On this day, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia around noon. Historian Douglas Newton, author of The Darkest Days, writes in the Guardian how "Britain itself was provocative; on 28 July, the fleet was ordered to "War Stations", before news of a Balkan war. The following day its "Warning Telegram" was sent across the empire, two days before the comparable German proclamation."
On Monday 27 July, war was just wind in the rafters. A week later, on Monday 3 August, Liberal Minister Sir Edward Grey would make the case in the House of Commons for British intervention in a European war. The next day, Britain would declare war. How did it happen that the last great Liberal Cabinet in British history chose war so quickly in 1914?
First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, his First Sea Lord, Prince Louis of Battenberg, and the Chief of the Staff, together decided to order the First Fleet north to its war stations at 10am, before the Austria-Hungarian declaration. This decision was made without bringing the matter to the Cabinet, now divided between neutralists and interventionists. With these naval preparations for war, what was the role of the British press?
Below is an extract from The Darkest Days, from the chapter 'Drum-Taps: Monday 27 to Friday 31 July', focussing on the warmongering Conservative press: The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail and the Morning Post—and the press barons leading the charge, in particular 'the Chief', Lord Northcliffe.
Russia is now defending a vital interest. France, who is bound to Russia by alliance, and still more by the necessities of her European situation, and political independence, is compelled to support Russia. England is bound by moral obligations to side with France and Russia, lest the balance of forces on the Continent be upset to her disadvantage and she be left alone to face a dominant Germany. A vital British interest is therefore at stake. The Times, 31 July 1914
Berfrois interviews Simon Critchley, discussing the themes of political pessimism, inhibition, shame, love and psychoanalysis, examined in his and Jamieson Webster’s book The Hamlet Doctrine. Continue reading for a short extract of the interview and a link to an excerpt from the book, published on the Berfrois website, as well as a link to the full interview.