Hidden History: The Secret Origins of the First World War

July 23, 2017

Of the many myths that befog the modern political mind, none is so corrupting of the understanding or so incongruent with historical fact as the notion that the wealthy and the powerful do not conspire.

They do.

They conspire continually, habitually, effectively, diabolically and on a scale that beggars the imagination. To deny this conspiracy fact is to deny both overwhelming empirical evidence and elementary reason.

Nevertheless, for the astute observer of the ‘Great Game’ of politics, it is an unending source of wonderment to stumble across ever more astounding examples of the monstrous machinations of which wealthy and powerful elites are capable. Indeed, it is precisely here that authors Docherty and Macgregor enter the fray and threaten to take our breath away entirely.

Thus, the official, canonized history of the origins of the First World War, so they tell us, is one long, unmitigated lie from start to finish. Even more to the conspiratorial point is the authors’ thesis that – and to paraphrase a later Churchill who figures prominently in this earlier story – never were so many murdered, so needlessly, for the ambitions and profit of so few.

In demolishing the many shibboleths surrounding the origins of the ‘Great War’ (including ‘German responsibility’, ‘British peace efforts‘, ‘Belgian neutrality’ and the ‘inevitability’ of the war), Docherty and Macgregor point the finger at what they argue is the real source of the conflict: a more or less secret cabal of British imperialists whose entire political existence for a decade and a half was dedicated to the fashioning of a European war in aid of destroying the British Empire’s newly emerging commercial, industrial and military competitor, Germany.

In short, far from “sleepwalking into a global tragedy, the unsuspecting world”, Docherty and Macgregor contend, “was ambushed by a secret cabal of warmongers” originating not in Berlin, but “in London”.

I must confess at this juncture to a certain bias in granting credence to such a striking thesis, this if only on general principle alone. After all, one straight look at present day political reality is to look square into the maw of Orwell’s nightmare.

Moreover, three decades of independent journalism have led me to conclude not only that virtually nothing of what is presented as ‘news’ is remotely true, but that the conventional writing and presentation of history itself is as phoney as a three dollar bill. Still, one does demand a credible argument or two. Let’s look at a few of those contained in ‘Hidden History’.

The Players

Before launching pell-mell into the argumentative labyrinth it is apropos that we first sketch the central cast of characters of this grim story.

In the beginning there was Cecil Rhodes, the prime minister of Cape Colony but who, the authors remind us, was “in reality a land-grabbing opportunist” whose fortune had been underwritten in equal parts “by brutal native suppression and the global mining interests of the House of Rothschild”.

Rhodes had, apparently, long talked of setting up a secret ‘Jesuit-like society’ in aid of furthering the global ambitions of the British Empire. In February of 1891 he did just that enlisting the services of his close associates, William Stead, a prominent journalist, and Lord Esher, a close advisor to the British Monarchy.

Two others were soon drawn into the inner circle of the clandestine group: Lord Nathaniel (Natty) Rothschild of the famous British and European banking dynasty, and Alfred Milner, a brilliant academic and colonial administrator who would quickly become the organizing genius and iron-willed master of ceremonies of the group.

These central four would later be joined by: Lord Northcliffe, the owner of ‘The Times’, who would complement Stead in propagandizing and softening up the British public for war with Germany; Arthur Balfour and Herbert Asquith, two future British Prime Ministers who would provide the needed parliamentary influence; Lords Salisbury and Rosebery who brought an additional wealth of political connections to the table; and Lord Edward Grey, he to whom, in the final analysis as British Foreign Secretary in 1914, it would fall to hammer the final nail in the coffin of European peace.

Of particular importance was the addition of Prince Edward (soon to be King Edward VII) who, despite his playboy image, was, in fact, an astute political operative whose frequent international social forays provided the perfect cover for helping to forge the, often secret, military and political alliances between Russia, France, Britain, and Belgium.

This core Praetorian Guard then extended its tentacles to all reaches of the British (and eventually, international) power hierarchy by vigorously recruiting its ‘Association of Helpers’, the myriad of lower down bureaucrats, bankers, military officers, academics, journalists, and senior civil servants, many, as it turns out, hailing from Balliol and All Souls Colleges, Oxford.

And, too, the legendary Churchill, liberally inflated with his own bombast and well lubricated with Rothschild money, would rise to take his anointed place amongst the war-hungry secret elect.

Early Adventures

The first foray of this elite cabal played out in South Africa with the deliberate fomentation of the (2nd) Boer War (1899 – 1902). Gold had been discovered in the Transvaal region in 1886 and British imperialists were determined to grab it.

After a number of failed machinations by Rhodes himself to topple the Boers, the secret elite was dealt an ace when Alfred Milner was appointed high commissioner for South Africa. Seizing the moment, Milner, without passing Go, proceeded straight to war and, in his infamous scorched earth policies and adamant demands for unconditional surrender, demonstrated the general martial philosophy that would later be deployed against Germany.

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