Before addressing some of the major issues that he raises, I would like to take up a point that he touches only in passing but which has long intrigued me. That is the yawning gap between the consensus of scholarly specialists about a particular historical subject and the popular perception of the educated public.
Let us take as examples of this phenomenon the two general topics of Professor D’Agostino’s lucid essay. If one were to question the historically knowledgeable person today about the origins of the Great War, one would probably receive a reply something like the following: the great powers of Europe blundered into a war in the summer of 1914 that none of them wanted to fight, because their leaders failed to negotiate a peaceful resolution of an arcane dispute in the Balkans. All of the belligerent states therefore deserve equal blame for permitting, through the blindness, miscalculation, and inaction of their leaders, the outbreak of the most deadly conflict in human history up to that time. That is what President Kennedy gleaned from his reading of Barbara Tuchman’s _The Guns of August_ as he sought to avoid an even more lethal outcome of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
There is an abundant scholarship that has definitively demonstrated that Imperial Germany used the Sarajevo assassination as a pretext to wage a carefully planned preventive war and sabotaged all efforts to reach a peaceful solution of the crisis. But this interpretation has never advanced beyond the professional journals and scholarly monographs to challenge the “blundering into Armageddon, all were guilty” thesis, which continues to hold pride of place in the public imagination.
 Fritz Fischer unearthed the evidence of the German plan long ago, but while his path-breaking Graff nach der Weltmacht generated a lively debate in Germany and among academic historians in the English-speaking world, its findings never found their way into popular histories of the war. David Fromkin’s recent work _Europe’s Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?_ (New York, 2004) brilliantly confirms the Fischer thesis and summarizes the evidence from recent scholarship of the German preventive war scheme.
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