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Transatlantic story

Published: March 30, 2012
Section: Features


In a one-hour roundtable lecture and question session titled “Arguing About World War I: A Transatlantic Story” co-sponsored by the German and European Studies and History departments, visiting Duke University Professor Philipp Stelzel offered insight into the Fritz Fischer controversy and the differing views on the causes of World War I.

The focus of the lecture was not World War I itself, but the German and American historians who chose to study it afterward. The lecture specifically addressed the German historian Fritz Fischer. It concerned the role of ethnicity, political beliefs, personal history and the personality of the historian in the writing of history. Fischer became an important figure in the study of World War I after publishing a book expressing his opinion that Germany had been responsible for the start of the war. The lecture commented on how Fischer’s ethnicity had an effect on the reception of his views. His German origin made his work controversial in Germany but at the same time also more important to the historian community than it would have been otherwise.