Essays of the World War One

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Essays of the World War One

  1. Internal conditions of the Powers led to the First World War.” Discuss.

Each of the European powers were passing through a political and social crisis in 1914; and in some cases the problems which confronted them were solved or at least postponed by the outbreak of war. To a certain extent, which differed in different countries, the internal problems faced by the governments were responsible for the decision to enter into the war.

    1. Austria-Hungary

The foreign policy of one country at least, Austria-Hungary, was wholly the product of its internal problems. Austria-Hungary depended for its very existence on its international relations. By the early 20th century, the growing influence of independent national states on the borders of Austria-Hungary gave a new focus for national movements within the monarchy. The Southern Slavs began to look to Serbia for support and to forget their own religious and cultural differences because of their grievances against the Habsburg State. Austria-Hungary believed that the establishment of some sort of control over Serbia was essential for the survival of their state. So, the decision for the war in 1914 was the result of a mistaken belief that only vigorous action against Serbia could solve the problem of the Slav nationalists within the Empire and that Austria-Hungary’s internal problems could only be solved by an active and aggressive foreign policy.

    1. Britain

The British government in the years before 1914 faced a series of internal political crises.

  1. Starting from the early 20th century, there was a gradual but obvious decline in the industrial supremacy of the country, a leading position which was being taken over by the USA and Germany. Inside the country, industrial growth proceeded in a much slower pace than in the 19th century. Adding to this economic problem was the static or even declining standard of living among the average workers.

  2. There was general unrest among British labour. From 1910 to 1914, numerous strikes broke out, causing danger to the economy and posing a threat to law and order as well. As a consequence, signs of a new militancy in the trade unions began to emerge.

  3. An even more serious social problem than the industrial unrest was the militant campaign for women’s suffrage. The militant suffragettes launched a campaign of violence to draw attention to their demands. Order in the society was disturbed.

  4. Internally, political stability was all along threatened by the long existing party strife between the liberals and the conservatives. After 1906, such struggle assumed the form of opposition between the Conservative-dominated House of Lords and the Liberal-dominated House of Commons. From then on, the Conservatives always used the majority in the upper house to block liberal bills, hampering the reform program.

  5. Finally, the introduction of a bill to grant Home Rule to Ireland led to a deadlock over the future of the province of Ulster.

By 1914, the constitutional crisis over the House of Lords had been resolved, but the other problems were still far from solution. The outbreak of war, at least to some, meant that some of them could be suspended for the time being, and when the war ended their nature had changed.

    1. France

The period between 19111 and the outbreak of war was a period of considerable political tension not only because the industrial unrest, but also because French politics were dominated by three major controversies. These were the debate about electoral reform and the proposal to introduce proportional representation, the question of an income tax and, above all, the move to introduce, or rather reintroduce, a three-year term of compulsory military service, instead of the two-year period adopted in 1905. The fragmentation of the center groups in parliament because of these issues meant that between Jan. 1912 and the outbreak of war there was seven different governments and six different prime ministers – a rapid turnover even by the standards of the Third Republic. Again, the fighting of a foreign war would have a unifying effect on the country.

    1. Russia

The Russia government was also faced with a lot of internal problems. These included the discontent with the power of the duma, the poor social and economic conditions. Thus, many conservative nationalists, including the Tsar himself, were convinced that if Russia was to survive and the autocracy was to be maintained, she must reassert her position as a Great Power to compensate for the humiliation of the defeat by Japan.

    1. Germany

The decision of Germany for war had been much affected by the internal problems in Germany. (refer to the question about the factors for erratic German policies)

It is difficult to point to any single factor determining the power’s entry into the First World War. The recent approach of historians’ analysis of the reasons for the outbreak of the war based on exploring the internal circumstances of every country surely is an adequate one. Yet, the degree of importance of internal problems leading to war varied from one country to another. It is fairer to say that the war was a result of different forces, both internal and external, operating together.

  1. To what extent do you think the outbreak of the Great War (19114-18) was essentially a tragedy of miscalculation?

To some extent, the outbreak of the First World War was a tragedy of miscalculation. Austria declared war on Serbia in the hope that it would only be a short and local war. Germany had miscalculated the risk of a two-front war. German war plan (Schlieffen Plan) inevitably involved France, Russia, Belgium and Britain. Rapid arms build-up, which resulted in the possession of advanced weapons, made the powers develop a war mentality. No power had been able to perceive the extent of damages brought by a general war, which would last 51 months. They had believed the Third Balkan War would be a short war like the First and Second Balkan Wars. This serious misconception brought harm to all European powers. On the other hand, World War I was made inevitable by the long-term antagonism between the powers, as a result of rival nationalist movements; secret alliances; militarism and imperial clashes.
Miscalculation of major European Powers leading to war:

A. Austria:

Austria was the power which started World War One by declaring war on Serbia on 28th July, 1914. it was due to her desire to crush Serbia (briefly explain Austro-Serbian rivalry since 1878)…… Austria hoped it would be a short, localized car like the first and second Balkan Wars. But she was prepared to risk a general war, as evidenced from her obtaining German support before her harsh ultimatum to Serbia.

B. Germany:

Germany had also seriously miscalculated in her belief that the war in 1914 would be a short war. Her second serious miscalculation was her military’s reliance on the Schlieffen Plan as workable.

The Schlieffen Plan was a German war plan drawn up before 1914. Its essence was to avoid a two-front war for Germany, by first swiftly conquering France (western front) through Belgium and then concentrating on the eastern front against Russia. The plan was based on assumptions. The first assumption was that Russia would need at least 6 weeks to mobilize, thus it would give Germany enough time to conquer France. But the war against France became a protracted one. So in the end Germany still had to fight a two-front war and lost it.

The Schlieffen Plan gave the German military confidence. The War Party supported Austria and Kaiser William II gave Austria the Blank Cheque. The Plan inevitably involved not only France and Russia, but also Britain. Britain’s security partly depended on a neutral Belgium opposite the English Channel. Thus Britain was drawn into World War One when Germany attacked France through Belgium on 4th August 1914.

C. There was rapid arms build-up before 1914, by which the powers amassed deadly weapons. It led to the war mentality among them and made them less willing to reconcile their difference by peaceful means. Thus in 1914 the diplomats failed to bring a peaceful settlement and war broke out.

D. None of the powers had statesmen who would perceive that this war would last 51 months and would have such catastrophic effects. In fact the British soldiers were told they would return home for Christmas 1914, before they set out to the Continent. This lack of perception was also due to two reasons. First, they were misled by the short duration of the first and second Balkan Wars (The first one lasted several months and the second one lasted only one month). Second, since the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, for 99 years there had not been a general war in Europe.
Other factors leading to the outbreak of war in 1914:

  1. The European diplomats in June-July 1914 lacked time. Events after the assassination of Austrian Crown Prince Ferdinand happened so quickly that, before the diplomats could try to find a means to settle the dispute, Austria had already declared war on Serbia.

  2. Both German and Austrian governments were dominated by the military in 1914. There was also a sharp division in the German government between the German Foreign Office (dominated by civilian diplomats) which counseled peace, and the German General Staff (dominated by the military and supported by the Kaiser) which supported war in 1914. This division added to the confusion and made war inevitable.

  3. Long-term antagonism between the powers due to:

    1. national rivalries, especially in the Balkans

    2. imperial and economic clashes

    3. rival alliances by 1907

    4. armament race

    5. series of crises, which increased tension and poisoned the relation of atmosphere in Europe.

  1. The First World War was brought about by excessive military and naval considerations.” Assess the weight of these in relation to the other political and economic causes of the war.

Undoubtedly, the excessive military and naval considerations had brought about the outbreak of the First World War. It was the armament race among the nations that created the war atmosphere. Yet, the importance of the political and economic factors could not be neglected. It was in fact the political factors including the tension created by the spread of nationalism and the formation of the alliance system that necessitated the armament race in Europe. It was also the economic factors leading to the colonial rivalries that directed the statesmen to carry on further military and naval considerations. So in assessing the significance of the powers’ excessive military and naval considerations in relation to the other political and economic causes of the war, although they were still important, the former remains as subsidiary to the latter.

Considering about the military and naval factors, it should be traced back to the ‘blood and iron’ policy brought about by Bismarck. Prussia’s victories had clearly demonstrated the importance of the efficient organization of man-power resources, their armament, and their speedy and effective deployment on the battlefield. After the wars of 1866 and 1870, efficiency and speed seemed more important than ever; and in succeeding years, all the continental powers made frantic-efforts to improve their war-making capacity. The European countries then carried out military conscription. As a result of compulsory military training, people began to regard war as a part of life. They were prepared to pay higher taxes to support armament programs. Large sums of money were spent on military and naval equipment. After the dismissal of Bismarck in 1890, the armament race between Britain and Germany became very keen. The new Kaiser, William II, wanted to have a strong army and a large navy. In 1898 and 1900, he passed the Naval Laws for building a strong navy. From 1909 to 1911, Germany had built 9 dreadnoughts, which were more powerful than all previous battleships. The British were alarmed. They believed that the Germans wanted to take over their control of the sea. So Britain started their own naval build-up in 1903. She started to produce the dreadnoughts. By, 1911, Britain was far ahead of Germany in the naval race. Following Germany and Britain, other European nations also entered into this naval armaments race.
The effects of the armaments race were disastrous. The arms race in which all the major powers were involved had contributed to the sense that the war was bound to come, and sooner rather than later. It caused serious financial difficulties for all the governments involved in it; and jet, they were convinced that there was no way of stopping it. The continuing international tension and the strains of the armaments race each contributed to a mood which war was accepted almost as a relief. Besides, the armaments race was, to a certain extent, responsible for the division of Europe into two war camps. Feeling challenged by Germany, Britain decided to break her isolation. She made her alliance with Japan in 1902 as the first step. Then in 1903, she formed the Dual Entente with France. Finally, Britain, France and Russia, bypassing all their differences, concluded the Triple Entente in 1907.Juxtaposing the Triple Alliance formed in 1882, Europe was divided into two camps.
In fact, just the armaments race was insufficient to explain the outbreak of the First World War. Other factors had to be considered. Considering the political aspects, the force of nationalism was very important in leading to the war. First, nationalism had created a lot of dangerous movements in Europe. The desire of the subject races to rule by themselves by obtaining independence intertwined with the desire of the powers to expand their territories and created a lot of tensions in the Balkans. Here, Serbia wanted to extend her influence by carrying out the Greater Serbia Movement. Serbia was always supported by Russia who started the Pan-Slav Movement, which advocated the unity of the Slavs in Europe, including those in the Balkans. This movement, was of course opposed by Austria, who wanted to expand into the Balkans herself and was supported by Germany, who in fact had the desire to unite all the Germans in Europe together. It was the creation of conflicts by these movements in the Balkans that finally started the war when the Sarajevo Assassination happening in the capital of Bosnia took place.
Nationalism also drove France to take revenge on Germany. Feeling humiliated by her defeat in the Franco-Prussian war in 1971 and the signing of the Treaty of Frankfurt, France and Germany became enemies. It was primarily because of national struggles between France and Germany that led Bismarck to attempt to isolate France by means of a series of defensive alliances so that Germany could be consolidated internally and a French revenge war averted. French response in seeking an ally and later British involvement in the system eventually divided Europe into two rival camps. The tension built by the nationalism and the alliance system further convinced the powers to speed up their military and naval reforms. So, in fact, the factors were intertwined together.
On the other hand, economic factors were also significant. In the second part of the 19th century, industrialization had been carried out successfully in Europe. Great powers like Britain and France started colonial expansion to obtain overseas markets and sources of raw materials for their industrial development. Businessmen also forced their governments to open rooms for their capital investments. As a consequence, it led to territorial expansion and the mature of imperialism. However, antagonisms among the powers were unavoidable. International tension was further built up by crises like the Fashoda Incident and the Moroccan crises. Besides, commercial and economic cooperation between different countries paved the way of forming alliances. French capital had flowed to Russia resulting in the formation of the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1893.
In s nutshell, the excessive military and naval considerations were one of those factors leading to the outbreak of the First World War. It was the political and economic factors which directed the military and naval developments. It was the tension created by the nationalist movements, the formation of the alliance system and the imperialistic activities that necessitated the armaments race in Europe. In fact, the factors were interrelated with one another. One was affected by the others while it affected the others in turn. Political and economic factors were like the ‘spirit’ and ‘brain’, while the military and naval factors were just like the nervous system and body. Without the spirit and brain, it could not get the nervous system and body to function properly.

4. The Alliance System – an underlying cause for the First World War

( I ) How Europe was divided into two camps:
By 1907, the European powers were divided into 2 rival camps. On one side was the Triple Alliance, including Germany, Austria and Italy; on the other side was the Triple Entente which included Britain, France and Russia.
A. The first camp was the Triple Alliance:
( 1 ) The first step was the forming of the Dreikaiserbund in 1873. Bismarck brought Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia together. His purposes were to isolate France and to keep Austria and Russia in friendly term.

( 2 ) The second step was the forming of Dual Alliance, 1879. The Balkan Crisis (1875-8) angered Russia and it was importance for Germany to keep Austria-Hungary under good terms. Russia and it was angry with Austria and Germany, thus the Dreikaiserbund was not renewed. So, Germany and Austria-Hungary signed the Dual Alliance in 1879. They promised to help each other if one being attacked by Russia.

( 3 ) In 1882, Italy joined the Dual Alliance, forming the Triple Alliance. France was interested in Tunisia. Under Bismarck’s encouragement, France got Tunisia in 1881. Italy also hoped to get this place and she was angered by French action. She thus joined the Dual Alliance.

B. The second camp was the Triple Entente

Although Bismarck had attempted to win back the friendship of Russia by signing the Second Dreikaiserbund in 1881 and the Reinsurance Treaty in 1887, William II allowed the latter ended in 1890. Being abandoned, Russia then sought to have another ally.

( 1 ) The first step was the forming of the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1893. Germany followed an aggressive policy under Kaiser William II, both France and Russia were threatened. France had been long isolated and wanted to break the isolation. In

order to get the friendship of Russia, she gave loans to Russia. Their relationship was thus improved. They then signed a secret military agreement in 1893 and promised to support each other in a German attack.

( 2 ) In 1904, the Anglo-French Entente was signed between Britain and France. Their common fear of Germany and the improvement in their relationship after the Fashoda Incident were the factors drawing them together.

( 3 ) Finally, the second camp, the Triple Entente was formed in 1907 by Britain, France and Russia. After Russia was defeated in the Russo-Japanese war, British fear of Russian expansion in East Asia was removed. In Europe, both were alarmed by the growing ambition of Germany. Under the encouragement of France, Britain and Russia settled their disputes in India and Persia and the three countries signed the Triple Entente. Europe was then divided into two camps.

( II ) Factors for leading to the division of Europe into two camps:
A. After the Franco-Prussian War, Bismarck started the alliance system to keep peace in Europe so that he had time to strengthen Germany, the newly unified country. Bismarck also started the alliance system to isolate France. He feared that France might start a war of revenge. Bismarck hoped to use the system to make friends with all the powers and so France would be isolated. On the other hand, the rapid growth of German strength and the Triple Alliance scared other European powers, such as Britain, France and Russia. As a result, they formed another alliance of their own to counter the Triple Alliance .

Neither, it must be emphasized, was constructed as a preparation for war. Both were attempts to prevent wars by appearing so strongly embattled with allies that the other would not dare to launch an attack. Just as Bismarck’s original system of alliances had been devised to keep the peace, so too, the system of rival alliances which grew up after his retirement was intended to keep peace in Europe.

B. Colonialism, economic rivalry and armament race in Europe from 1870 onwards tended to facilitate the growth of alliance system, e.g., Franco-Italian rivalry in Tunisia contributed to the forming of the Triple Alliance, Austro-Russian conflict in the Balkans hastened the forming of the Dual Alliance and urged Russia to seek partner, Anglo-German rivalry in the economic field, in the military aspect, and in the colonies forced Britain to abandon her isolationist policy and formed alliance.
C. Kaiser William II’s aggressive foreign policy was also responsible for the alliance system. It was he who allowed the Reinsurance Treaty to lapse in 1890, and thus losing the friendship of Russia. He also involved Germany in the colonial rivalry, his economic policy alienated other powers, especially Britain and France. His intention to build the Berlin-Baghdad Railway threatened Britain and France and Russia. He also started the armament race and challenged other powers; the compulsory conscription threatened security of France, his naval policy, including the building of Dreadnoughts, deepening of the Kiel Canal, and the Schlieffen Plan threatened Britain. Kaiser William II’s aggression encouraged the other powers, including France, Russia and Britain to join together and a rivalry alliance was formed. Europe was thus divided into two armed camps which were hostile towards each other.
D. Russia was defeated in the war with Japan (1904-5). She thus put all her attention to the Balkans and had conflicts with Austria. Russia was eager to join into a camp to strengthen her own position.
( III ) How the alliance system increased the possibility of war:
Some historians like W. F. Norton and R. R. Palmer regard it a very important factor contributing to WWI:

  1. Since the members of each side were bound by alliances to give military support whenever war broke out between any one of the members and her enemy. Thus, a local quarrel between two powers would become a general war involving all the powers. That is why after the Sarajevo Assassination, Russia intervened on behalf of Serbia, Germany also felted obliged to come to the defense of Austria. So, the World War was started.

  2. Since some alliances were kept secret, they produced suspicion, fear and uncertainty among the powers. As a result, many crises were created, e.g., in order to test the strength of the Anglo-French Entente and the Triple Entente, Kaiser William II provoked the Moroccan Crises.

  3. Confident of the military support given by their allied members, the powers were more ambitious in annexing territories. As a result, international crises occurred among the powers more frequently.

  4. The terms of the alliances sometimes required military commitment and this therefore encouraged armament race.

However, some historians such as A. J. P. Taylor feel the importance of the alliance system should not be overemphasized.

  1. A. J. P. Taylor points out that generally speaking, the system was defensive rather than aggressive. A power concluded an alliance to strengthen its status quo so that its rivals dared not declare war on it first. According to W. Carr, sometimes, the alliance system was formed to restrain the activities of their allies. The Dual Alliance Bismarck tried to set up was to restrain Austrian expansion in the Balkan and the Triple Alliance was to restrain Italy in Africa.

  2. There were many weaknesses if the alliances, the fundamental one being the instability if the two alliances.

( 1 ) Italy did not act according to her commitment in the Triple Alliance. She signed secret agreements with France and Prussia in 1902 and 1909.

( 2 ) In the Bosnia Crisis (1908), Britain and France did not support Russian claim to the Strains. In 1913, Britain cooperated with Germany and Austria-Hungary in stopping Serbia, an ally of Russia from annexing Albania.

( 3 ) G. W. Trevelyan argues that at no moment was Britain willing to convert the Entente with France and Russia into Alliance. Everyone was unwilling to decide beforehand what her action would be until the actual occasion should arise.

  1. Not all the powers entered the War as a result of their commitment to the alliances.

( 1 ) Britain declared war on Germany because the Belgian neutrality guaranteed by the Treaty of London (1839) was violated by Germany.

( 2 ) Italy declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary, her former allies, after the Entente powers had promised Italy territorial concession.

5. Explain how nationalism led to the First World War

( I ) Definition
Nationalism is the desire of the people to govern themselves as one nation and to keep their own way of life. In the century before WWI, nationalism in Europe took into 2 forms.

  1. For those nations that had not yet achieved national unity and independence, nationalism meant a strong desire for national unity and independence. Such national spirit resulted in the unification of Italy and Germany and caused the different races in the Balkan Peninsula to revolt against their Turkish ruler. This intensified the Eastern Question.

  2. For those nations that had already national unity and independence, nationalism meant a strong desire for national glory and prestige. Extreme nationalists believed that their country was always right, making it difficult for the European nations to agree on anything peacefully.

To a very great extent, it was these two types of nationalism that complicated the European scene and intensified the international rivalries that led to the outbreak of the First World War.
( II ) Nationalism created dangerous movements
By the early 20th century , nationalism had created dangerous movements which were to lead Europe to war.

  1. The Balkan Question (The Eastern Question);

  2. The Greater Serbian Movement;

  3. The Pan-Slav Movement;

  4. The Pan-German Movement;

  5. The revenge movement in France.

Beyond doubt, the tensions released means that the war was inevitable.
( III ) Nationalism led to the alliance system
The primacy of nationalism in provoking the war can be seen in that, first, it initiated the Alliance System. It was primarily because of national struggles between France and Germany that led Bismarck to attempt to isolate France by means by a series of defensive alliances so that Germany could be consolidated internally and a French revenge war averted. Thus, the Dual Alliance of 1879 and the Triple Alliance in 1882 were formed. French response in seeking an ally and later British involvement in the system eventually divided Europe into two rival camps, the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente.

Secondly, nationalism determined the pattern of alliance. The fact that Germany was to have conflicts with France, Britain and Russia together and that Austria conflicted with Russia in the Balkan largely determined Germany and Austria were to confront France, Britain and Russia. Moreover, the lack of fundamental conflict between Italy and the Entente powers also explained why Italy should be drawing away from the Central powers.

Thirdly, nationalism, apart from initiating and shaping the two rival camps, also provided sources of conflicts for the two camps. Thus, Franco-German struggle in Morocco led to confrontation between Germany and Austria on the hand and the Entente powers on the other. Also, Austro-Serbian conflicts in the Balkans were elements of conflict between the Austro-German alliance and the Entente allies.
(IV) Nationalism led to other causes of the War
For national prestige and interests, nationalism also led to the armament race and the colonial and economic rivalries among the European powers, which were other important factors for the outbreak of the First World War. To maintain their own military and naval might, there was a keen armament race between Britain and Germany. No country would prefer to see herself lad behind in the colonial activities.

Finally, nationalism underlined the immediate cause of the War. The Sarajevo assassination, the Austrian declaration of war should be understood in terms of the basic national struggle between Austria and Serbia. The involvement of Russia, Germany and France in due order also can be explained in terms of conflicts among the 3 powers.

In short, nationalism is a broad milieu out of which all the other factors contributing to World War I can be understood and identified. Its effects were to involve the powers in a series of conflicts and struggles which culminated into the War.
6. How far was Germany responsible for the outbreak of World War One?

  1. Introduction

From 1890 to 1914, Kaiser William II of Germany adopted an aggressive expansionist policy which aroused international unrest and led to the First World War. To a large extent, Germany was responsible for bringing about this War.

  1. Role of Germany

    1. Alliance System

Firstly, the alliance system was started by Germany in 1870s. Under the rule of Bismarck, the alliance system was defensive with the aim to isolate France after the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. Bismarck first made alliance with Russia and Austria and later Italy. The Triple Alliance formed by Germany, Italy and Austria was finally formed in 1882.

For the sake of revenge as well as for national security, France signed the Dual Alliance with Russia in 1894. Later, France drew Britain to her side and in 1907, the Triple Entente was formed by Britain, France and Russia.


  1. Europe was by then divided into 2 rival camps, the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance. This was important for it might enlarge local war into a European war.

  2. The alliance system became offensive in nature. It led to fear and suspicion among nation states in different camps, thus it speed up armament race and created atmosphere for war.

  3. The alliance system also became agent for supporting the allies to obtain colonies, e.g. Austrian expansion in the Balkans was encouraged by Germany

Germany should be responsible for creating this situation.

    1. Armament race

Germany was responsible for armament race. She was the first country to start military conscription in Europe. From 1890 to 1914,

  1. Germany had naval race with Britain by building Dreadnoughts, deepening Kiel Canal.

  2. Germany made military plan in preparation for war – the ‘Schlieffen Plan’. Having this plan, Germany did not spend time on negotiation and started war right away.

  3. She was the first country that had withdrawn from the Hague Conference. Her refusal to limit armaments further accelerated armament race.

So, war was inevitable when both sides of the armed camps were prepared.

    1. Economic rivalry – imperialism

Thirdly, the economic rivalry between Germany and other countries also contributed to the outbreak of the War. After the founding of the German Empire in 1870, Germany developed heavy industry. By 1890, because of industrialization in Germany, she needed to find markets and this led to rivalry with British industry. In Africa, the British plan to build a railway from Cairo to Cape was blocked by her . They also had conflicts in the Boer Wars, 1899-1902. In 1905, 1908, 1911, she rivalled with France in the three Moroccan crises. Her building of Berlin-Baghdad Railway again caused Russian and British fear.


  1. On the whole, the German economic expansion caused fear and intensified tension in Europe.

  2. It worsened the relation between alliance camps but tightened each camp. It paved the way for the war.

    1. Nationalism

Fourthly, Germany sponsored the Pan-German Movement which aimed at uniting all the Germans of central Europe under one German state. It came into conflicts with Pan-Slavism which was under the leadership of Russia. Thus, it created ill-feeling between Germany and Russia. When Russia backed Serbia in the quarrel with Austria in 1914, Germany was ready to support Austria, a German nation.

    1. Responsibility for immediate causes

Last but not the least, Germany was responsible for the immediate causes of the war.

  1. After the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand at Sarajevo, Germany gave unconditional support, the ‘blank cheque’ to Austria, so Austria was emboldened to declare war on Serbia. If Austria was guilty of provoking the First World War, Germany had encouraged her.

  2. In an attempt to defeat France within the shortest time as scheduled by the Schlieffen Plan, Germany had to invade her by way of Belgium, whose neutrality was guaranteed by the Treaty of London 1839. When the request to withdraw the German troops was rejected, Britain declared war on her.

So Germany would be responsible for making a local war into a world war.
(III) Summary
To a large extent, Germany was responsible for the war, but it did not mean that Germany had to bear all the war guilt. Other powers also had their responsibility:

  1. Britain had accelerated the armament race by building Dreadnoughts.

  2. France had created a rival camp through series of ententes.

  3. Austria had desired to crush Serbia once and for all.

  4. Russia was ready to support Serbia.

Summing it up, it was the German policies interacting with the foreign policies of other powers that finally led to the outbreak of the war.

  1. Examine the impact of the Congress of Berlin (1878) on political development in Europe up to 1914.

After the outbreak of the Balkan Crisis in 1875, Russia sent troops to help the Balkans to get independence from the control of the Ottoman Empire in the Russo-Turkish War in 1877. She defeated the Turks and forced them to sign the Treaty of San Stefano in 1878. Being afraid of the increase in the Russian influence and power, the powers called the Congress of Berlin in 1878. Although it was held to settle the issues in the Balkans, the political development in Europe was greatly affected.

By the Treaty of San Stefano, the Russian influence in the Balkan could increase tremendously. An autonomous ‘Big Bulgaria’ was created under Russian occupation for 2 years. It would inevitably be a mere Russian satellite, a facade for Russian dominance of the Balkans and a springboard from which a Russian attack on Constantinople could be launched at any time. Secondly, Rumania, Serbia and Montenegro were to obtain their independence. Since Russia helped them to get independence, she could win their respect and friendship. Thirdly, Russia could get S. Bessarabia, and so she could control the Danube delta. On the whole, the Russian influence in the Balkans was enhanced. It fulfilled her desire for an expansion into this region.
However, the European powers could not tolerate this situation. None could like to see that the balance of power was to be upset by the arrangements made by Russia in the Treaty of San Stefano. So the Congress of Berlin was called to settle the issues. Certainly, the extent to which the San Stefano settlement was modified at Berlin was bitterly resented by the Russians. In this meeting, the Big Bulgaria was divided into three parts, northern part remained independent; middle part became Eastern Rumelia, which recognized the suzerainty of Turkey; southern part became part of the Turkish Empire. With the reduction in the size of Bulgaria, the Russian dream of establishing Bulgaria as her satellite state was broken. Conservatives in Russia feared that the result of the Congress would weaken the autocracy in Russia and help to produce a revolution there. Slavophils were violently critical of the alleged weakness of Russia’s westernized representatives at Berlin. There was a widespread feeling that Russia had been the victim of a conspiracy of the other great powers and that the fruits of her victory had been undeservedly reaped by Austria and Britain. Russia was particularly disappointed with Germany. When a place had to be chosen for the meeting of the powers, Russia insisted on choosing Berlin hoping that Russian interests would suffer less at a conference held in the German capital; the Dreikaiserbund signed in 1873 and faith in the old Russo-Prussian friendship still counted for something. In the end, Russian confidence was badly shaken, for Bismarck, though trying desperately to prevent a breach between Austria-Hungary and Russia, was bound to lean towards the former in any clash of loyalties as shown in his support towards Austria in the Congress. After this, Russia moved away from Germany and began to look for another possible ally.
Besides affecting the alliance between Russia and Germany, the international relationship was affected in other ways. One of the outstanding characteristics of the Balkan Crisis 1875-8 had been the lack of stable combinations and effective alliances between the powers. None of the powers had a partner with which it was in agreement on all points. Austria and Britain worked well together in practice; but their interests were in many ways very different. Bismarck did not wish to alienate the Tsar; but he made no effort to help him defend the clauses of the Treaty of San Stefano to which both Britain and Austria objected. It was the tensions revealed by the great eastern crisis of the 1870s which ended this period of fluid great power relations. In 1879, Bismarck signed with Austria the defensive Dual Alliance which was to endure for the life-time of the German and Hapsburg Empires. On the foundation of the Dual Alliance was rapidly reared a structure of precise and binding international commitments such as Europe had not known since the fall of Napoleon I. International relations was now more rigid than before. It was the Congress of Berlin which had set this dangerous alliance-making process in motion. As the formation of the alliance system divided Europe into two rival camps, the Congress of Berlin, which pushed Germany to form the Dual Alliance with Austria and Russia to seek France as her ally, was responsible for the outbreak of the WWI in this way.
Besides affecting the formation of the alliance system, the Congress of Berlin led to future unrest and crises in the Balkans, which led to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 directly. In the Congress of Berlin, although the decisions on the independence of Serbia, Montenegro and Rumania brought to fruition the national feeling which had been fermenting for decades, it sowed the seeds of unrest. The Congress was in all essentials a gathering merely of a small group of great powers. It was the great powers who made all decisions. Thus although Bulgaria bulked larger than any other issue in its discussions, the Bulgarians were unrepresented and unheard. The Bosnians and Herzegovinians, who had set off this complex series of crises in the summer of 1875, received no better treatment. Therefore, the interests of the Balkan peoples were just secondary importance to the powers. It was the negligence of it that led to the placing of Bosnia and Herzegovina under the control of Austria, disregarding their different races. The conflicts between Serbia and Austria were stemmed in it as Serbia looked for expansion into the 2 provinces as well. These conflicts were not merely a matter between the 2 only. As Russia supported Serbia and Germany supported Austria, the Sarajevo Assassination which happened in 1914 was then turned from a local conflict into a world war.
In view of the impact made by the Congress of Berlin on Russia and the international relationships, we can consider the Congress of Berlin a turning point in the politics of Europe. After it, the international relationship was more tense and more rigid international commitments were made. Crises emerging out from the conflicts of interest between Austria and Serbia were then responsible for the outbreak of the First World War.

Essays of the World War One

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