World War I largely known as the Great War or the World War until 1939 was a major armed conflict between world powers assembled in two opposite alliances: The ‘Triple Entente’ and the ‘Central Powers’. The former included United Kingdom, France and Russia while the latter comprised of Germany, Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy.
Even though it was the assassination of Franz Ferdinand; the Austrian archduke, a direct cause that led to the occurrence of World War I in July 1914, the definite causes of the war were far more complicated and cannot confined to a single source. It was the result of aggression of European leaderships towards other countries supported by their rising nationalism. Moreover, economic and imperial competition, and the fear of war provoked military alliances and an arms race, further escalating the outbreak of war.
New Imperialism and European powers
From a world history perspective, one of the most evident trends in the history of the late 19th century was the domination of Europeans over Non- Europeans. This domination took many forms ranging from absolute invasion to penetration on economic ground. Almost no area of the globe was free of European merchants, explorers and Christian missionaries.
In literal terms, imperialism can be defined as the policy of extending one’s power and wealth by bringing additional territories under their control. It is traditionally interpreted to mean formal annexation and political rule, while on the other hand it also implies indirect ‘control’ by economic and cultural influences. Europeans colonized Asia and Africa by using military force to take control of local governments and exploiting local economies.
A general greed and lust for the acquisition of territories abroad was realized in Europe after 1815 as no European state was submitting to the domination of another European state. Countries had suffered both, militarily and financially, thus began a scramble for new territories and unknown lands abroad.
Also, Europe witnessed a great industrial activity after 1815. Counties like France, Germany, Britain and others became highly industrialized states, producing a large basket of manufactured goods. These states needed raw material and foreign markets after the increase caused by Industrial Revolution.
Christian missionaries were convinced that the people of Africa and Asia would become “civilized” only if they converted to Christianity and adopted European ways.
Many Europeans even believed in superiority of the white race. They spoke of “the white man’s burden” of carrying the benefits of western civilization to other parts of the world.
Moreover, the ambitions of these states became unbounded and ruthless as each European country became keen to achieve the status of world power. It was one way of making these colonial powers self-sufficient at home.
Scramble of Africa
The scramble of Africa began in the latter...