Why Did The First World War Break Out in 1914?

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Why Did The First World War Break Out in 1914?

        The First World War was the most terrible war ever known due to the number of deaths that took place each day on the gory battlefields of the war. Altogether eight million soldiers lost their lives fighting in the trenches. The system of trenches stretched across Europe from the English Channel to Switzerland and soldiers faced their foe across a few hundred metres of churned up ground with barbed wire known as ‘No Man’s Land’. The grounds in and around the trenches were turned into a huge ocean of mud because of the rain and exploding bullets. It was impossible to attack the other side’s trenches effectively because they were so greatly secured. Twenty million people were wounded and there was an extensive destruction, which ravaged cities and their civilian populations. The First World War lasted for four whole years and broke out in 1914 due to a number of reasons. The reasons that led the nations of Europe and later the world to go to war in 1914 are complex, and it is impossible to say the war started because of one single cause. There are a series of events, which derived in the early 19th century, which engulfed most of Europe by 4th August 1914. Some causes of the war were long-term whereas others were short term.

        One reason for the outbreak of the war in 1914 was the competition for colonies between the European countries, especially Germany who wanted a large empire and colonies like Britain. In 1800 both Britain and France had large empires and these continued to grow in the nineteenth century. Italy and Germany both became united countries for the first time in the 1870s and they also wanted to have overseas empires.  The German endeavour to become a world power with its own remote empire was the personal ambition of the young Kaiser Wilhelm II who came to power in Germany in 1888. Germans argued that ‘an overseas empire was needed not only for prestige but because the German economy would atrophy if it did not acquire colonies that could provide raw materials and markets for finished products’. This all caused competition between the European powers to grow extreme in the years up to 1900. In Africa there was a scramble for territory between the European forces. In 1900, nearly everyone agreed that ‘a large empire was important not only for trade but also for prestige’, which was a statement made by a French politician. Different European powers controlled large parts of the world. Several disputes were caused due to the competition for colonies. An example of this is in 1906 and 1911 when Germany and France quarrelled about Morocco but fortunately none of these disputes led to war. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that the competition for colonies was a long-term cause, as it had been going on for many years and it was not an important reason for the outbreak of the war in 1914 because although there were many disputes, it did not trigger off the war but however the competition of colonies did lead to a series of events, which slowly caused reasons for a war breaking out at any moment.

Another cause of the First World War was the naval race, which led on from the competition of colonies. Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany in 1898 said, “Germany was very keen to become an imperial power. In order to do this, it was building up its navy very rapidly.” In 1900, Britain’s navy was by far the largest in the world, which it had to be to protect the British Empire. To protect its vast Empire, Britain realised that it did not have enough resources. Britain was also particularly anxious about the German navy, which was growing. Germany decided that a sturdy German naval and merchant fleet was crucial to obtain, service and defend these colonies. Britain were determined that there navy should remain the largest therefore a direct contest and conflict between Britain and Germany developed. There was a race between these two countries to see who could construct the most powerful fleet of battleships, which made Germany a significant maritime power. Since the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 Britain’s Royal Navy had been the dominant fighting fleet in the world; now Germany was challenging this position. In 1898 and 1900 Germany passed Navy Laws, which identified the types and numbers of warships required, and which provided permission and cash for the project. To justify the vast cost of the enterprise, these laws also identified a specific and treacherous enemy that the fleet was being constructed to oppose: 'For Germany, the most dangerous naval enemy at the present time is England.... Our fleet must be constructed so that it can unfold its greatest military potential between Heliogoland and the Thames....' As the construction of a massive fleet was being debated and agreed by the Kaiser, his military and political advisors another undertaking, of great relevance to future German naval strategy, was being completed. The Kiel Canal, which opened in 1895, provided the German navy with a fast connection between the Baltic and the North Sea and allowed its different fleets to work in close co-operation. Britain’s response to the spectacle of Germany providing itself with the will, the motif and the means for launching an invasion was to reinforce its first and best line of defence, the Royal Navy. Despite its prestige and perceived power the Royal Navy was, in the late 19th century, outdated, disorganised and unready for war with a major world power. The First Lord of the Admiralty, John Arbuthnot Fisher recognised the distressing truth and when he came to power in 1904 he began reforms and promoted the construction of a revolutionary battleship, HMS Dreadnought. Britain launched the first HMS Dreadnought in 1906, which was the most strongest and fastest battleship that had ever been built before. Dreadnoughts had fast, modern turbine engines, thick armour plating and guns on rotating turrets that could fire shells over six miles in any direction. The Kaiser recognised HMS Dreadnought as the ‘armament of the future’ and the German navy joined Britain in the race to create a new navy organised around this powerful new type of battleship. In one year, 1914, Britain built twenty-nine dreadnoughts and Germany built seventeen, which shows that Britain were winning the naval race by the amount of battleships they were constructing but Germany were determined to overcome Britain.

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In Britain alone there were 750,000 soldiers and the amount of money spent on military was £50 million. Germany had 4,250,000 soldiers, far more than Britain and the amount of money they spent on military was £60 million, which was also more than Britain. As you can see that the German army and navy were increasing in size therefore Britain’s rivalry with Germany was growing stronger. Therefore I have come to the conclusion that the naval race was a long-term cause because it went on for a many years and I think it wasn’t that much of ...

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This is an incredibly detailed account that demonstrates excellent understanding and offers useful analysis to explain why the war breaks out. At one point, the author drifts into narrating events, which weakens the answer, but it is a very strong response overall. 5 out of 5 stars.