Rivalry was also exacerbated by Germany’s increasing world power. By 1900, Germany had replaced Russia as the most threatening country due to its influence in the Balkans. The building of the Berlin-Baghdad railway allowed Germany easy access to the Arab oilfields, and German offers to train the Turkish army gave them even more influence in this area. German increase in trade also angered Britain, as German imports led to a decrease in demand for British goods, therefore causing British unemployment to rise. Lastly, propaganda on both sides created a war-like feeling, as in Britain the press reported on Germany’s anti-British policies, and in Germany the press demanded a large German Empire, more trade, a larger Navy and military help for the Boers in 1899.
There were however many more factors to the start of World War 1 than simply the Anglo-German rivalry. There was in fact also rivalry between France and Germany due to Germany’s defeat of France in 1871 where Alsace and Lorraine had been captured. Many of the French resented this, causing friction. In addition to this, Britain and France had nearly gone to war in 1898, therefore politicians were keen to improve relations between the two countries. They therefore signed an entente to settle the disagreements. The conditions of this were that Britain was given control of Egypt, France was given control of Morocco, and the two countries armies began working together despite there being no formal alliance.
Despite this being only an entente, France did have a formal alliance with Russia, which showed that Russia thought of Germany as a threat to their influence in the Balkans, France feared another German attack, and both countries were wary of German and Austrian alliance. The Franco-Russian alliance was signed in 1892; to say that each country would help the other should Germany attack.
The Russians then went on to create a further entente with Britain in 1907, as it was clear that Germany was now a larger threat than Russia. This agreement gave Russia control of Afghanistan, on the condition that it did not interfere in India. It also split Iran between the two countries, and although there was no formal alliance, it identified Germany as the enemy.
This system of Alliances and ententes is largely responsible for creating a World War from a war that may otherwise have been contained to the Balkans. It meant that when Germany declared war on Russia, France also entered the war, Austria was involved due to its alliance with Germany, and when German troops entered Belgium in accordance to the Schlieffen plan, Britain was forced to join the war as well due to it’s alliance with Belgium, thus creating an actual world war.
The Schlieffen Plan was another of the major causes of World War 1. It was, in theory, the perfect solution to Germany’s problems, however in practise this was most certainly not the case. The Schlieffen plan theoretically meant that Germany would attack France, and defeat her, before Russia was ready for war, thus avoiding war on both countries at the same time. Unfortunately there were 3 major flaws in this plan. The first of these was that Germany had severely underestimated the time it would take to defeat France, who was far more prepared for German attack than had been imagined. In order to get around the defences France had built up, Germany decided ton invade France via Belgium. This was the second problem, as it brought Britain into the war via its alliance with Belgium as mentioned previously. Perhaps the worst flaw in the Schlieffen plan was the fact that after the war the blame fell on Germany as by invading through Belgium it seemed as if they had attacked an innocent country, and therefore in the Treaty of Versailles, Germany received the worst of the punishments of war, thus leading to the depression of the 1930’s.
Another crucial cause of World War 1 was the differences over the Eastern Question. The Eastern Question involved what to do with the crumbling Ottoman (Turkish) empire. Russia was keen to become the leader of the Slav nations, which threatened Britain. However after Austria-Hungary lost power in Italy in 1890 she was keen to extend her power in a southeasterly direction. In 1908 Austria persuaded Russia to allow them to annex Bosnia & Herzegovina making Slav provinces a part of Austria, and angering Serbia. Austria then failed to uphold its end of the bargain, by not allowing Russia access to the Dardanelles. This led to hostility between Russia and Austria, and between Serbia and Austria. Hostility between Serbia and Austria led to the two Balkan League wars, which were eventually settled by international conferences. It was due to this, that a Serbian member of the terrorist gang, The Black Hand, assassinated the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Austria then used this as a chance to attack Serbia in 1914, with the promise of German help. On July 28th 1914, Austria declared war on Serbia, leading to Russia partially mobilizing its troops despite Germany asking them to call this off. Germany therefore declared war on Russia before invading France through Belgium in accordance to the Schlieffen plan as previously mentioned. The Eastern Question therefore was an important long-term cause of Sarajevo, which was the crucial trigger for World War 1.
The other short-term triggers of World War 1, were the Moroccan Crises. The first of these was from 1905-1906, and was caused by Wilhelm II’s annoyance over the fact that Germany had not been consulted over the rule of North Africa. Because of this, he threatened to help the Moroccans fight the French. However at a conference, Britain and the USA backed France, forcing Germany to back down. Due to this, hostility between Britain and Germany worsened, but the entente between Britain and France was strengthened. The second Moroccan crisis occurred in 1911when the French sent an army to Morocco to help the leader during the Moroccan people’s uprising against him. Wilhelm was afraid that France was going to completely take over Morocco rather than simply control it, so sent a warship to the port of Agadir. The British then believed that Germany was trying to build a naval base in Agadir and so nearly went to war. However another conference was held, where it was agreed that France would give Germany a slice of the French Congo, and Germany would allow France to do as she pleased with Morocco. Because of this crisis, the British and French increased their naval co-operation, knowing that they now had a virtual alliance against Germany.
This shows that there were many other causes of World War 1 and in fact Anglo-German rivalry alone probably would not have had such a large impact. It took a combination of the alliance system, the Schlieffen plan, German Aggression and Differences over the Eastern Question, as well as the short term causes, the two Moroccan Crises and Sarajevo to finally bring about world war. It was a combination of these causes, and no single cause which was responsible for this, therefore the original statement is partially true, as Anglo-German rivalry was responsible, but vastly underestimates the many other reasons for war.