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Compare and contrast the causes of the First World War and the Second World War

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Compare and contrast the causes of the First World War and the Second World War. Both the First World War and the Second World War were initially blamed on German aggression. There are definite similarities in the ways in which the wars broke out however it could be argued that the Second World War was a result mainly of the First, along with and the failure of the peacemakers at Versailles to make a sustainable peace treaty. This essay will demonstrate the similarities between the causes of both wars but will also show the significance of the failure of the peace treaties during the interwar years on the causes of the Second World War. This essay will argue that it was the failure of the peace settlements that directly led to WWII and that this is the main difference between the causes of the two total wars. The orthodox view on the causes of WWI is that it was due to German aggression. This can be supported by a quote from historian A.J.P Taylor who said that; "Schlieffens dead hand automatically pulled the trigger." The Schlieffen plan can be used to argue that Germany specifically wanted war; they had planned a system of mobilization very far in advance. ...read more.


In both cases of WWI and WWII feelings of nationalism played an important role in causing total war. It is interesting that it was specifically nationalism caused by the problems of WWI peace-settlements that prompted WWII. In this way it can be argued that whilst both wars were encouraged by nationalism, the Second World War was due to nationalism that actually originated from the First. Historian Michael Howard argues that the Pre-WWI Great Powers went to war "to fulfil a precise obligation which could not be abandoned without shattering consequences of national prestige, morale and interests". Without going to war, it could be argued, the Great Powers would not have kept their Great Power status. In this way it was very much imperialism that was a major cause of WWI. Another example of this can be seen in Russia who was lured into war by the Balkans, of Constantinople and the Straights. England wanted to maintain their Empire and France had ambitions in Morocco, as did Germany. James Joll argues that "war was inevitable if vital national interests were to be preserved." A major reason as to why WWII took place lies in the fact that Hitler went against the peace settlements decided at the ToV and marched into Austria in 1939 to achieve the Anschluss. ...read more.


In conclusion, both the cause of WWI and WWII have may similarities, both being blamed by orthodox historians as being the result of German aggression, both having roots in nationalism and imperialism and both being due to the unorganized and muddled state of Europe at the time; either due to alliance systems in pre-WWI or economically as a result of the great depression pre-WWII. This is described best by David Lloyd George post-WWI; "we slithered over the brink". President Kennedy argues that not all the blame of WWII should rest on the problems of the ToV, as war did not happen directly after it, but rather after the great depression. This shows another point of view and another difference between the two wars, how WWI came from an industrially rich Europe whilst WWII broke out in an economically weakened one. Before WWI there was no punitive settlement generating tension, but rather colonial rivalry, which in turn was not present in the run up to WWII. Both wars had similar causes, the main differences in the roots of the two World wars lie in the fact that WWII was in some ways a consequence of the failures of the ToV and in this way was indirectly connected to WWI. ...read more.

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