The newspaper articles written about World War 1 bring to life the grim reality about the first time the entire world was in a conflict with itself. This was a period in history before political correctness was taken overboard and graphic details were included.
Back at the turn of the last century, the war of words was fought in publications. This was the only medium available at the time. Unlike today when there is a direct telephone line running between the major leaders’ offices, back then most communication was done publicly in the papers.
During the turbulence leading up to the declaration of war in 1914, there are many good examples. One of the better ones is a published interview with Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, who was the German Chancellor at that time, about his conversation with Sir Edward Goschen, the British Ambassador to Germany.
In that last meeting on August 4 1914, the German Chancellor described England’s treaty with Belgium, in which the neutrality of Belgium was guaranteed, as a “scrap of paper”. This was not taken very well in England and within hours of this conversation England declared war on Germany.
This entire episode was the reaction after Belgium refused to give the German army safe passage through their land so they could invade France. This was documented in a letter the German government wrote to the Belgian Government on August 2, 1914. In this letter, it was described how France was going to push through Belgium to invade Germany and the German government was prepared to stop them in their tracks.
What is really nice is that all the letters involving this incident were published for the world to see. The world then took sides, not because of who they thought was right or wrong, but for which side’s victory would be most beneficial to their respective governments.
This is just one series of newspaper articles written about World War 1. As they say, the rest is history. Click on one of the banners for more information on your own subscription to the largest newspaper archive in the world.