Although in the Treaty of Versailles Germany was to accept full responsibilityfor World War 1 this in not necessarily the case. Many factors have to be takeninto account when considering the cause of World War 1. Germany may have beenprimarily responsible for the war but the other major powers must accept some ofthe blame for failing to prevent it. The conflict resulting from theassassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinard should have been local and confinedbut due to a series of factors, militarism, the alliance system, nationalism,this one incident led to the greatest war Europe had ever seen. As a result ofunderlying hostilities the assassination led to a chain of events that ensuredwar on a wide scale.
The alliance system developed by Bismarck for defensivepurposes was one of the major causes of the war. These alliances however took amore aggressive tone in the hands of Bismarcks successors. Also Bismarcksalliance system was too intricate for anybody other than himself to maintain.
While he was alive the alliances preserved peace but in the hands of William the2nd these alliance were destroyed. Bismarcks policy was to keep Franceisolated however with William refusing to renew the Reinsurance Treaty withRussia. France now had an ally thus resulting in the signing of theFranco-Russian Entente in 1891. In 1904 Britain and France formed a non-militaryalliance called the Entente Cordial. As a result at the outbreak of war Europewas divided into two armed camps, the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente.The Triple Alliance consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungry and Italy and theTriple Entente was made up of Britain, France, and Russia.
These alliancesfacilitated a political assassination sparking a World War. Along with thehostile divisions in Europe came the expansion of armies and navies thus leadingto an arms race. This arms race was also precipitated by the increase in warbudgets after 1900. Attempts to restrict the arms race, like The Hagueconference in 1899 and 1907 failed due to mutual suspicion. The great powersalso elaborated plans for mass mobilisation.
It was thought that a war would bedecided in the opening phases and therefore who ever got into the field firstand assembled the largest army in the shortest time would have the advantageover its rival. When World War 1 began Germany ultimately mobilised elevenmillion troops, France mobilised twenty percent of her population or 7,800,000and Russia mobilised sixteen million men (White Heat 7). By 1914 the generalstaffs in Germany, France, Russia and Austria favoured war. Germany and Britainwere involved in a naval race, which caused antagonism between the two powersdue to Britains pride in her naval fleet and the necessity of it to maintainher Empire. She saw Germanys continued expansion as a threat.
Sir John Fisherof the British navy suggested that the navy should Copenhagen the GermanFleet before it was too late (Europe Since 1870 105). Admiral Tirpitz ofGermany opposed any plans for naval disarmament. Von Hotzendorf, the AustrianChief of Staff, had been pushing for a preventative war against Serbia since1906. Before World War 1 Europe was in the mind set for war, as I have describedabove, countries were expanding their armies and making plans for war.
One ofthe most famous plans of war was the Schlieffen plan. This plan devised byGeneral Von Schlieffen was based on mass mobilisation. It was believed that inthe event of a war it would take Germany thirty-six hours to mobilise, Franceforty-eight hours and Russia three weeks (Europe Since 1870 105).
The Germanswould thus attack France first and then after defeating France go on to attackRussia. From these plans we can see that the Chiefs of Staff in Europe wereexpecting and planning for a war. The military leaders in Europe played a largerole in influencing their governments to go to war. Jingoism also played a majorrole in the outbreak of war. Jingoism is extreme or excessive patriotism. Thepublic was prepared for a war they wanted to show how powerful and glorioustheir country was.
By 1914 there was nearly one hundred and eighty books writtenon the subject of major war in various different languages: Der Weltkreig(1904), depicted a German conflict with Britain. Le Queuxs The Invasion(1910) sold over a million copies (Reasons for War 2). These books prepared thepublic for the fears and the excitement of war. There was a sense of purenationalism running through society, that never again would Europe display thiskind of patriotic fervour, the conflict to come would destroy it (The Origins ofWar 5). Nationalism was also a cause of World War1. Austrias unfair treatmentof the minorities in her Empire caused the spread of Balkan nationalism.
Serbiahad been forced to hand over Bosnia and Herzegovina to Austria to obtain herindependence and due to Serbia flourishing as a nation the people of Bosnia andHerzegovina became restless under Austrian rule. Serbia encouraged anti-Austrianfeeling which antagonised Austria and led her to annex Bosnia in 1908 breakingan agreement with Russia leading to the Bosnian Crisis. Russias policy ofPan-slavism also caused friction with Austria. Pan-slavism was the idea that allSlav peoples should be freed from Ottoman and Hapsberg control. Theseantagonisms led to an alliance between Russia and Serbia. There were also warsin the Balkans during the period 1912-13.
Austria saw the assassination of theArchduke as the pretext to go to war with Serbia (1914 8). Alliances were formedduring this period that would be still evident during World War 1. It is alsothought that the system of government at the time also contributed to war.Capitalists saw the war as an opportunity to make enormous profits, thus leadingthem to put pressure on governments to go to war. At this time the arms industrywas flourishing, there were Krupps in Germany, Armstrong and Withworth inBritain, Nobel in Sweden and Seinder in France. The war was also seen as a wayto distract people from industrial strife that was evident at the time such asworking conditions.
The intensive industrialisation which occurred in Britainand Germany in the thirty years before 1914 put the tools of war into the handsof men who were prepared to use them (Europe Since 1870 105). It the daysafter the Archdukes assassination Austria must take some of the blame for theonset of war. Austria would not act unless she was sure of the support ofGermany.
The reason for Germanys part in the outbreak of war was due to atelegram sent to Franz Joseph guaranteeing Austria Germanys support in theevent of a war. This has become known as the Blank Cheque. Austria sent anultimatum to Serbia, which contained unrealistic terms. However Serbia managedto meet all terms except one which would have allowed Austrian army to occupySerbian territory. At this stage Austria could have prevented war but she chosenot to. July 28th, 1914 Austria declares war on Serbia and as a result of thealliance system Europe goes to war. With Britain being the last to enter on thewar on August 5th, 1914.
By 1914 the system of diplomacy in Europe had brokendown. Statesmen were thinking of war as a preventative measure rather than alast resort. Lloyd George remarked that Europe stumbled and staggered intowar (Reasons for War 3). World War 1 was a result of aggression and tensionin Europe; all of Europe played a part in the outbreak of war not just Germany.
World War 1 had many complex causes rather than one main one.BibliographyDelap, S. The Reasons for War. Dublin: The Institute, 1996. Gardner, D.
TheOrigins of War. New York: YTM Archive, 1998. MacDonald, L. 1914. London: MichaelJoseph, 1987. Tierney, M. Europe Since 1870.
Dublin: CJ Fallon, 1993. Terraine,J. The First World War 1914-18. London: Secker & Warburg, 1965. Terraine, J.White Heat.
London: Lee Cooper, 1992. Wohl, R. The Generation of 1914. London:Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1980.European History