Monday, June 20, 2011

World War I

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Causes of World War I

World War One or The Great War as it became known, occurred due to many causes, some of which still remain unexposed today. Many believe that the most obvious trigger for the war was the assassination of the Heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie on the 8th June 114. However there was more to the onset of this war than just the assassination. It was also the result of leaders aggression towards other countries and ideologies such as nationalism, imperialism and militarism along with the prominent alliance systems and the arms race which increased the escalating tensions that lead to the outbreak of the first world war in 1914.

During the late nineteenth and into the twentieth century, nationalism was a prominent movement that had spread itself across Europe and fed the fires in pre-war conditions. All major powers had strong feelings towards the concepts of supporting their own nation and believed that their political & economic goals came before any other public loyalty. However it was this exaggerated form of patriotism that increased the possibility of war because a nations goals inevitably came in conflict with the goals of one or more other nations. In addition nationalistic pride caused nations to magnify small disputes into major issues and soon turned Frenchman against German and Russian against Austrian.

Imperial competition also played a major role in the act of increasing the ever growing tensions among the divided countries of Europe. Great Britain, Germany and France fought for economic expansion in Africa after the Industrial Revolution increased manufacturing and forced the need for more foreign markets. Though France and Britain managed to resolve their differences the friction among the rest of the great powers escalated into several crises in Morocco and the Balkans which nearly ended in war.

The first crisis occurred in Morocco in 1905 when Germany announced its support of independence for Morocco , the African colony which Britain had given France in 1904. The British defended the French, and war was avoided by an international conference in Algeciras in 106 which allowed France to make Morocco a French protectorate.

Another conflict was incited by the Austria-Hungarian annexation of the former Turkish province of Bosnia in 1908 . The Greater Serbian movement had as an object the acquisition of Slavic Bosnia, so Serbia threatened war on Austria-Hungary. Russia had pledged their support to Serbia, so they began to mobilize, which caused Germany, allied with Austria-Hungary, to threaten war on Russia. The beginning of World War I was postponed when Russia backed down, but relations between Austria- Hungary and Serbia were greatly strained. A second Moroccan crisis occurred in 1911 when Germany sent a warship to Agadir in protest of French supremacy in Morocco, claiming the French had violated the agreement at Algeciras. Britain again rose to Frances defence and gave the Germans stern warnings. Germany agreed to allow France a free hand in Morocco in exchange for part of the French Congo. In the Balkan War, the Balkan States drove the Turks back to Constantinople and fought among themselves over territory. Tensions between Serbia and Austria-Hungary increased when Austria -Hungary forced Serbia to abandon some of its gains.

Tension grew even higher when European nation-states further embarked on vast projects of imperial expansion. The Franco-Prussian War in 1871 resulted in the Frances loss of the province of Alasce-Lorraine to Germany. It meant that they would always be on opposite sides and France could not wait to get their revenge and recover the land that they lost. It also meant that they would have no second thoughts to launch an all out attack on the German defences with a war so close.

Then there was Austria-Hungary which controlled many lands that their neighbours felt belonged to them. Serbia wanted Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy wanted the Trentino and Trieste regions. There was also Russia which had problems within its own boundaries; for Russia contained many different nationalities and many were also seeking independence.

Nationalism and imperialism also encouraged public support for military build ups and for a countries use of force to achieve its goals. All the countries within the hostile camps were building large armies and navies during the pre-war years. As a by-product, a class of professional and powerful military officers developed and tended to dominate the civil authorities. In addition, before the conflict happened, the militaries of each country had drawn up complete plans for mobilization and these plans only awaited the go-ahead signal. The existence of secret battle plans stimulated espionage, which in turn aroused greater hatred and fear.

Another major conflict that caused the outbreak of the Great War was what is known as the arms race due to paranoia and the need for each of the nations to be the biggest and best. With the hostile divisions of the nations of Europe there came the expansion of armies and navies. The standing armies of France and Germany alone doubled in size between 1870 and 1914. Naval expansion was also extremely competitive, particularly between Germany and Great Britain. By 1888, the British had established the principle that in order to maintain naval superiority in the event of war they would have to have a navy two and a half times as large as the second-largest navy. This motivated the British to launch the Dreadnought in 1906 and the

Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 had demonstrated how effective these battleships were. As Britain increased their output of battleships, Germany correspondingly stepped up their naval production, including the Dreadnought. Although efforts for world-wide disarmament were made at the Hague Conferences of 1888 and 1907, international rivalry caused the arms race to continue to feed on itself making war just a matter of time.

Two opposing alliances developed by the Bismarckian diplomacy after the Franco-Prussian War was one of the major causes of the war. In order to diplomatically isolate France, Bismarck formed the Three Emperors League in 1887, which was an alliance between Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary. Then in 1888 , Bismarck took advantage of Italian resentment toward France and formed the Triple Alliance between Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungry. In 1880 Bismarck was dismissed from his office and France took the opportunity to gain an ally, therefore , in 1881 the Franco-Russian Entente was formed. Then in 1904 Britain and France put aside all their major imperialistic conflict and formed the Entente Cordiale. As a result , the Triple Entente , a coalition between Great Britain, France, and Russia, countered the Triple Alliance. Now Europe was divided up into two armed camps and the tension grew so intense that war was on the brink of breaking ou

Needing little excuse to fight their hostile neighbours, the angry nations erupted into World War I when Austro-Hungarian Archduke Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated by a young Serbian nationalist. Austria-Hungary turned around and declared war on Serbia, forcing Serbias traditional ally Russia to join the fighting. This set the aforementioned alliances in motion, pulling European superpowers into the war to defend each other.

As illustrated it was more than just the assassination of Franz Ferdinand that began the Great War. The assassination was merely what triggered it after Europe had reached its breaking point on Jun 8, 1914. There were many causes of the First World War and it was the accumulation of tension amongst the Great Powers caused by increasing nationalism, imperialism and militarism that set the ball rolling. The division of Europe also caused a hostile and tense environment and the war became inevitable due to the immense pressure building up in Europe at the time. Though many believed the assassination could have gone by unnoticed in less turbulent times, but Europe was already a box of matches waiting to be lit. The assassination simply provided the spark necessary to ignite the continent.

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