The day after Britain declared war on Germany on Tuesday, 4th August 1914, the Liberal government decided to issue a White Paper justifying its decision. In his new book, “The Darkest Days: The Truth Behind Britain’s Rush To War, 1914”  (published by Verso), Australian historian Douglas Newton argues passionately that an interventionist minority in the Asquith cabinet—Prime Minister Asquith himself, Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, Lord Chancellor and former War Minister Lord Haldane, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Charles Masterman—manoeuvred the large neutralist majority into siding with Russia and France against Germany as the crisis in European diplomacy reached its climax, five weeks after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28th June 1914.

Newton’s fascinating book provides a startling close-up account of the last week before Britain entered the war, using private papers and a range of other documents to track the way in which the strongly anti-interventionist majority in the cabinet was steadily eroded by a mixture of wrong-footing, managed events and Asquithian persuasiveness, until only two of the four cabinet members who wanted to resign went ahead with their threat: and even they were induced to maintain silence over their reasoning once the decision for war had been made.  [Read more] – Michael’s Blog