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Why did World War I start in 1914 and not earlier?

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CarolineGolec IB History S/2 Why did World War I start in 1914 and not earlier? World War I was one of the most complex and controversial wars in the 20th century. It had many profound long and short term causes, as for example the imperialism during the 19th century, the growing antipathy between the European monarchies and finally, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Although these causes had a significant impact on the outbreak of WWI and furthermore, contributed to the inevitability of a great war among the European nations, they were not the only ones which provoked WWI to finally break out in August 1914. In this essay, the reasons why WWI finally broke out in August 1914 and why these causes and the different crises before the actual eruption of the war didn't immediately lead to its outburst will be thoroughly examined in detail. The roots of World War I can be already identified in 1870, when the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck provoked a war declaration of France to Prussia with the Ems Telegram, which ultimately led to the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71. Before 1870, Germany was split into small country states, which were under different European leaderships, as for example Prussian and Austrian-Hungarian. After the Prussian victory over France in 1871, Wilhem I. was proclaimed Deutscher Kaiser on the 18th January 1871 in Versailles, which finally resulted into the foundation of the German Reich. Germany's unification was seen by the other European nations with very suspicious and mixed feelings, as for example by France, which had lost Alsace Loraine to the Germans in the Franco-Prussian War and therefore resented the Germans for this act. ...read more.


Furthermore, it also contributed to the formation of the alliance systems, which was due to the fact that countries wanted to appear stronger, having a strong ally country at their side to protect or just help them in case of war. As a result of this, the masses got also involved in politics, as their national pride, especially the Germans' as a newly united country, told them to protect and support their home country. This became clear in the propaganda the different countries used against each other in order to gain popular support from the masses. However, war didn't break out there because there was still a spark missing which would set the whole bush in fire. This finally happened due to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in 1914. Austria Hungary had to defend its pride and Russia couldn't allow Austria-Hungary to punish Serbia, as it saw itself as a protector of the Slavish people. Additionally, nationalism also contributed to the spread of colonialism in Africa and Asia, which was one further cause of WWI, as the more territory a country possessed the better it was seen by other countries, and hence, this country gained a "place at the sun". The colonial rivalry, which was existing in Europe and Africa due to the imperialistic and nationalist notions between the European nations further increased the probability of a war. However, the war didn't take place before 1914 although there were several cases where this could have probably happened, as for example during the Moroccan Crises from 1905-1911, where Germany and France disputed over their colonial right over Morocco. At this time, Europe was standing at the brick of WWI because France saw Germany's actions as offensive and ultimately demanded war in order to keep their "face". ...read more.


In Fischer's point-of-view, Germany was pursuing an "aggressive Weltpolitik". Hence, Germany willed the war in order to realize its expansionist ambitions in Africa and to resolve an acute domestic crisis. Additionally, the fear of "Einkreisung" meant for Germany to go to war, as from a military point-of-view, "a moment so favourable might never occur again". Additionally, Germany pushed Austria-Hungary into war because of the Blank Cheque, which to some extent, put pressure on Austria-Hungary in the Serbian affair. Hence, one can conclude that if Austria-Hungary wouldn't have waited so long, Germany would have gone earlier to war, together with Austria-Hungary as its ally. But as Austria-Hungary hesitated in this issue, Germany couldn't go earlier because then it would have lacked a necessary partner in its war. On the other hand, one can argue that Fischer's theory is too theoretical, as German policies before 1914 seemed very contradictory. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the German General Staff helped expansionist aims before the "September Program", which Fischer interpreted as Germany's desire for war. In conclusion, one can say that in general, the alliance system, colonialism, nationalism and militarism significantly contributed to the outbreak of WWI in 1914, as they all literally "smoothed" the path for a war by increasing the tensions between the European powers. However, one can reason that WWI didn't actually occur earlier than 1914 because all these causes didn't really have the final stroke which should have evoked WWI earlier. The final event, which started WWI was the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, and at this point of time, the factors named above all came together so that war became virtually inevitable, as no country could now pull back, as they were all "sitting in the same boat" because of the various components. 2909 words 1 1 ...read more.

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