How valid is the claim that in 1914 states went to war due to fear rather than motives of gain?
In this essay, I will analyse the reasons why World War I broke out due to fear and motives of gain, and I will evaluate which reason was more of a cause for this global outbreak. Fear was a feeling experienced by all countries in both the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente. Fear ultimately causes war between countries due to tension as each states question what will happen in the near future and try to avoid this outcome. On the other hand, motives of gain also create tension as one nations gain may conflict with another’s gain. An example being Germany and France as both of these countries had an interest in Morocco. The reason of tension was that only one country could colonise Morocco and these two countries had a violent history. An example such as this shows how fear brought two rival nations together and created further hatred towards them.
Historians often believe that the Alliance system was a result of fear. After France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian war in 1871, France feared the constantly increasing power of Germany, as did Britain. After the humiliating defeat, France was made diplomatically isolated and needed an alliance. Russia had a key position in Europe which France wished to utilise. By creating this alliance, Germany was en-circled by both France and Russia and this created great fear towards the powerful nation. This fear had Germany in a problem, they knew that if war broke out, they would have no other country to help assist them. Their only option was to create an alliance with Austria-Hungary, which was the beginning of the Triple Alliance. The Alliance system created an agreement between all countries involved, that they are required to provide backup in case war broke out. This initially made countries feel safe, which was the main purpose. But, the alliance system involved all of the great powers in Europe, and all opposed countries feared each other to an extent. With this great amount of fear in each alliance, one simple conflict could cause a clash between two countries and then it would ultimately involve the most powerful states in Europe. This proves how a conflict between Serbia and Austria-Hungary would result in such a large scale war and the greatest one at the time.