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"The first world war was the result of long-standing rivalries between the great powers". How valid is this view.

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Introduction

"The first world war was the result of long-standing rivalries between the great powers". How valid is this view. This aim of this investigation is to explore the nature of long-standing rivalries during the period leading up to WW1. It will also examine how these long-standing rivalries came about. But most importantly this investigation will scrutinize how significant these long-standing rivalries were in bringing about the war, and whether or not they were the primary cause. I disagree with the statement in the question. The evidence shows that long-standing rivalries certainly played an important role in bringing about some of the tensions present in Europe, as well as exacerbating problems that may not have otherwise been aggravated. However it can be argued that pre-1914 alliances were so precarious and fragile that they cannot be seen as the major cause of the war. A long-standing rivalry between great powers is a rivalry that predated the war by at least a decade, although time constraints will be assessed in the context of individual aspects that are analysed when drawing a judgement as to the extent of a long-standing rivalry. In my opinion, the nature of the rivalry and the severity of its effects on the nations involved is the most important factor when evaluating to what extent an enmity was in-fact a long-standing rivalry. There were several long-standing rivalries present in the run up to WW1. The most blatant was the rivalry between France and Germany. This rivalry was born out of France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian war. The long-standing rivalry between Britain and Germany, concerning economic imperialism also played a role in bringing about war. The long-standing rivalry between Austria-Hungary and Russia too played a role. ...read more.

Middle

For example, Germany provoked the first Moroccan crisis in an attempt to test the alliance between France and Britain. The suspicions that were created motivated each country, but Germany in particular, to further arm themselves. This led to a vicious cycle of increased armament and more secretive alliances, putting in place an atmosphere (as well as the weapons) necessary for war. Weltpolitik did not help put any country's mind at rest. However, there are limitations to the extent the alliance system could have realistically brought about war. It was far from certain that Germany would back Austria-Hungary unconditionally in a Balkan war. The attitude of Italy within the triple alliance was extremely ambiguous (proven when Italy abandoned their position in the triple alliance). The triple entende was a loose arrangement, especially where Britain was involved as Britain's treaty was non binding (proven during the first Moroccan crisis when Britain did not promise support to France). The Franco-British entende contained no element of military commitment whatsoever. On top of all this, colonial disputes in Persia had soured Britain's relationship with Russia. Even though alliances had caused tensions and suspicions to run high in Europe, creating an uneasy atmosphere that at first sight appears to be perfectly favourable to war, many more errors and miscalculations were needed to lead the continent into war. In conclusion, although the alliance system did play a role in bringing about war, the system was at the same time very limited in its capabilities to do so. This suggests the structure of the system accommodated war as opposed to the view that the alliances themselves were responsible for war. Militarism in the run up to the war, that is the arms race, is often labelled as a long-term rivalry between the powers in Europe, vying for the greatest military force to satisfy their imperialistic aims and their nationalistic sentiments. ...read more.

Conclusion

Imperialistic ambitions may well have also played a part. Austria-Hungary's short term aims resulted in a world war, which may have been avoided were Austria-Hungary not so unreasonable towards Serbia. In conclusion, there are a myriad of causes that could have brought war about. The alliance system, the naval race and the arms race, to some extent, were all sprouted from aggressive German foreign policy. Long-standing rivalries did play a role in bringing about war. The rivalries exacerbated tensions between the European powers, created suspicions, but were not the most significant factors in bringing war about. World war one war was not the result of long-standing rivalries, though they do play a part. What has proved to be more important are factors including German aggression, Weltpolitik and the crisis in the Balkans. None of these factors are the product of long-standing rivalries, or indeed are long-standing rivalries. What has come across is that the reason long-standing rivalries were not the main factor in bringing about war was because, firstly, the short term factors were more significant. Secondly, long-standing rivalries only created the atmosphere conducive to war. The rivalries themselves would not bring about war without a trigger. The trigger in this case was the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Long-standing rivalries ensured the resources and sentiments were in place for a war to begin. However, long-standing rivalries were not enough in themselves to bring about war. The foundations of some rivalries relied heavily on the fact that Germany was so aggressive. In conclusion, long-standing rivalries did play a part in bringing war about, but that part was only to ensure that when war did break out, it would be a large one. German aggression was the root of some of the rivalries and the main underlying reason why war came about. ...read more.

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