What Were The Major Causes Of The First World War?

1074 words - 5 pages

"The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of itself and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies. "(Treaty of Versailles, Article 231)

Immediately after the peace agreement, November 1918, solely Germany was held responsible for the outbreak of the War. In this essay I will question that statement by emphasizing the attitude of the main powers and take into account other causes historians assume, especially the current ideological ideas in Europe and the events in the Balkans. Nevertheless, I will conclude that none of these reasons were solely the cause of the outbreak, but the combination of them all, and especially hegemonic ambitions and the lack of diplomacy.
The ideological disposition in Europe’s society was greatly affected by a high estimation of social Darwinism, the interpretation of which got pretty close to nationalism, resulting from successful imperialism. To conquer the “inferior”race was seen as “White Man's Burden”1, but the outcome was a rivalry between the colonizing states; “nationalism and a mixture of chauvinism and racism were prevalent”2. Another factor I would like to mention is the technical and industrial progress accompanied with economic growth. This “had turned Europe into a veritable box of inflammable tinder”3, because it came along with a great esteem for militarism. Generally you might say that this atmosphere was the foundation of the outbreak, due to the fact that without the support of society war is much less likely to break out.
To examine Germany’s guilt you have to understand how it thought of itself. Due to successful unification wars, it considered itself as a powerful nation, that in the Germans' opinion was

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proven by its great economic growth. Germany wanted to “make its presence felt”4 In particular, it wanted to be regarded, understood and treated as an equal power to Britain, Russia and France. Actually, you could go so far as to say that Germany just wanted to “gain its place in the sun”5 as well by acquiring colonies, while the great powers considered this as a threat to their current hegemonic status. They did not want to share the power, or let Germany participate in the “Great Power Club”6.
Here, I particularly want to point out the long-lasting disputes with France concerning Alsace and Lorraine, because its hostility and suspicion was regarding its history not unsubstantiated. Secondly, Great Britain was concerned about Germany's new pursuits, particularly as it started to build up its navy “as an essential prerequisite for a greater international role”7, which was seen in Britain as a deliberate provocation. Here you might refer to Morgenthau and his idea of states as egoistic power maximisers and the security dilemma as its outcome.
Due to this constellation of...

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