Scholarly histories of the origins of the First World War began to appear within a few years of the close of hostilities. A dozen years later, the magisterial studies by Sidney B. Fay and Bernadotte E. Schmitt had appeared in this country, and comparable works had been completed by European scholars. It is now eighteen years since V E Day, but no studies comparable to Fay or Schmitt have appeared. In part this contrast is explained by the slowness with which the diplomatic papers concerning the years from 1919 to 1939 are being made available. Far more important, however, is the fact that scholars do not believe that a history of the origins of the Second World War can be written with substantial completeness from diplomatic records. In their studies of the years before 1914, Fay and Schmitt did consider subjects like nationalism and imperialism, but the thread that holds their story together is the history of negotiations between governments, and in particular the history of the European alliance system.