Three Causes Of World War I

2478 words - 10 pages

Three Causes of World War I

World War I and its consequences have dominated European history since
1914. Because of the bitter controversy over the post-war peace
treaties, the origins of the war continued to be an issue of utmost
political importance in the years to come. The Great War had its
roots in 1870 in the grand expansion and uncontrolled ambitions of
Bismarck and the new Germany (Wolfson et al 1997). Imperialism, which
began to emerge around the turn of the 20th century also played a
decisive role. Fights over the colonies contributed to the
establishment of complex set of international alliances, which helped
to destabilize the European balance of power and when combined with
the third factor - instability in the Balkan region - inevitably
sparked off the First World War. Besides the three main causes, they
were also other conditions, like the arms race between Germany and
Britain, a process of social-economic modernization in Europe, the
increasing importance of international prestige, the underestimation
of the counterpart’s power, which also contributed to the outbreak of
the war. As Joll (1990) argues, there were also philosophical facts
that had great impact in the evolution of the tragic events of 1914.
The prevalent Darwinian ideas of the survival of the fittest, of the
struggle for existence were among European statesmen prior 1914.

The Versailles Treaty, signed in June 1919 unambiguously blamed
Germany, the military regime of the Kaiser, William II and his allies
for causing all the loss and damage they imposed upon Europe between
1914-1918. In the eighty- five years since the war ended however
there has been a growing awareness, that the origins of the war were
far more complex. Historians have studied not only the tangle of
alliances and treaties which existed before the war but also the
connections between the political and military spheres, the influence
of domestic policies, and the national myths and traditions (Merriman
1996).

Looking back in history, the Franco-Prussian War (1870) completely
changed the balance of power in Europe and strengthened Germany’s
position as the leading continental power. The annexation of
Alsace-Lorraine never healed the wounds in France, and poisoned the
relations between the two countries down to 1914. European politics
from the 1880s was dominated by a dense web of alliances and treaties,
which aimed to consolidate Germany’s position in Europe. However,
Bismarck’s international relations were only successful in the
short-term and in the long-term they were plagued by insecurity and
mistrust. As one alliance developed, it aroused the distrust of those
states excluded from it, which then created counter-alliances (Joll
1990). French hostility was inevitable but Britain and Russia had also
become deeply...

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