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What caused World War 1?

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Introduction

´╗┐What caused the First World War ? October 19 2012 ________________ When World War 1 is examined, the main culprit is almost always said to be Germany, however is this the case? At the end of the war, Germany was forced to take the blame without a fair trial or face annihilation. Now with all the evidence that has come to light since then, is it really fair to continue to blame this nation for the bloodiest conflict in the 20th century ? It can be evidently seen that tension was building up in the four years prior to the war and only a spark was needed to set off the ticking time bomb. Though Germany played a large part in the agitation and commencement of the Great War, one cannot blame a single country or a single cause. Europe in the 19th century was itching for war, from the socialist French to the politically suppressed Slavs. As stated by A J P Taylor ?the people of Europe leapt willingly into war.? Through nationalism and a complicated network of alliances, when Austria-Hungary sneezed, the whole world caught the warfare bug. The war lasted for four long years which appeared even longer due to the fact that everyone assumed the war would be over by the Christmas of 1914. In this essay I will attempt to explain all the possible causes of the War, highlighting key events that accelerated the inevitable conflict. An alliance in theory should have a positive outcome; however in the case of early 20th century Europe, alliances became a life and death matter. The Alliance System of the 1900s was a labyrinth of countries that adjoined with each other for the sake of defence. In 1871 after the establishment of Germany as a nation under the Prussian Monarchy, a threat was imposed that risked hazard to the delicate balance of power in Europe. ...read more.

Middle

Progression in naval arms included ships with thicker armour, naval guns made of steel and the invention of the U-boat. The launch of the Dreadnought battleship in 1906 was a way for Britain to retain its title as having the world?s largest navy. The nation also proposed peace talks to prevent the wave of rearmament becoming a naval arms race as this would surely jeopardise their safety. However the Kaiser ignored the British warnings and started to build up its own navy thus causing Anglo-German relations to deteriorate. Although the Anglo-German naval arms race did increase the tension between the two nations it is not a plausible cause for the war as Churchill had stated that by 1914 it was clear that Germany had lost the arms race and was not a great military risk to Britain. Although Germany had exceeded Britain in terms of political and economic power they still feared Britain?s military power. This was evident in the Schlieffen Plan where Germany?s main tactic of defence was to swiftly attack France thus leaving no foothold for Britain in mainland Europe. However German y was willing to risk British attack by accessing France through Belgium which was supposed to remain neutral. The Schlieffen plan was a prime example of military tactical excellence as Count Schlieffen took into consideration all the measures that would prevent their invasion of France, mainly the fortified defences surrounding the country. The strength of the plan relied on a quickly initiated attack and the slowness of the Russian army mobilization all leading to a relatively short war. Between 1870 and 1900 most areas of the world were not claimed by any state and so there was a great rush by European nations to annex countries into their own empires. Imperialism was seen as the expansion of a country?s chauvinistic nationalism. The majority of these countries were in Africa as it is the second-largest continent in the world. ...read more.

Conclusion

the Great War which would lead to higher levels of encouragement of arms production war planning of this time was controlled by the military generals excluding cooperation with the diplomats and so war plans became fanciful, based on the whims of the generals. Unlike many historiographers I don?t believe it was Germany who started the war. It was a mix of many causes, of which almost all stemmed from nationalism. If we were to assign blame to individuals I would blame the awful government of these countries. Many of 19th century European nations were ruled by dictators who did not hold the opinions or the values of their subjects in high regard. To these corrupt monarchs, their country was merely an enlarged manifestation of their egos. The population was dispensable and no price was too high to further or restore the self-image of the monarch. This ideology is most clearly seen in Kaiser Wilhelm who suffered from a withered arm and slight paralysis. He was disadvantaged physically and so suffered from low self-esteem thus causing him to use his nation to prove his strength. As a child he was bullied by his teachers who thought the maltreatment would build a natural desire to succeed in the young boy however many historians blame this abuse as the basis for Kaiser Wilhelm?s unstable and aggressive character. His hostile temperament can be seen in the Kaiser?s eagerness to enter into a total war. This overcompensation could also be the reason why Kaiser Wilhelm felt Germany had to be the strongest economy and had to have the biggest military, taking his own personal issues and misconstruing them into chauvinism. The bullying he had experienced during his childhood caused him to have a political policy heavily influence by Social Darwinism. There is no one single cause that would explain the First World War, many events and ideologies preceding the War built up creating an explosive atmosphere that needed but a single small spark to set the entire continent aflame. ...read more.

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