What Were The Background Causes Of World War One And Which Nations Were Responsible For It?

1776 words - 7 pages

"Oh, if only I knew." Even Bethmann-Hollweg had to voice his frustration in isolating a major cause of the First World War. In fact, at the beginning of the 20th Century, a place where "Europe was the centre of the universe" (Petrie), World War I resulted from a number of factors: nationalism, imperialism, militarism and he alliance system in Europe. All the European powers bear responsibility. Germany in particular, risked war, but did not plan it.Bismarck said "If ever there is another war in Europe, it will come out of some damned silly thing in the Balkans," -this proved correct. At the beginning of the 20th century, nationalism was "a new religion that roused the deepest emotions of mankind" (Schapiro). A virulent strain of South Slav nationalism, especially within the Serbian and Slavic provinces of the multiethnic Austro-Hungarian state emerged which threatened the troubled Habsburg Empire. Serbia had ambitions towards the South Slavs, wishing to incorporate them into a much enlarged Serbia, and was supported by big brother, Russia. Austrian politicians believed that an active policy of expansion in the Balkans was the best cure for their Empire's internal stagnation. So, Aehrenthal announced the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908. Serbia was furious as it meant the permanent exclusion of Yugo-Slav territory from "Greater Serbia". Russia veered threateningly on Serbia's side, but Germany came like "a knight in shining armour" to Austria and convinced Russia to back down. Russia was in no condition for war. Serbian and Austria-Hungarian relations turned fierce. The prelude to WWI was the crisis that arose during the Balkan Wars (1912-13) which brought tension between Serbia and Austria to high pitch. Serbia's success had convinced Austria that the "Serbia question" had to be solved: Serbia not only gained territory, but confidence. Serbia defied a decision of the London Conference and refused to evacuate troops from Albania. Austria ordered Serbia to evacuate her troops or face war. On Russia's advice, Serbia accepted the ultimatum. Slav and Teutonic hatred violent animosity, and Serbia began a vigorous Pan-Slavic propaganda among he Yugo-Slavs in Austria with the object to disintegrate the Dual Monarchy. Thus, the Austrians were keen to use Franz Ferdinand's assassination (the immediate cause of WWI) as excuse to get rid of Serbia. Joachim Remak labels WWI as the "Third Balkan War", thus laying the responsibility of war on the Serbs and Austrians, but: "Serbia was right in wanting to expand... Austria on wanting to survive....Everyone was right and everyone was wrong". Certainly, the situation in the Balkans was a factor in WWI, but "The crisis in the Balkans was the occasion, rather than the cause of the first World War" (John Lowe) there were many other causes as well.Too much emphasis has been placed on the rigidity of the Alliance System as a cause of the First World War: "By the beginning of 1914...the alliance system in Europe...

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