Dead men tell no tales. Any investigation into crimes against truth should also include a consideration of suspicious and untimely deaths which silenced dangerous voices against the will of the Secret Elite. Strange deaths in the pre-war period include that of the Italian General Alberto Pollio. Italy had renewed its membership of the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria on 5 December 1912, but the British Foreign Office, initially bolstered by Edward VII’s frequent meetings General Alberto Polliowith Italian royalty in the first decade of the century, had secretly manoeuvred the Italians away from that commitment. There was one fly in the proverbial ointment. While the Secret Elite could influence general policies and overarching treaties, they could not guarantee the actions of individuals. The Italian Military Chief of Staff, General Alberto Pollio was one such individual. He did not belong to the diplomatic or ruling classes. He was loyal to the stated commitment to Germany. They were not.

German–Italian military discussions took place in December 1912 shortly after the renewal of the Triple Alliance, and Pollio promised the German Chief of Staff, von Moltke that Italy would mobilise her forces if, and as soon as, war was declared. Pollio intended to honour what he understood to be Italy’s international commitments. By March 1914 he had gone so far as to agree that the Italian third army would serve under direct German command. German optimism for a second front along Italy’s borders with France was based on Pollio’s assurances, and his strength of character and proven loyalty placed his intentions above suspicion. [1]

Through secret Anglo-Italian agreements made behind Polio’s back, the government in Rome planned to observe a strictly neutral stance when war broke out. In February 1914, the unwitting Pollio even assured the Germans that he would send two cavalry divisions and three to five infantry divisions into Germany through Southern Tyrol [2] to help them implement the Schlieffen Plan. The question was, would the Italian army follow Pollio or the government? Strange, then, that Pollio ‘just happened’ to suffer a heart attack on the same day as the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. His condition was ‘misdiagnosed’ as a gastric ailment and the unfortunate Pollio was given a strong purgative. He died on 1 July 1914 and Italy’s part in the Schlieffen Plan died with him. [3] Pollio had been the one man in Italy who would have stood up to the politicians and made a case for the honour and dignity of the nation. He died from a gastric ailment that reeked of Agrippina’s poisoning of Claudius centuries before. On hearing the bad news the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph exclaimed in utter frustration that ‘everyone is dying around me’ [4] With General Pollio out of the way, the Italian Cabinet had no powerful voice raised against its decision to adopt a neutral stance when war was declared.

Was General Pollio’s untimely death mere co-incidence? Consider this, nine days later, Nicholai Hartwig, the Russian ambassador in Serbia dropped dead, allegedly from a massive heart attack during a visit to the Austrian Ambassador at Belgrade. Hartwig was directly implicated in the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June, and his pivotal role will be fully explained in a subsequent posting. The Serbian press immediately published several inflammatory articles accusing the Austrians of poisoning Hartwig while he was a guest at their legation, but the Secret Elite dampened down such speculation through The Times, their mouthpiece in London, which described such talk as ‘ravings’. [5] Absolving Russia from any connection with the assassination was absolutely vital to their long term interest.

Colonel Dragutin Dimitrjievic, aka Colonel ApisThat fact alone accounts for the death by execution of another figure closely associated with the Sarajevo assassination. Some three years after the event Colonel Dragutin Dimitrjievic, also known as Apis, and officers loyal to him, were indicted on various false charges unrelated to Sarajevo. He effectively signed his own death warrant when he confessed to the court marshal that, in agreement with the Russian military attaché in Serbia, he had hired an agent to organise Ferdinand’s murder. [6] The explosive part of his statement was the revelation of Russian involvement in the assassination, and Apis had to be silenced. Much to his own surprise, for Colonel Apis truly believed, right up to the moment of death that his contacts in England, France and Russia would intervene on his behalf, he was executed on 26 June 1917. [7] In reality, Apis was silenced; put to death by order of a Serbian government that desperately needed to permanently bury its complicity with Russia in the Sarajevo assassination. [8] It was judicial murder.

French Socialist leader,  Jean JauresWhat price then the assassination of the French socialist party leader and anti-militarist, Jean Jaures? He publicly called on workers in France and Germany to take part in general strikes and thus stop both countries from going to war. On 31 July he was gunned down in Le Croissant, a café in the Montmatre district of Paris. Jaures was the voice of reason, appealing to Europe to ‘keep cool’. [9] His voice too was silenced.

Another co-incidence? Perhaps, but they were oh so convenient for the warmongers. Many of those with tales to tell did not live long enough to tell them. Alexander Isvolsky, the Russian ambassador to France and a man intimately associated with the Secret Elite, started to write his biography but was found dead, slumped over his desk with pen in hand before he could finish the first volume. [10] Strangely, all of Isvolsky’s copious papers and telegrams from July 1914 disappeared. His biographer, Friedrich Stieve, considered the likelihood of a ‘prudent holocaust’ of his incriminating documents. [11] Most frustratingly we will never read the memoirs of General Pollio on the disingenuous Italian government, or Hartwig’s confessions of a manipulative Russian ambassador. Apis was executed before he could implicate the Serbian government and its supporters, and Alexander Isvolsky’s autobiography was doomed to dust as he began to progress his personal account of how he helped cause the war. The voice of reason with which Jean Jaures was influencing working class Europeans against war was brutally silenced. Each of these men could have affected both the war and our understanding of its causes. Each in his own way was a danger to the Secret Elite.

Utterly unacceptable as those deaths were, in the light of the lies that have been purveyed as history it is surely of even greater concern that Carroll Quigley pointed an accusing finger at those who monopolised ‘so completely the writing and the teaching of the history of their own period’. There is no ambivalence in his accusation. The Secret Elite controlled the historical record through numerous avenues including the Northcliffe newspapers, but none more effectively than Oxford University. Almost every important member of the Milner Group, which dominated and led the Secret Elite, was a fellow of one of three colleges – Balliol, New College or All Souls. They controlled these colleges and, in turn, largely dominated the intellectual life of Oxford in the field of history. [12] Historians beholden to the Secret Elite for senior academic posts were at the forefront of the justification of the war. Their influence at Oxford was so powerful that they also controlled the Dictionary of National Biography, which meant that the Secret Elite wrote the biographies of its own members. [13] They created their own official history of key players for public consumption, striking out any incriminating evidence and portraying the best public-spirited image for each.

All Souls College, OxfordIn addition many of the official histories of the war were commissioned through these Oxford historians and widely disseminated. Popular magazine-types like The Illustrated History of the First World War were written by journalists closely associated with Lord Northcliffe who was in turn, deeply involved with the Secret Elite and their war to destroy Germany. Nelson’s History of the Great War was accredited to John Buchan, an Oxford man better known as the author of adventure stories, but a member of the Secret Elite, groomed by Alfred Milner in South Africa.

The Oxford link goes ever on and undoubtedly will continue. We will be dealing with this connection in great detail in future postings. Some famous names may already be known to you. A.J.P. Taylor, lecturer in modern history at Oxford from 1938 to 1963, was a prolific and popular historian from the 1960s until his death in 1990. He was the classroom ‘guru’ with virtually every school course in modern history in the land using his texts. When he decided that it was not true to claim that ‘mobilisation means war’, then that was what was taught as fact, no matter the contrary evidence from Russia, from France, or from the waves of diplomatic telegrams warning the Russians to mobilise in secret because Germany would know that it meant war.

In like vein, Sir Michael Howard, formerly Chichele professor of the history of war at Oxford, fellow of All Souls and emeritus professor of modern history at Oxford, denied the automatic implication of mobilisation, claiming that ‘Russian mobilisation gave her [Germany] the excuse’. [14] So the mobilisation of between one and two million Russian soldiers on Germany’s border was simply used as an excuse by Germany to go to war: a war on two fronts that she had desperately striven to avoid. No evidence was offered by either of these learned authorities. They spoke ex cathedra, pronouncing the verdict of Oxford on the causes of the First World War like medieval popes, and God help the student that questioned their divine bull.

Norman Stone, Professor of Modern History at Oxford between 1984 and 1997, also blamed Germany for the war: ‘Princip stated if I had not done it, the Germans would have another excuse. In this, he was right. Berlin was waiting for the inevitable accident.’ [15] Sir Hew Strachan, Chichele professor of the history of war at Oxford and a fellow of All Souls, and the historian placed in charge of the war centenary ‘commemorations’, also absolved Britain and France of blame. His conclusion was that for those liberal countries struggling to defend their freedoms against Germany, the war was far from futile.

The Oxford message remains clear: blame Germany. Histories of the First World War should be treated with critical caution, especially those emanating from Oxford University, the spiritual home of the Secret Elite.

A completely different tactic to suppress the truth emerged in the inter-war years. In 1929 Harry Elmer Barnes, professor of history at the prestigious Columbia University published The Genesis of the World War. His conclusion, based on documents and statements that had been ignored by official histories, was that Germany and Austria were not to blame for the war. He pointed an accusatory finger at France and Russia, and as a result fell foul of what he termed, ‘court historians’. To his dismay, the book was suppressed. Barnes explained:

‘A major difficulty has been the unwillingness of booksellers to cooperate, even when it was to their pecuniary advantage to do so…booksellers even discouraged prospective customers who desired to have The Genesis of the World War ordered for them.’ [16]

Booksellers unwilling to sell books? That was surely an unusual situation, unless of course, other influences – powerful, moneyed influences – wanted to restrict the circulation and squeeze the life from such work. Barnes expanded the historic debate by inviting major Triple-Alliance politicians who played key roles in July 1914 to provide eyewitness evidence for a special edition of the New York Times Current History Magazine in July 1928. The result was a fierce rejection of German war guilt, [17] and the Secret Elite grew concerned. If this revisionist historical research was allowed to continue unabated, they faced the possibility of being unmasked. Their response was a sudden growth of anti-revisionist histories by Court historians in the 1930s.

A number of historians and authors who offered critical analysis which came to very different conclusions about the causes of the First World War appear to have been given very limited shelf-life. Even though sales were good, second and subsequent editions never went to print. Professor Carroll Quigley’s histories have themselves been subject to suppression. Unknown persons removed Tragedy and Hope from the bookstore shelves in America, and it was withdrawn from sale without any justification soon after its release. The book’s original plates were unaccountably destroyed by Quigley’s publisher, the Macmillan Company, who, for the next six years ‘lied, lied, lied’ to him and deliberately misled him into believing that it would be reprinted. [18] Why? What pressures obliged a major publishing house to take such extreme action? Quigley claimed that powerful people had suppressed the book because it exposed matters that they did not want known.

It would appear that a similar fate has been visited on our book Hidden History, The Secret Origins of the First World War published in July 2013. Although we as authors were fortunate to be invited to address a sell-out audience at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August, the book has been completely blanked, with no reviews whatsoever published in mainstream newspapers or journals. Our literary agent stated that he has never known anything like it in his 40 years in the publishing business.

The dead hand of history weighs heavy on those who would speak truth to power.

[1] Ruth Henig, The Origins of the First World War, p.190.
[2] John Whittam, The Politics of the Italian Army, 1861-1918, p.179.
[3] Luigi Albertini, The Origins of the First World War, vol.1, p.559.
[4] Sidney B. Fay, The Origins of the World War, vol.II, p.187.
[5] The Times, 16 July 1914.
[6] David MacKenzie, Apis, the Congenial Conspirator, pp.129-130.
[7] Vladimir Dedijer, The Road to Sarajevo, pp.398–400.
[8] Harry Elmer Barnes, Genesis of the World War, p.731.
[9] The Times, 31 July 1914, p.7.
[10] Friedrich Stieve, Isvolsky and the First World War, p.9.
[11] Ibid., p.209.
[12] Carroll Quigley, Anglo-American Establishment, p.98.
[13] Ibid., p.99.
[14] Michael Howard, The First World War: A Very Short Introduction, p.24.
[15] Norman Stone, World War One, p.19.
[16] Barnes, In Quest of Truth and Justice, p.x.
[17] New York Times Current History Magazine in July 1928, pp.619-40.