Clive Ponting at Parisot Literary Festival

An alternative view of the causes of World War I

A controversial and alternative view of the causes of the First World War

Parisot, the village near us, in SW France, commemorated the centenary of the First World War by inviting writer and historian and ex MOD man, Clive Ponting to the annual Literary Festival to talk about his book ‘Thirteen Days: The Countdown to the Great War’.  10 million military personnel and 7 million civilians died in this war and many were horribly wounded. Could this war have been avoided? Clive Ponting puts forward a controversial analysis of the causes of the First World War suggesting that bad decisions,  bad communication and railway timetables were influential in causing the war.

Coming from an ex MOD senior civil servant, you get the impression that Ponting really understands the war machine, war plans and how nations end up declaring war.

Ponting demolishes a number of long held views about the causes of the First World War. He rejects the demonisation of Germany as held out in the Treaty of Versailles where the blame for the war was pinned on Germany. He rejects that Europe was politically at loggerheads so war was inevitable, and he rejects the arms race argument – all these reasons usually held up as meaning that a world war in Europe was inevitable.

Ponting points to what was happening in the Balkans as the real causes of the First World War – outlining Austro-Hungray’s desire to cripple Serbia instead of negotiating, and to Russia stepping up its military expansion.

Clive Ponting outside the old Bailey 1984

Clive Ponting outside the old Bailey 1984 after being acquitted

Clive Ponting is a writer, historian and former senior civill servant with the MOD, best known for leaking documents about the sinking of the Argentine warship the Belgrano during the Falklands War in 1982.  The documents revealed that the Belgrano was retreating and not attacking when it was sunk by the British navy. He went to trial under the Official Secrets Act but was acquitted by the jury.






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