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To What Extent Were Germany To Blame For The Outbreak Of World War One?

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Introduction

To What Extent Were Germany To Blame For The Outbreak Of World War One? August 4th 1914 marks the date on which Europe fell into what has become known as "the Great War". What started as a minor squabble between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, in the space of six weeks, escalated into total war between Europe's biggest powers. Almost one hundred years later we are no closer to answering the question of who or what was to blame for it's outbreak. It is easy to assume that Germany were solely to blame, however this assumption would be incorrect. Germany did, at times have an overbearing influence, and with many factors, the underlying fault lies with Germany. However, influence of other nations, states and individuals were also significant in pulling Europe into World War One. In 1871, following a series of Prussian wars, a new nation of Germany was created which significantly altered the politics of Europe. The new Kaiser, Wilhelm II, determined the direction that this nation took, and it was his attitude that created so much fear of the new state. At times, understandably, they felt threatened and vulnerable. Already, she had found enemies in neighbours France after their crushing defeat of them in 1870, and this was to prove crucial in the next few years. On other fronts, Germany had large powers Russia and Austria-Hungary as neighbours. ...read more.

Middle

Thus it is clear that they did, to some extent, plan for a war. The new nation of Germany was not in the wrong to adopt such policies of colonialisation, military expansion and plans for attack: a new nation has understandable fears on securing safety. However the question is not were they right to pursue such policies, but did this policies lead to the outbreak of war, and the answer to that is a resounding "yes". They disrupted the precarious power balance that had been operating in Europe for hundreds of years, increased tension between European states, encouraged military expansion and subsequently disrupted the peace. The trigger event of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, and his wife on 28th June 1914 can be cited as a major reason for the outbreak of war. It could easily be said that the young Bosnian assassin, Gavrilo Princip, was to blame for the next four years of devastation. Had he not assassinated Ferdinand which provided the initial spark for conflict, there would have not have been an "excuse" for Austria-Hungarian aggression backed by Germany. However, Germany can be blamed largely, perhaps even solely for the reaction to this event despite having no involvement in the tragic murders. As Austria-Hungary's foreign Minister Czernin said, "Germany demanded that the ultimatum to Serbia should be.....sharp". ...read more.

Conclusion

Their unforeseen mobilisation on July 29th 1914 was not predicted by Austria-Hungary or Germany, as the Russians had seemed almost nonchalant to the 1908 crisis. Also, Britain's ambiguity in where their loyalties lay meant severe misunderstandings on the part of German leaders. Perhaps Britain should have been clearer so as to avoid such problems. Nevertheless, no single nation, state or individual had a more devastating influence than the new nation of Germany. Their desire for glory, power and wealth, their aggressive and at times paranoid policies and their want of an empire intimidated and influenced the nations around them. Were it not for the Prussian war victories that united Germany, then there would not have been the desire which plagued them and Europe, and ultimately started war. However, it would be unfair not to recognise the other factors. Nationalism significantly altered the political structure of Europe; the unstable Balkans were both unknown and feared; and probably all the leaders of all the major powers have some blame for the war. There is little doubt, however as to where the greatest share of responsibility falls. Germany willed on Austria-Hungary; misinterpreted Britain's loyalty; projected an aggressive image with their strong modern army that scared many; and some say even deliberately faced the risk of conflict with France and Russia. Germany was by no means the only reason for the outbreak of war in 1914 but are, without a doubt, the biggest single reason. By Tom Paul 12.8 ...read more.

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