Courtesy Reuters

France and the Outbreak of the World War

DOCUMENTS DIPLOMATIQUES FRANÇAIS, 1871-1914. 3e série (1911-1914), tome X, 17 mars-23 juillet 1914; tome XI, 24 juillet-4 août 1914. Paris: Costes, 1936, Fr. 60 per vol.

ON August 4, 1914, the German Government published a "White Book" and two days later the British Government issued a White Paper (or "Blue Book"). Each of these compilations of diplomatic documents was intended to explain the origins of the war in such a way as to free the issuing government from all blame. Ten days later the Russian Government followed suit with an "Orange Book," and in due course a Serbian "Blue Book" and two Belgian "Grey Books" appeared. Apparently at the outbreak of hostilities the French Government did not feel the need of publicly documenting its conduct. Were not German armies actually invading France? There may also have been the feeling that since the war had arisen in an Austro-Serbo-Russian quarrel, and since France had been dragged into that war because of the Franco-Russian alliance, the less said about that alliance and about French diplomacy the better. But the intense interest aroused throughout the world by the varicolored "books" apparently led the French Government to the conclusion that a contribution by it to the question of war responsibilities would be useful to the Allied propaganda. At any rate, on December 1, 1914, a "Yellow Book" was published. Unlike the earlier "books," it was not confined to the weeks immediately preceding the outbreak of war but contained a few documents dating from 1913. These 1913 documents offered an unflattering picture of German militarism, which was portrayed as deliberately preparing for a European war. The authenticity of two of them (nos. 2 and 6) was challenged by Germany.[i] But this charge of falsification made little impression on the Allied and neutral world, and during the war the Yellow Book was regularly quoted by those who wrote on the crisis of July 1914.

Only after the war did it become apparent that the Yellow Book was neither complete nor entirely reliable. The historians Émile Bourgeois and Georges Pagès

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