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tv   Business Interests and U.S. Neutrality in World War I  CSPAN  January 14, 2017 8:55pm-10:01pm EST

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students in college classrooms to hear lectures on topics ranging from the american revolution to 9/11. lectures and history are also available as podcasts. visit our website,, or download them from itunes. tv,ext on american history as the centennial of america's april 1917 entry into world war i approaches, historian discusses economics and the role of big business in the u.s. response to the great war. examinesssor relationship between british, u.s., and german business communities and a talk titled "big business and the questions of neutrality." this was part of a two-day symposium hosted -- volgerl gerber
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berghan's global background includes professorships at brown university, the university of warwick, and the federal republic of germany. he is the celebrated author of many publications including his newest work, "american big business in britain and germany, a comparative history of two special relationships in the 20th and shary. -- century." i know that many of you might be flying back home and i would encourage you to find this as an e-book version online and download it. it will get you through a flight and some layovers, too. it explores the complex transnational history of world war i and business.
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from the writings of one of the most well recognized authors of the 20 century and the writings of others whose names history has seemed to have forgotten. and our concluding presentation is going to examine a business and the question of the fragility of america's neutrality in 1916. unpacking the complex and often misunderstood political relationship between the u.s. and the global business committee in 1916. it is my honor to introduce and please join me in welcoming dr. voelker berghahn. [applause]
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dr. berghahn: thank you for this introduction and the invitation. i found all these presentations , especially the ones yesterday, very illuminating, because what we've had in terms of historical military, nabel, political, social, intellectual, and i certainly learned a lot. since this is the last lecture, i would hope you would think me -- join me in thanking matthew and lauren and their staff for the really great hospitality that i have certainly enjoyed at this conference. i would like to express my thanks and i hope you agree with me. [applause] dr. berghahn: this that you see
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here is the cinderella genre of all the genres we've covered here. it is is much less popular, less fascinating. my students are usually interested in social history, cultural history, the history of memory and if you want to do , really cutting edge history today, you study the history of emotions. now my lecture involves , statistics and quantification and of course, it is a rather neglected field, certainly for the first world war and there is still a lot of research to be done on business during the first world war. on top of all this, you are , of course fatigued at the end , of this long conference. i have to persuade you now that first of all, what i'm talking about is important and secondly, the people i mention are really
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also relevant. some of them have argument mentioned yesterday, jpmorgan, for example, and henry ford. so, there is a larger issue. at the same time my approach is , very much a top-down approach. perhaps inevitably it is not the , kind of fascinating grassroots lecture that you had this morning. i would agree, of course, that this is very important for us to study, but i think we should not overlook elite groups and their involvement in history. it leads us more directly into the power structures of the particular country or particular region.
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that is, of course, what i am concerned about because it raises all sorts of questions of balance of power within -- between different groups within a society. yesterday, we learned a lot about the stupidities of these german generals, but i think it's important to emphasize that in any society, in any point of time, there are always alternative positions that are taken up. in 1917, it was a german chancellor who opposed the introduction of unlimited submarine warfare, which he lost against the generals. how looking at a week groups, desk elite groups how precarious historical , writing often is and how
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difficult it is to balance one against the other. finally, i would like to make a promise -- there are no statistics or graphs in this lecture. i'm concerned with perceptions of elite groups and also, as you can see, there are no pictures because i think i could only present you with rather stern looking bankers with a west -- waistcoat and a little ponch. overall, this is a rather sober lecture. i should warn you there are no , anecdotes, but i was born in berlin some years ago and with my background, you expect a very serious and sober lecture, don't you? so, what is my agenda? i would like to take this topic in four steps. first of all, i would like to take a brief look at the historiography on the role of big business before the first world war. secondly, i would like to look
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at the mood of entrepreneurs and bankers during the war. similarly in july and august 1914. thirdly i would like to look at , business reactions in your early phases of the war including american business reactions, and finally, i would like to talk about anglo-american business relations in subsequent years up to the american entry into the war on the allied side. so as to my first point, i would like to take you back into the 1960's and 1970's when neo-marxist/leninist arguments occur among historians in the west. this occurs not among soviets -- just but -- scholars among soviet scholars, but also
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among historians in the west. in the so-called revisionist state in the face of the vigorous criticism of american foreign-policy during the vietnam war world war i was , widely seen as a contra conflagration between capitalist states in europe and imperialist rivalries in africa, asia, and latin america that had boomeranged back into the metropolis and was now fought out on the european continent. so as a result of that i hope , you can see that there was a vigorous debate about the origins of the war. this german socialist and his book -- perhaps it should be republished now -- was rediscovered by these historians, highlighting the role of banks. rosa luxembourg, this other socialist who wrote about the link between the
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armament industries and the push push for war and "militarism and the providence and accumulation in the right of capitalist. and 1970's, the balance has shifted in favor of a considerably more differentiated interpretation. but has been driven in part by the discovery of new empirical material and as a result, as a historian, i will give you a good number of quotations because they are actually new material. but in a nutshell, to meet -- the european industry and finance did not clamor for a major war between the great powers before 1914. on the contrary, they were greatly worried about the possible outbreak, estimating correctly that it would mean for the international economy that had
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become so much more intertwined in the second half of the 19th century. as you know, there is a good deal of talk about the first globalization of the world economy that took place then, and then we have almost 100 years of hiatus with nationalism, fascism and two world wars and it's only in the , 1990's, after the end of the cold war, that many people assume the second phase of globalization has set in. even steel trusts vickers -- like vickers armstrong and others were not rooting for war at the time. but they were quite happy to have the orders that coming in during the escalating arms race. first -- race. -- seet the, then come them coming onto land. there were four men of considerable prestige who must be mentioned in this context.
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first of all, there is the chief of the prussian general staff who defeated napoleon in the war of 1870. afterwards, he warned that wars among great powers were no longer thinkable. he argued they would be people's wars with millions of soldiers that would devastate participant nations and would even turn the military victors into losers. i would like to mention is the polish french banker who wrote in 1899 three volumes on the war, who prescribed in great detail in these books the mass slaughter that would occur in age of warfare between industrial nations with guns and machine guns. here in this museum, you can see , of course, a lot of evidence, material evidence of this industrialized warfare. thirdly, there was a british
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businessman who published a a bestseller in 1911, "the great illusion: a study of the relations of military power in nations to their economic and social advantage." it was originally published in 's09 under the title europe optical illusion. it was translated into several european languages. norman also thought that modern wars were no longer winnable. he thought not only of the carnage on the battlefield, but drain on material or military and financial resources. the fourth contemporary and analyst -- analysis was done by herbert spencer, who was less concerned with warfare but with a transition from agrarian to industrial societies.
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he identified two historic types of societies. the first and older one was called the militant society, which was based on centralization and regimentation. i suppose he was thinking of 18th-century prussia or french absolutism. finally, perhaps even of george ii and and the rebellion he experienced against his autocratic rule in the colonies of north america. but being a british liberal who believed in the notion of cold -- this earlier type was being replaced by an industrial type based on freedom and economic and political market place. such concepts associated economic does such concepts of socioeconomic transition began to circulate more widely at the end of the 19th century, if not
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before. additional evidence has been found in the diaries and correspondence is a businessman on both sides of the atlantic. this has hitherto been ignored. moreover, scholars have begun to evaluate the economic status of of the time, such as the wall street journal. this is reflected in a striking quote from the wall street at the end of 1914 that i shall come back to in a moment. this discourse is about the terrible threat of a major war, already circulated in these pre-1914 years -- the wall street journal stated that a big war would be "a calamity." a few months later in march of 1913, the journal ran a number of articles in which it was pointed out that armament expenditures were unproductive, a surprising statement, and that their reduction would mean lowering taxes in this country.
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beyond the press, there was also growing concern in the business community of the pre-1914 arms race running out of control and as a result of this american and european business experience developed into a roller coaster. during the second moroccan crisis in 1911 and the balkan wars, there were great fears of a major war being just around the corner. the french banks began to hold gold. but since bankers and entrepreneurs did not of the graspedthe future, they at any sign of detente in hopes of rationality prevailing in europe. still, money became tighter in those years.
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banks began to reduce their exposure, loans were given more and more on short call, long-term commitments were no longer deemed safe. the correspondence between a very influential and unfortunately also neglected banker who was the cao of the second-most powerful bank after j.p. morgan in york, the national city bank and his french colleague in paris is a case in point. the letter reflecting the very pessimistic mood in the french capital in these final years before the first one war. -- world war. lippe thought that "few americans have begun to grasp the awful significance of the whole world of general european war." end of quote. however, as i moved to my next point: the july crisis, it must be stressed that with a few
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few exceptions, none of these businessmen were pacifists. they -- when it came to the maintenance of their nations andnial possessions exploitation of their manpower and natural resources they would , be in favor of repression and unrestrained military violence -- this applies not only to the major imperial powers such as britain, france, and germany, but also to belgian rule in the huge territory of the congo. it is estimated that some 11 million men, women and children died there before 1914 as a result of military violence, starvation, and deprivation. nor was business as a whole opposed to respond to domestic labor unrest with lockouts and a
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massive reliance on police forces and even the army. there are many examples in the pre-1914 period of large socialist movements and trade unions that you have time. in short, capitalism had become anviolent, only in regards to major european war. that needs emphasizing, i believe it -- believe. let me move on to my next the point, july crisis of 1914. the australian british historian published "sleepwalkers." with the benefit of hindsight, it seems to me that his book was flash in the pan. as far as i can see most , historians are again quite critical of the notion that europe's leaders sleepwalked into the abyss. rather, it was a relatively
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small group of decision-makers, elite groups that i'm interested in, berlin and vienna who pushed europe over the brink into catastrophic war. in vienna the main concern was , to punish serbia after the to stabilizes and the austria hungarian empire in the balkans. this was encouraged by the german kaiser and his entourage, who were initially hoping to localize the conflict. however, when this did not prove possible, plans had already been discussed to launch a preventive war against france and russia in the expectation that britain would stay out of the conflict. there was no sort of despot of the united states at that point, even though many german
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and european businessmen had traveled before 1914 to this country. they were very much aware of this and or miss industrial power that had accumulated in this country before 1914. this idea of a preventive war in 1914up quite bluntly of a dutchman who warned against the war. after he had met his austrian report a few weeks later, he had a major, very pessimistic assessment and conversation with this diplomat.
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he left this meeting in a very gloomy mood. here is what he recorded after his meeting in march of 1914. "the prospects of the future seriously worried him. russia will have completed her ornaments -- armaments in two or three years. the military superiority of our enemies would be so great then that he did not know how we might cope with them. now, we are more or less are a match for them." in his view, there was no alternative to waiting to prevent war in order to to pete -- defeat the enemy as long as we could more or less pass the test. the chief of the general staff left it at his discretion to gear policy towards an early unleashing of the war. when the localization strategy
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of early july failed because russia opposed the punishment of the serbs, it escalated the balkan crisis into a major war, pulling vienna along to invade serbia. we always forget that is really win the first world war started. it is often forgotten that there were peace demonstrations in german cities towards the end, warning the austrian hungarians to start war against serbia. moscow's plan -- the plan to launch a preventive war from confirmed in a conversation that a german banker had with him at a banquet in hamburg on the 20th of july, 1914, at which he found the monarch in a very agitated state.
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he reported and that was still sarajevo. towards russian armament and strategic railroad building in the empire and talked about were breaking out in 1916 once russia and france had completed their program. ir impendingthe seniority, it would be better to start the war before it was too late, the kaiser said. warburg tried to dissuade william the second, who under the right constitution had the exclusive rights to declare war without having to ask a national parliament, relying solely on his military entourage. this is an important constitutional point that one has to study, who has the power to make these crucial decisions. wilson in april 1917 have to go
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to congress that had to go to -- had to go to congress to get his policies supported. the banker countered williams arguments that germany was growing stronger with every year peace while our enemies are getting weaker. in short, military action, he argued, was unnecessary. it was just a matter of waiting patiently. however, neither warburg nor his colleagues in europe had any influence on the decision to unleash world war i. the americans and the american bankers, i will mention in a moment, were even farther away. the decision was made by two emperors and the military around them on august 1, 1914. they were unable to accept the advice of his uncle, the younger insisted that the european war
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was still winnable as long as it was conducted as a lightning war. we often forget this was the underlying strategy also on the german side that war would be over by christmas 1914. meanwhile, businessmen and the economic press kept warning against a major war. this echoes the positions not only of warburg but also spencer, who i mentioned earlier. that was three days before the outwork -- average of the first world war. i quote the whole world is engaged in business as never before.
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throughout the civilized world, villages have become mill centers, towns have become and the empire of the andrn world was commercial not martial. the empire of a modern world is commercial and not martial. wall street journal, 28 july." so accepting this axiom, it was above all germans businessman who tried to stop the armageddon in july and august. the best and most tragic case of business impotence is albert the shipping magnate as director of this harvard shipping company. as early as 1908, he had warned his friend to the kaiser, and although he was jewish, on very good terms, not to escalate the
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that havean arms race reached a crucial point. reminding him of the cost, he was convinced that germany could muchfford a race against a wealthier britain. that was a very shrewd business assessment between the power relationship between germany and britain at the time. by 1914, it was also clear to him that in the event of war, his entire shipping order with empire, with- several huge ocean liners and numerous others would collapse once the british fleet quarantine him in foreign partners. when his nightmare came true in august, 1914, the rest of his ships were anchored and left west of hamburg.
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the fleet's main competitor, north joran lloyd, had that same fate. by iagoe and encouraged , he now traveled in early august to london in the hope of preventing war. he was received by the foreign secretary sir edward ray as well as lord wally and winston churchill. while he thought he could stop the outbreak of war altogether, it was only later that it became clear to him that he would onlygo had let him go thinking he would succeed in keeping the british out of the war. at the 21st of july, the german government had discounted britain as a serious threat, knowing without a standing army, it would take the country to -- a long time to mobilize. of course that was a , miscalculation, and molto was very scathing of the british forces.
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he continued his preparations for the innovations of belgium, under the design of his predecessor. underestimating the british treaty obligations to belgian independence and a floundering iago similarly discounted london. i think it is very interesting how the german government lived in a world of illusions, that is why i fear for the vicious well-known book of many years ago entitled "war of illusions." i think it is a very apt title to understand the peculiarities in the mentalities of decision-makers in berlin and also in vienna. not surprisingly balon returned , from london empty-handed and suspecting that he had been misled, he unleashed his wrath on yargo and the great chancellor in subsequent years.
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he told the former that, i quote, "he must be a terrible responsibility for the stage managing of this war which is costing germany generations of splendid people and throwing it back by a hundred years." as to holvig, he rejected the chancellor's protestations about the origins of the war as fairytales that he should be ashamed of to tell. i have spent my entire life building up something which has been of immense value to the german reich, and that you come -- then you come along with a couple of others and destroy it all. to balon, this was the most stupid war that the world had ever seen, and he was in 1918 so distraught that he committed
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suicide on the ninth of november 1918, where the monarchy had collapsed and the revolution swept through germany. other businessmen were active in more covert ways than balon, who actually took the initiative to go to england. seeing the london city was in in a terrible state with , interest rates going up and up in late july, the british backer lord rothschild tried to persuade the london times to tone down its defiant rhetoric, anti-german rhetoric. he also got in touch with the french rothschild and lord -- scharbor inre berlin. his hope was that his parents and thousands good persuade the french president to task the czarist government to go easy on its resistance to the central powers.
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the damage of the war would i quote him "much greater damage then the world has ever seen before." there was indeed now a panic in the business community in europe. the american business and finance showed also growing nervousness during this period. of july,s the 30th this manner to his wife that he was "still hopeful the result would not be a general consecration, even if the situation was, i quote him again, very critical." a day later, the powerful jp morgan expressed his alarm at the news from europe, but was still hoping, i quote him, "that there would not be the general war." he did not wish to underestimate the gravity of the present situation but believed that , there were opportunities for
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sobering second thoughts of the people of europe to prevail over their first impulses, and he expected, i quote, "the writing -- rising tide of people who are to pay for the war with their blood and with their property." so he was clearly also thinking of his own clientele, the upper test middle classes -- middle classes and not just the ordinary workers who were sitting in the trenches. a few days later, when the war began, van der lippe observed that the americans had no idea what was happening to the world. civilization has broken down. there is absolute derangement of our affairs. on the third of august, the wall street journal reported already german mercantile marine is tying itself up in the ports -- neutral courts while the
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swifty british vessels are doing good business and of quote. quote.and of and the wall street journal has it, raising their glasses to the day on the hopeful battle, all-out battle, against the royal navy in the north sea. well, the journal continued "it is by no means improbable that germany, with everything to lose and little to gain from this war, will be desperate for the night." on august 12, van der lippe wrote to his friend, it is difficult to predict with any degree of certainty the outcome of affairs in europe will be, but it looks as though paris will have far from artistic atmosphere for a long time to come.
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it is time, therefore, for me to move to the last part of my presentation, the anglo american relationship up to 1916, 1917. the key point is that american business saw no reason to enter the war at this stage. after all, the country's agriculture, industry and banks for the great beneficiaries of the outbreak of the war, in a curious way at this point. to begin with, many countries from around the world were sending their gold reserves to fort knox now. it was also clear the american foodstuffs, industrial goods, raw material, and credit would be very much needed in europe. so the american declaration of official neutrality had a business side to it, but the
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desk in the eyes of the white house and congress, it was even more important that the american public was in no mood to join the fight. this applied not only to pacifist movements that sympathy -- and pockets of sympathy for britain and france along the east coast, also to the rest of the country. there were the american-german communities in the midwest , totaling some 20% of the population. many of the members who were pro-german at this point. be neutral also have the advantage that american deliveries could be made as long as they were sent to both sides of the european war. however, due to the blockades britain imposed on germany, these deliveries quickly became under the observation of international law. i would like to expand on what what was said yesterday about
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the naval warfare and its origins because there is an , international law i mentioned, and a very good book which i would like to mention. it precisely looks at the changes in the laws of warfare and international law in this time that was very dramatic. as you may know, the blockade of britain meant trade with neutrals was to continue in theory because american ships could not be searched, under international law, for contraband. the 1909 london naval conference had called a court to adjudicate disputes but london had insisted , that all cases of dispute had to be submitted to its own national court. so after the german
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transatlantic cables have been cut, it did not take long for shipping and to neutral holland also to be disrupted by the royal navy, also more so because many goods were being suspected as being supplies for germany. arguing the british were violating international law, it did not take long for the germans to resort to countermeasures that ultimately turned to further violations of international law. with the germans at this point, a small addition to john keyenes' fascinating lecture from yesterday, the marines were obliged the submarines initially to surface, and to force the crews of the freighters that they had encountered and the
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passengers in the lifeboats before torpedoing them and thinking the ship, but the surface submarines abiding by these rules, having no armor itself was vulnerable to being shot at by guns that had been mounted on the merchant vessels. the only way out was another violation of law, namely to stay submerged and 22 people of the vessel without any warning and torpedo thend vessel without any warning and without any chance of passengers to go to the lifeboats. so if a freighter or passenger liner that was british that could be guarded as an enemy target, but what about neutral ships or british ocean liners with passengers from neutral companies, especially from the united states? you know the story of how this
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ultimately brought the united states into the war. so my point is it did not take long for a spiral of violence also at sea to be set in motion. we have already heard how the adoption of unlimited submarine with her and the totalization of -- warfare as the totalization of warfare as a result of this at sea, not only a costly growing number of american lives but has in february 1917, the germans resumed unlimited summary and warfare -- submarine warfare. altogether, the result, the united states entered the second world war. what were the attitudes of american business and banking during this escalation of the conflict in 1916, what about also britain? after a very early time of
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uncertainty, the british economy returned to a commonplace that is also reflected in the reporting in britain at the time. soon it was clear that the war would not end by christmas. washe meantime, the miracle also happening. the germans got stuck and could not advance to paris, and you have the war of attrition starting. the factories were being converted in britain to production of military hardware. here in the museum, you have wonderful photos of this also, with men being drafted and trained for combat in belgium and france. women were recruited to assemble shells small arms, and other , equipment. it also became quickly clear the country's agricultural base was too small to feed on island population cuts off from the continent, so accordingly grass
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mills were plowed up and prepared for grain and other stable diets. as the united -- and then there was united states. officially supporting neutrality, many east coast bankers by now sympathize not only with the poor belgians, the british and french were also seen as victims of german aggression. with a treasury coffer filled, credit was readily available, prevented any loans from being given to the allies in europe, being underwritten by congress and the american taxpayers, so there was risk involved in offering these loans to the british and the french, but still the trust in the british bank was enough to extend this credit to them with which they now purchased american raw materials, manufactured goods, and foodstuffs. while hundreds of thousands of tonnage were sent to the bottom
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of the ocean by german submarine warfare, enough got through to prevent shortages of the card -- kind you had in germany has a result of the blockade. occasional worries notwithstanding, whether or not the loans would be repaid, trade eventually shifted radically away from germany, now fueled in part by rising phobia. phobia, especially on the american east coast. as predicted on the sixth of august 1914, there is every reason to see beyond the short time of suspense a great boom in business in this country created through no effort of our own, and that was the advantage of american neutrality. however there was the problem of , rising public debt in britain. at the end of 1914, lord jones,
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-- george, then- chancellor of the exchequer, announced they would spend an additional $15 billion, a huge amount in 1914, and understandably, van der lippe observed that we are getting into figures that are astronomical and no longer financial. indeed, he like many others began to have difficulties to grasp what the ultimate significance of obligations is going to mean to the world. norwood he dare to predict just what all this is going to mean economically. orders from france and britain cap -- cap coming in, the prices farmers were high, and
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were also in favor of this kind of trade under the banner of neutrality. the british in 1915 were handling the situation masterfully. pro-british like many of his colleagues from the start, and with the prevailing sentiment in this country being pro-allies, no one had any doubt about the final outcome. this made him hopeful that soon there will be a brighter hue to the general outlook and prospects for peace. as he was assured in 1915, the united states will be found firmly and courageously on the side of civilization no matter what you stand, what such stand may involve us in.
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so this had to wait until 1918, and might not have been achieved even then if the united states had not tipped the scales in april 1917 by joining the war. support for britain and france continued to grow. observing these shifts in american public opinion, wilson continued to tread gingerly when it became clear even the sinking of the lusitania in june 1914, 1915, and van der lippe said no one wants for this particular stage. confidence was rising the united states had a wonderful opportunity to take a great place in world finance with disability to withstand our credits. there was really also the notion that while britain was number one in the financial and
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international world before 1914, the united states would inherit that role and position as a result of the first world war. the country still had new opportunities, new opportunities would arrive here at home and likely to be a time of expanding foreign relationships. meanwhile the small minority of opinion available to the german courts was also shrinking. by the end of 1916, the germanophobe businessmen were beginning to despairs and beginning to abandon their neutral stance. there were many german connections in new york and up to that point were very restrained in involvement in the war. now, it was announced that the
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house will be willing to enter -- allied financing if they are wanted. however horrific the war in europe, both in the trenches on the western front and the eastern side, there was optimism in new york. the american economy branded itself to would save the world financially. this was the only thing that would save europe from utter ruin when the war was over. so to conclude, i would hope i have shown the economic and financial aspects of the first world war were no less significant than the political maneuvering as the military confrontation. without american business, the survival of britain and france up to 1916 cannot be understood. it is certain that neither europe's nor america's bankers or industrialists wanted a major european war.
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in fact they tried hard to , prevent it, but their power and influence was too limited to pressure the military political decision-makers, especially in berlin and vienna to maintain peace. so ultimately, it is not just the powerlessness of the socialist movements of europe to prevent war. i mentioned the peace demonstrations in germany 1914, but it was also the business community. now i have to have just one minute if i may to mention a coda to my talk. because yesterday, wilson was mentioned and the peace conference was mentioned repeatedly, and that there was the tragedy of the american retreat from the international system after the end of that peace conference. now bankers, interestingly , enough, being very flush also with funds from the first world
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war, where prepared in 1922 provide a huge loan in which they were hoping to involve swiss banks to give to the toand also swedish banks give to the europeans for their reconstruction of the devastated economies. it was, i would have thought, a sort of european marshall plan idea that bankers look forward, but it failed, of , course, because cautious bankers at that particular point wanted the underwriting of the ritz that were being taken -- writs that were being taken by the american taxpayer and congress, and of course congress was not prepared to support and underwrite such a huge loan. as a result partly of this unwillingness of the united states to involve it in the
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best itself in the international -- itself in the international economy, europe continued to be an enormous mess. there was no solution they were able to find on their own in the 1920's. then you have depression in 1929. you have hitler's, and -- hitler, and you have world war ii. the american elite, that is my final point -- from that experience and mistake is that the next time, especially if you want to prevent world war iii after the second world war had happened, was that you needed to get public money involved for the reconstruction of europe, and that was the marshall plan. that was public underwriting by the american taxpayer for the reconstruction of western europe after the second world war, and that led to a very different outcome after the second world war in europe than you had in
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the first world war. so that is the point on which i would like to end. thank you. [applause] >> we would invite your questions. feel free to stand on either side. >> i have always thought that albert balon is an interesting figure. maybe you can elaborate a little more about him. would you agree that in some was symbolic of the tragedy of the 20th century and german jews? what happened to him during the war? dr. berghahn: indeed, that is why i found him a tragic figure because i gave you a number of
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quotations of his anger, how he felt he was misled as a sort of willing businessman to preserve peace, but he failed, and that is why he had those enormous accusations. i think they were really enormous. what is also interesting, you mentioned his background. hamburg had a german jewish community that was tightly integrated, actually into the business community in hamburg, and that increases the tragedy of what you mentioned also in your lecture later on being biographical a -- by graphically at the beginning of your lecture. biographically at the beginning of your lecture. i have studied this subject for quite a few years, still
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incomprehensible what ultimately happened in the 1930's and 1940's. we are still wrestling with a rational explanation of this, and some of these points were made yesterday and last night, actually, also on the panel. how can we, first of all, explain this catastrophe of the first world war, but then also the sequence of it, because many historians now would argue partly because of the mess which was left behind after 1918 that the second world war was in a way, really a consequence of the inability of the europeans to settle their own problems after the first world war, and that is why the american role after the second world war was so important in reconstruction. now, it should be added that i don't think senator vandenberg and people that supported the resolution for the marshall plan in 1947 would have moved so quickly if there hadn't been the bloody russians in the far east
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in russia and the cold war hadn't broken out. but i think the determination on the part of the business people -- american business elite not adopt this-- not to against the germans' more punitive measures but to reintegrate them was a direct consequence of the lessons they learned. it is very interesting how john foster was a young man at the paris peace conference and of course was very unhappy about the failure of the american effort to bring about democracy for all and peace, and the league of nations. so here you get a very interesting tipping point also, and in fact it is often forgotten that his brother who working for the cia at that
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point already actually wrote a book about the marshall plan which was never published because it was felt that was no longer necessary once the republicans had also begun to support the marshall plan. and nevertheless, there was this feeling even in 1947 after the marshall speech at harvard in june 1947 that there might not be actually another rescue attempt, and that this might fail because america was partly still in a sort of send the boys home, not isolationist mood, but certainly let the europeans solve their own problems. so so i haven't answered your question perhaps, but i think it was a very good point about balon. >> can you mention what happened ?ith balon in in the end
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dr. berghahn: as you know he got , so distraught by the defeat of germany and by the collapse of what he had built. he said to his friend, building up what he thought was enormous prosperity to german people before 1914, and now they must ruin it all and are telling fairytales about the outbreak of the war, and that is why i felt i should also bring back this whole debate with christopher clark about the origins of the war. because it seems to me that europe did not sleepwalk into the first world war. this was abandon -- bestseller, i know, but it was one of the books that stimulated -- indoorndoor miss normousbate, and -- e
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debate, and the balance has now gone back to the earlier positions about the origins of the first world war. the russians are also in the picture, but we don't have to go into a tour of the capitals of europe in 1914 and see whether anyone else has a little bit of blame. you can't stop in berlin and vienna to understand the origins of that catastrophe. >> in this sort of power-play between financial and military elements in the society, was a blatant accusation of the financial groups being not sufficiently nationalistic, that they were too driven by money, therefore their allegiance wasn't to the nation , it was to their stockholders whatever you want to say? dr. berghahn: thank you for that question. it is a very good one, and is it does is in some ways the topic
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of if the stakeholders or the shareholders who are running? i would have thought first of all, that is why i emphasized these international contexts. they all knew each other so well. they are all partly related. this family was banking in germany, but also in london. ,here were so many contact often family contacts between them. i think there was a self interest involved, but they also always saw, as i tried to explain, the larger picture. what world war among the industrialized major powers of europe would mean for the rest of the western economies. of course that is why i , mentioned colonialism. we should never forget that of course this prosperity you had before 1914 that i thought was -- they felt was being threatened was also gained very
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often on the backs of non-european peoples of the world. lennon, that is why he became so so popular in the 1960's, because he was the one who had pinpointed this as imperialist fore, which he then ended at the and of his pamphlet, -- i think was something that should always be remembered, not by the communist manifesto of karl marx, all proletarians of all countries unite -- that was the call for the socialist revolution, but lenin ended his pamphlet with the higher stage of capitalism, the peoples of the world, all people of the world unite, that was not just an appeal to the western
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proletariat of europe, but also to the peasant masses which he realized would have to be the carriers of the revolution which 1917,you started, and in also in russia. so i think this is a very important sort of aspects. >> we have time for one last question. >> given we are in kansas city and the foodstuffs you mentioned in your talk, primarily week, beef, and cattle, can you talk about where your research took you with the business interests and lobbies? wheat and beef and cattle? dr. berghahn: which -- >> wheat and beef and cattle? dr. berghahn: i am glad you raise it. i confess again since i avoided statistics, i cannot give you the details, but of course this this is the. -- time when agribusiness, it is not the large industrial
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corporations, it is growing. what is called arthur daniel midlands, these are being established. of course, they are the main mediaries between britain and the exports of grain. there has been a good deal of tension between the ordinary farming community and these big companies because they were seen if not as monopolies who were dictating prices, but also all about police -- o -- oligopolies
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that were competing against each other. that was against the sherman act, the banding together of companies. capitalism had to be preserved, but at the same time, oligop olies were encouraged monopolies , were banned. so you have the government which is crucial even to this day, monsanto, all of the debates we have been having about the food producing companies in this country and abroad, genetic change of crops, etc., etc. so i think you are right to involve american agriculture because they have also benefited , enormously from the export, and raw materials, copper for example, which was desperately needed in europe. it was a major export item. lora vogt: will you please join me in thanking dr. berghahn?
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