Comments attributed to Kaiser Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany (1888-1918), upon his realization that war was inevitable and that all Germany's efforts to avoid it were undermined at every turn by the "Secret Elites" of the British Empire -- dutiful servants of his uncle King Edward VII (1901-1910) -- who unbeknown to him had been meticulously and stealthily plotting the destruction of his beloved Fatherland for two decades prior.
"Yet it is necessary...to feign, greatly, and to dissemble, for men are so simple, and so prone to obey the exigencies of the moment, that he who deceives will always find someone ready to be deceived."
Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
The War of the Over-Privileged Belligerents
Whilst it may not always be treated as accepted wisdom, Winston Churchill's indelible sound-bite "History is written by the victors" is an all too familiar refrain for many people when engaged in everything from casual after-dinner discourse, to studied dissection of, past events. It is up there with George Santayana's "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it", and Henry Ford's "History is (more or less) bunk".
Although less familiar, Churchill -- presumably musing on how one might not simply influence but arbitrarily pre- determine, the collectively desired outcome of grand political machinations -- observed the following as well: "the first quality that is needed is audacity". As we'll see, all of these insights referencing the nature and substance of war have singular relevance to the narrative herein.
With this in mind, if Gerry Docherty and James Macgregor's meticulously researched, myth-busting 'must-read' Hidden History - The Secret Origins of the First World War is anything to go by, the Great Pontificator was right on both counts. Which is to say, whether writing (or rewriting) history, or demonstrating "audacity" in the pursuit, preservation and expansion of empire, Churchill and his conspiratorial contemporaries (the so-called Milner Group, or as referred to by the authors, the "Secret Elites", and around which the book's central narrative revolves), arguably have few peers.
As the first epigraph above amply illustrates, when on the eve of what was to become known as the Great War the 'pfennig' finally dropped for the naïve, hapless Kaiser Wilhelm, he was all but moved to marvel at the sheer mastery of the grand Machiavellian deception he'd been subjected to. Yet even he barely knew the half of it!
It's no exaggeration to say that in this cognitive dissonance inducing account of the intrigues leading to the war's outbreak, these two Scotsmen have debunked everything we think we know about it. To be sure they are not the first to provide a revisionist interpretation of the causes and origins of this most pivotal event. They in fact openly acknowledge those who have bravely traversed similar pathways, some at the expense of their own academic credibility and professional well-being. Those cited include Sidney Bradshaw Fay, Harry Elmer Barnes, John S. Ewart, and Carroll Quigley, to name a few.