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In 1914 Europe plunged in to the abyss of total war due to the clashing interests of empires' spheres of influence.

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Introduction

History Assessment In 1914 Europe plunged in to the abyss of total war due to the clashing interests of empires' spheres of influence. The futile attempts to restore the Austro-Hungarian empire and nationalist dissent within the Balkans accelerated tensions arising from imperialism between the Great Powers. In such a precarious situation Germany adopted a bellicose attitude and during the 1914 July Crisis she "pushed Britain and France to the wall" (Geiss). Through vague aspirations for world domination Germany threatened Britain's hegemony and heightened the disastrous forced of change, and exploited events to begin the 'War to End all Wars'. European tension from fluctuating borders and the rise of new imperialist ambitions originated from German unification in 1871 that tilted the pre-existing balance of power. The German population soared from 49 to 66 million between 1890 and 1914 steel output was higher than that of Britain, France and Russia combined while the prominence of science and technology in the school curriculum gave Germany the lead in new 'high-tech' industries. German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck aimed to protect Germany against a war of revanche to recover the lost territories of Alsace and Lorraine through a Franco-Russian alliance. Hoping to diffuse Austro-Russian animosity in the Balkans while isolating France, Bismarck created the Dreikaiserbund (The Three Emperors' League) between Germany, Austria and Russia under which the nations agreed to neutrality in any attack by a fourth nation. In 1876 Bosnia and Herzegovina revolted against the Ottoman Empire and as revolutions spread to Serbia and Bulgaria it escalated into a full-scale war between Russia and Turkey resulting in Ottoman defeat. ...read more.

Middle

The naval race not only created political and psychological attitudes that contributed to the mood of 1914 it also inaugurated economic and technical processes, which were increasingly hard to reverse. The costs of armaments and the strain of German public finance was so great that only a war in which the rules of orthodox finance could be suspended would save the German state from bankruptcy. However, the Kaiser's personal commitment and superficial strategic thinking also contributed to zealousness of German naval building. Fritz Fischer suggested that German policy was a means of diverting attention from domestic discontent since liberals were starting to agitate for a reform of the restricted franchise for the Prussian Landtag. According to Arno Mayer "the German government hoped for great diplomatic and military victories with which to consolidate the monarchy, hold back reform, and prevent revolution." To justify the lack of democracy the Kaiser and the Junkers devised strategy of Sammtlungspolitik (the politics of 'collection') that encouraged support for popular nationalist pressure groups, imperialist adventures and naval rivalry, thus weakening the influence of the Social Democrats in Parliament. As the Reichstag, which wanted to restrict military spending, was growing in stature, German domestic politics with its bureaucratic infighting proved a handicap for militarists. The army enthusiastically pushed for war and broke free of domestic restrictions on increased armaments' expenditure because only under conditions of war could it gain access to spending resources required for Weltpoltik. The fundamental vulnerability of Britain's imperial position, American rise to world power and the danger of native unrest and uprisings in Egypt, South Africa, Ireland, and India particularly in the North West Frontier meant that the challenges could only be addressed through exponential expenditure increases. ...read more.

Conclusion

The popular daily newspapers whose success was based on sensationalism, promoted jingoism, the glorification of armed forces and widened political tension. There was a condition of almost complete ignorance, as to the implications of 'total' war waged with all the resources of a modern centralised state backed by scientific research. Both rulers and subjects were victims of the 'short war illusion' the dangers of which according to Gordon Greenwood "were increased by the remarkable growth of an emotional national sentiment that in part was the outcome of the prevailing educational systems, a sentiment inflamed by the press and propaganda." The 'freedom of the seas' for British trade in the English Channel, the significance of food imports from colonies, safeguarding sea links within the Empire, German violation of Belgium neutrality and the invocation of the 1839 Treaty of London propelled Britain into continental war. Faced with the impossibility of achieving world power and standing by peaceful means, Germany chose war. Britain was preserving the European balance of power against the unmistakable threat of German domination. An unrestrained Weltpolitik by Germany, isolated her and destroyed the system, upon whish she had to rely for security as much as upon her army while the exigencies of continental policy repeatedly imposed themselves upon German and restrained her. As Gordon Martel stated "the July crisis was, in essence, an Austro-Russian one and the transformation of that crisis into a world war was the responsibility of Germany. ... Of the five great powers that went to war in August 1914, Britain played the least significant part. Her support, or lack of it, neither encouraged nor restrained Russia and France". ...read more.

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