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Causes for World War I: With Focus on Imperialism

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CAUSES FOR WORLD WAR ONE: IMPERIALSIM Introduction Imperialism is the extension of a nation by taking over another by force; therefore imperialism in most cases means war. In the late 19th and the early 20th century the European Powers invaded Africa and Asia to make economic gains; their only interests were new markets and raw materials to provide their own country in Europe with power. 'The Scramble for Africa' led to conflicts between the Powers, and Germany, and therefore Austria-Hungary were left to be the outsiders while Britain, France and Russia agreed to an alliance. When Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia Herzegovina, an attempt to save their old empire, this only caused tensions with Serbia and later on led to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and its further consequences. And the whole idea of the German 'Schlieffen Plan,' one of the definite causes of the war, was to conquer France and later on probably Russia. Thus, the impact of imperialism on international relations should certainly not be neglected. Imperialism certainly was not the immediate cause for war, but the roots of the tensions within Europe were indeed a result of imperialism. Who? Marxist writers and historians argued imperialism as being the cause for World War I. Lenin was the first who seriously attempted to explain the role of imperialism in 'Imperialism: the highest stage of capitalism'. ...read more.


The fact that the Germans chose this plan, might also say something about their attitude towards the other countries. Evidence for this might be, that the 'Schlieffen Plan' was developed in 1905, after Britain, France and Russia signed the Triple Entente in 1904. Supporting views of others - Paul Kennedy - 'economic strength is woven into the fabric of great power struggles.' And, 'economic' interests are a key 'reality behind diplomacy.' Other causes - The Alliance System was somehow a trigger for a chain reaction in 1914. Austria-Hungary's, supported by Germany, declaration of war on Serbia led Russia to mobilize. Germany, due to the Schlieffen Plan, declared war on Russia and France, and its invasion of Belgium got Britain involved. However, the Alliance System was quite weak. For example Italy, an ally of Austria-Hungary and Germany remained neutral at the start of the war. One can argue, that Russia and Britain only entered the war to defend only their own interests. Somehow both facts are true, because the countries agreed to the allies for their own, so they thought, benefit anyway. So the Alliance System itself was a cause, but not the major one. - The Arms Race did not just lead to an increase of military, what led to tension (e.g. ...read more.


- The German 'Weltpolitik' states that Germany sought an increase in international power, further in their navy, what former already led to conflict with Britain. Thus they clearly wanted to expand their influence. Mobilization, War Plans & Timetables - If one agrees on the German guilt, than one can argue that Germany would have mobilized against Russia anyway and that the fact that Russia started before Germany, only accelerated the whole process. Thus Germany also would have mobilized if Russia wouldn't have. - Germany didn't know that Russia's mobilization was only meant to threat, thus it is a logical consequence for Germany to also start preparing. Otherwise, it could have been to late for Germany to start preparing a defense. Certainly they had no intention if solely defending, but that is another issue. Nationalism - Nationalism probably was only a plea of the governments to win the support of the public in case of war, thus the only intention was to invoke patriotism. Without the public support for war, it might have impossible for the governments to start it. In the beginning the public was strongly in favor of war, and Britain, for example, was able to recruit thousands of voluntary men. - Germany was not interested in the Austro-Serb conflict; they were more concerned about Russia. Already in the July crisis the Kaiser insisted that Austria-Hungary should deploy the major part of its troops against Russia, thus probably knowing that Russia would support Serbia. ...read more.

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