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Causes of WWI Essay

Wars are large and complicated affairs. The first word war was the product of many, many things. Although the war officially began on July 28th, 1914, it had been building up for a while. The beginning of the war was much like a domino affect. It started when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. On July 29, Russia ordered a mobilization only against Austria-Hungary in support of Serbia. The Germans threatened war on July 31 if the Russians did not demobilize. France then mobilized. On August 1, Germany declared war on Russia, and two days later, on France. The German invasion of Belgium to attack France, which violated Belgium’s official neutrality, prompted Britain to declare war on Germany. World War I had begun. Nationalism, militarism, and imperialism all prompted the rivalry between nations which led to WWI.

Nationalism, the love and support of one’s country, has always existed. At this time, however, it was so prominent, it helped cause the first world war. Since so much pride was devoted to countries, it made the possibilities of peace between past rivals less probable. People felt great loyalty and were willing to do anything for their country. In history, many wars have been over territorial disputes. A country feels nationalistic, and people’s pride leads to people wanting to expand with more land. A country can feel so strongly about this, that they will fight for it. The spark of the world was the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife. They were shot by a Serbian nationalist because of the crisis in the Balkans. The Balkan Peninsula was a mountainous area below Austira-Hungary and consisted of many different ethnic groups. Each group was very nationalistic and wanted to extend its borders, especially Serbia. Austria-Hungary took over two Balkan Slavic areas. Document 6 describes the tension in this region at the time. Serbia did not want Austria-Hungary to have Bosnia and Herzegovina. The archduke was shot because the Serbians feared that when he became in power he would continue to persecute the Serbs who lived in the Austro-Hungarian borders.

The assassination, however, only created more problems. A harsh ultimatum was given to Serbia and when Serbia tried to negotiate that harsh terms, war was declared upon them. Serbia’s ally, Russia joined right in the war, and soon after many other European countries. Nationalism was also a contributing factor to the alliance system. A country having more people on its side meant they felt more powerful, and more nationalistic. During World War I there were two alliance systems; the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente. The Triple Alliance included Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. The Triple Entente included Great, Britain, France, and Russia. Later on in the war, the United States entered the war on the Triple Entente side, and Russia left. Members of the Triple Alliance were also known as the Central Powers.

This is because the three countries were grouped together in the center of Europe. On each side of them, they has enemies, which is why this was a two-front war. This is shown on document 2’s map. Germany’s Schlieffen Plan was a plan to have a large part of the German army go west to fight France, and then go east to fight Russia. Nationalism is what made Great Britain join the war. Under the Schliefeen Plan, German troops invaded Belgium (a neutral country) because they refused to let the Germans pass through on their way to France. Great Britain was closely tied with Belgium so after the Germans attacked Belgium, Great Britain declared war on Germany. Although not the only cause of the large, complex war, Nationalism was the cause of many of the other causes. In many ways Nationalism can be a positive thing. It can improve economy by increasing competition and devotion and make a country more prosperous. Theses feelings created by nationalism can go to far. Nationalism can also cause rivalry, feelings of superiority, and competition can lead to aggressiveness which leads to wars.

Around 9 million people died in World War One. Tension between countries led to a arms race in Europe. Countries were over nationalistic and felt that having a large army made them more powerful. Glorifying military power and having an strong army is known as militarism. When a country has a strong army who is ready to fight, they are more likely to use war as a way of getting what they want. The main countries who participated in WWI all had significant increases in the amount of money they spent on weapons. Germany increased its per capitata expenditures on armaments from $1.28 in 1870, to $8.19 in 1914 (document 1). Propaganda, a way of persuading people to think one way, was used to keep up morale and support for the war. Posters like the one shown in document 5 was used to recruit soldiers for battle. People felt patriotic when they went to fight in the war. Countries competed to have the largest militaries, and the best weapons. Militarism at this time led to the creation of many new weapons. Fritz Harber invented a method of using nitrogen from the air. It was used to create one of the worst weapons of the time, poison gas.

The machine gun was also a new weapon of the time. It fired ammunition automatically and was extremely deadly because it was quick and easy. Other weapons of war included the tank, the airplane and the submarine. Submarines were used in unrestricted warfare and fired torpedoes. Militarism is why the war was so deadly. It caused rivalry between nations. Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany envied Britain for having such a strong navy so he increased the German navy and built many warships. Britain responded by increasing its navy and building more warships too. Things like this started the arms race and created even more competition between countries and alliances. Leaders looked at militarism and saw war as the only way to solve problems, which is not true at all.

Another factor which contributed to the increase in rivalry in Europe was imperialism. Great Britain, Germany and France needed foreign markets after the increase in manufacturing caused by the Industrial Revolution. These countries competed for economic expansion in Africa. Africa between 1880 and 1914 was split up between Britain, France, Germany, Italy and several other nations (document 4). Long before the war there was competition between these countries for resources, land, and markets. Each country wanted to be the most powerful and felt that they could do this by obtaining as much land and wealth as possible.

Many forms of imperialism were used to do this with. Germany and France disputed over who would control Morocco a couple times, so the mistrust between these countries was already at a high level. Before the war, grudges had already been formed. Document 8 describes the tension and the trouble spots prior the WWI. The reason why the became and world war so quickly was because of all the factors that were already in place. Mainly rivalry, which imperialism contributed to greatly.

World War One was ended with the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty was intended to make peace between the countries. The treaty was unfair and created with revenge in mind. It made Germany pay $33 billion in reparations and forced them to accept war guilt. Adolph Hitler himself was a product of the First World War. In many ways, the end of World War I was the cause of World War II.


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