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"The first world war was the result of a badly mismanaged Balkan crisis in the summer of 1914 rather than the product of long standing rivalries between the great powers." Assess the truth of this opinion on the causes of the outbreak of World War One.

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Introduction

"The first world war was the result of a badly mismanaged Balkan crisis in the summer of 1914 rather than the product of long standing rivalries between the great powers." Assess the truth of this opinion on the causes of the outbreak of World War One. This is not an accurate statement; the First World War was the product of long standing rivalries between the powers. This is true because these rivalries led to the creation of the alliance system. With Europe divided into two hostile camps, any disturbance of the existing political or military situation in Europe, Africa or elsewhere provoked an international crisis, military expansion or shifting alliances. The Balkan crisis of 1914 proved to be the most significant short-term cause and trigger of the First World War, although without the alliances, the Balkan crisis of 1914 would have only resulted in a localised war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. The crisis brought the alliances in Europe's shaky balance of power into action creating a general European war. After Germany's triumph over France in 1871 in the Franco-Prussian war and the unification of Germany, the nation became the greatest military power in Europe and a potential threat to the other powers. ...read more.

Middle

This rivalry influenced Britain to join the Franco-Russian alliance. However, this naval race was over by 1912 and by 1914 Anglo-German relations was improving with Britain's war minister visiting Germany in attempt to restore good relations. The powers did not only arm themselves for "self defence", but also in order not to find themselves isolated in the event of war, encouraging alliances. However, tensions may have been reduced by the several efforts made for worldwide disarmament e.g. at the Hague conferences of 1899 and 1907. Despite this, rivalries were too advanced for progress towards disarmament being made, which contributed to the feeling of war being inevitable. This encouraged countries to prepare war plans in the event of conflict. One of the main areas for European policies of economic expansion was Africa. This was known as the "scramble for Africa", where colonial interests clashed. This became most noticeable in the Moroccan crises of 1905-1906 and 1911. France had long wanted control in Morocco for commercial, economic and strategic reasons. However, Germany in the first Moroccan crisis challenged France's plan by proclaiming German support for Moroccan independence. Germany hoped to undermine the growing Anglo-French friendship as Britain was in no position to assist France in a war with Germany. ...read more.

Conclusion

Serbia was to allow Austro-Hungarian troops to enter Serbia to investigate the assassination thus attempting to end Serbian independence. Belgrade could not accept this. This situation was badly mismanaged, which woke Europe to the increasing likeliness of war. Not everything was done to prevent war. Also powers such as Britain underestimated the seriousness of the crisis and still thought that the Austro-Serbian quarrel could be resolved as late as 20 July. Germany favoured a localised war between Austria and Serbia. However Russia would not allow Serbia to be annihilated and made it clear that if Austria invaded Serbia, Russia would order a partial mobilisation as a warning to them. The badly mismanaged crisis of 1914 was the trigger to the war and it appeared that war could not be avoided. On the other hand, Serbia's threat and attack on Austria affected the Triple Alliance as a whole. But if Austria invaded Serbia, it would ultimately be a threat to Russia, and therefore Britain and France aswell. In conclusion, it is clear that the First World War was the product of long standing rivalries rather than the crisis of 1914. Without the alliance system and rivalries between the powers, a localised could have occurred. The alliance system however dragged the whole of Europe into a devastating war transforming a localised war into a general European war. ...read more.

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