element in the “militarisation of public life” that began at the end of the 19th century.[131] Moreover, it is important to understand that the press was not an element alien to government politics that could influence it from “outside”; Ferenczi underlined that it was an “integral part of the informal communication system of European pre-war diplomacy”.[132]


For the period considered in the present article, there seems to be an overwhelming consensus in the assumption that the media did not “trigger” wars in a short-term perspective. However, this in no way implies that they are irrelevant to the comprehension of international politics, crisis and eventually the outbreak of the First World War. On the contrary, the existing studies demonstrate that the long-term impact of the media on power politics and its perception by millions of people was of the utmost importance.

Peter Geiss, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

Section Editors: Dominik Geppert; David Welch