"To what extent can it be said that the First World War was caused by the alliance system?"

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“To what extent can it be said that the First World War was caused by the alliance system?”

The First World War took place between 1914 and 1918. Although the conflict began in Europe, it ultimately involved countries as far away the USA and Japan. Historians still disagree over the fundamental causes, as there are numerous factors contributing to the outbreak of war. Although it was set off by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by a Bosnian Serb nationalist in Sarajevo, World War 1 was a result of leaders’ aggression towards other counties, which was supported by rising nationalism of the European nations. Imperial competition and fear of war prompted arms race and military alliances, which further escalated the tension contributing to the outbreak of war.  

The alliance system was a cause of mistrust and belligerent attitudes in Europe. By the summer of 1914 Europe had been divided into two distinct groups: The Triple Alliance, that incorporated Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy and The Triple Entente, that consisted of Franco-Russian Alliance with Britain as an entente partner of both. The alliance system was also responsible for the military plans that led to the spread of war. It is undeniable that the First World War was partially caused by the alliance system.

The Alliance System was undoubtedly a cause of war. The Alliances forged at the end of the 19th century and into the 20th created mistrust and inspired aggression amongst countries. Its very existence ensured that the conflict would become a wider war the moment the rigid military mobilisation plans were implicated. These treaties were often devious and secret and were one of the factors that led to war in Europe. Each alliance was formed to either isolate or be aggressive towards an excluded country. In order to diplomatically isolate France, Otto Von Bismarck, a German Chancellor, formed the Three Emperors League in 1872, an alliance between Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary. When the French occupied Tunisia, Bismarck took advantage of Italian resentment towards France and created The Triple Alliance between Germany, Italy and Austria- Hungary in 1882. They signed a document that insured military support in a case of an outbreak of war.  The Franco-Russian alliance was officially formed in 1894 and in 1907; a similar agreement was signed between Britain and Russia, creating the Triple Entente. Each alliance that was created added to the tension between countries, which forced them further apart. International tension was greatly increased by the division of Europe into two armed camps.

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Military discussions and plans came hand in hand with the alliances that had been created. Leaders had to choose how to best combine their forces in the event of war. However these defensive tactics soon were translated into methods of attack. Unalterable mobilisation plans forced countries to distinguish between friend and foe from a very early stage. The Schlieffen Plan is just one example of the military plans that were created. It was started in the 1890s. This suggests that Germany already had a fair idea of who her enemies were from this early on. The alliance system therefore had ...

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