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Reasons For The Outbreak Of World War I

1340 words - 6 pages

It could be argued that there are four principal reasons for the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914. European countries were forming and reforming alliances against and with each other. Imperialism had many of the big powers extending their country's power and influence by means of military force or diplomacy. Nationalism was growing and the ideal of independence was evolving. Desire for country's to maintain strong military force and also be prepared to use it to defend or protect national interests was at peak. This grew over a period of twenty years culminating in the Great War. The following essay gives a brief outline to the four principal reasons for the outbreak of war.
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European armies and military power had been accelerating over the proceeding twenty years to 1914. This arms race caused much tension between the competing European powers and set the scene for war.
The reason France had entered a military alliance with Russia was to end the political isolation that kept her weak and to undermine the German Empires supremacy, ' In 1892 France and Russia concluded a military agreement, promising to come to each others aid if either were attacked by Germany.' By Russia forming an alliance with France the Russo-German relation started deteriorating. Germany strengthened her relations with Austria-Hungary, so that she had at least one ally in the east against the threat of Russia. In addition, the Balkans situation grew unsettled due to the loss of power of Turkey, which provided territorial and political opportunities to both Russia and Austria-Hungry. It can be argued that this increased the existing tension. Although by the end of the 19th century Britain was friendlier with Germany than France, only a threat to the growth of her Empire could draw Britain into any sort of Anglo-French relation. However, 'German support for the Boers…persuaded Britain to forsake her isolationist posture and gravitate towards the Franco-Russian alliance.' To reinforce diplomatic and military links The Entente Cordiale of 1904 was an agreement, not an alliance, between France and Britain. It created an understanding between Britain and Russia in 1907 beginning the Anglo-Russian Entente. Britain, Russia and France were now allies and Germany allied Austria-Hungry. This split Europe into two major forces and pushed the tension towards breaking point.
By 1900 the British Empire covered over five continents and was facing economic competition, colonial rivalries and conflicting national ambitions with Germany among others. Germany was also jealous of France, who had large colonies in Africa. Other countries were intimidated by, 'Germany's rapid and remarkable economic expansion which also provoked wide spread envy and alarm.' Austria had annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908, and the Serbs with their increasing territory and influence gained from the Balkan wars of 1912 and 1913, caused concern for Austria's ambitions. In addition Germany had developed war plans between 1897 and 1905 to protect Germany in the possibility of a war on two fronts if France and Russia became allies. This plan became known as Schlieffen plan. This plan was prepared and if acted on could play a crucial role in shaping the course of war as it included moving through neutral Belgium before moving into north-western France. Britain and Belgium were joined in the treaty of 1836 which stipulated that Britain would come to Belgium's aid if attacked. So in effect the stage was set for a war in Europe which would pull Britain into it if the Schlieffen plan was acted upon. Many people refer to this period in history as a tinder box awaiting a spark.
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