World War I, or The Great War, actually started on June 28, 1914 upon the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, by a Serbian national. This led to a series of battles upon the eventual formation of the Central Powers made up of Germany, Austro-Hungary, the Turkish Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria, and they fought against the Entente Powers made up of Russia, France and Great Britain.
However, since “Europe stumbled unexpectedly into war in the summer of 1914,”1 the question remains as to which of the major countries that fought the First World War were most prepared in terms of economy and military strength and which were not. Britain Among the Entente Powers during WWI, Britain was actually considered “the greatest colonial power [and] maintained the greatest navy. ”2 However, it is also a fact that during that time Britain “was being increasingly challenged by France and Russia”3 and Germany.
The British in fact “increased their warship production with the William R. Griffiths and Thomas E. Griess, The Great War (2003): 1. 2. Ian Westwell, World War I Day by Day (1999): 7 3. Ibid. 4. Spencer Tucker, The Great War 1914-18 (1998): 3 intention of war”5 and in fact had a series of wars with Africa in 1899. Britain, along with the other great European powers, “embarked on an arms race that ran in tandem with the scramble for colonies,”6 which simply means that the reason they improved their armies and navies was because “they needed to protect far-flung colonies and maintain a balance of military power with their neighbors in Europe.
”7 During the early 20th century, Britain launched “HMS Dreadnought, a Battleship incorporating several new technologies that was far superior to any vessel afloat in 1906”8 This was somehow the reason why other European powers especially Germany began improving and “building their own dreadnought-type battleships”9 because they saw “a sudden vulnerability of their costly fleets. ”10 However, one rumor was that “the British recognized the naval competition from Germany as a threat to their existence,”11 though “the naval arms race between these two powers would continue until the eve of the war.
5. Westwell, 7. 6. Ibid, 8. 7. Ibid. 8. Ibid. 9. Ibid, 9. 10. Ibid. 11. Griffiths and Greis, 5. 12. Ibid. It is said that naval arms race between these two powers would continue until the eve of the war. ”13 Nevertheless, “by 1914, Germany had a navy second only to England’s. ”14 Economically, it is said that Britain, along with France and Germany, was ready for the Great War. The most important influence upon British and the rest of the European military during those times was in fact “the largess bestowed upon European societies by the Industrial Revolution.
”15 It is said that “a wealth of goods, rising productivity, and material well-being”16 were brought about by the factories of the latter half of the 19th century. This period of economic growth all over Europe led to “the greater availability of education for the lower classes” and that “better and more widespread educational opportunities enabled citizens to comprehend more readily the…military affairs of the state. ”17 This perhaps encouraged nationalism among the people of the various European nations.
Consequently such feelings may have similarly encouraged rivalries with other nations. Thus, the soil for the war was fertile and all it needed was the seed – which was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. 13. Griffiths and Greis, 5. 14. Ibid. 15. Ibid, 6 16. Ibid. 17. Ibid. France As early as 1870, “France had considered itself – and had been considered by others – the leading military power of Europe.
”18 It was defeated by Germany during the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 but it was not stated whether this war was really a showcase of the French military but rather it “meant a lasting antagonism”19 with Germany. Nevertheless, despite being a military power in the late 9th century, France had its “entire…province of Alsace [seized as well as] part of a second province, Lorraine. ”20 Germany Since the empire became united in 1871, “imperial Germany had rapidly emerged as the dominant industrial and military power”21 in Europe and such “created a potentially explosive situation.
It was also believed that “by the start of the twentieth century, Germany was creating a first-class navy,” which was in fact considered “the most obvious and dramatic illustration of Germany’s surging power in many spheres. ”23 Such was the 18. Neil M. Heyman, World War I (1997): 5. 19. Ibid. 20. Ibid. 21. Ibid. 22. Ibid. 23. Ibid. greatness of the military strength of Germany in the early 20th century. In addition to that, Germany also had an economy that was emerging as one of the strongest in the whole of Europe.
Since 1870, Germany’s “industry had grown so rapidly that this part of Europe, which had supplied immigrants to the Western Hemisphere for more than a century, now imported labor from Poland. ”24 Twentieth century Germany was actually home to “higher education and scientific research [and] a system of social insurance for its working class” and in fact, the country “could pride itself on being a world leader. ” Germany also prided itself with a great leader during that time. The ruler of Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm II, was often considered as “the embodiment and often the director of [Germany’s] restless energies.
”25 By the late 19th century, Kaiser Wilhelm II earned the respect and friendship of a few ambitious military leaders who were against Britain and who would want to challenge it to war. One of these military leaders was Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, the Secretary of State of the Imperial Naval Office of Germany at that time. Moreover, Kaiser Wilhelm II also had his own imperialist ambitions as well for he considered the German navy “a tool of external power”26 and even declared it to Prime Minister Arthur Balfour of Britain in 1902, many years before the outbreak of WWI.
In fact “the Kaiser sought to play 24. Heyman, 5. 25. Ibid, 6. 26. Ibid. politics, and repeatedly declared that he was determined to make Germany not just dominant in European affairs but in the world” and had a “desire for a German-dominated central Europe. ”27 Such was the measure of Wilhelm II’s ambition and resolve. The Kaiser’s biographer even wrote, “Only with a fleet could Germany be able to elicit from the British the esteem Wilhelm II believed to be his due. ”28
Germany was indeed already a strong power in the early 20th century many years before the outbreak of the Great War. It is said that “the security of Austria-Hungary, the weaker of the Central Powers, was [even] guaranteed by Kaiser Wilhelm II [since] late 1912. ”29 Such was the strength of Germany at that time that they could even guarantee the protection of the territory of another country in addition to their own. Conclusion On the eve of World War I, Britain, France and Germany were all ready for the war that was to ensue.
However, among the three, Germany seemed to be the most prepared especially when it came to the military, specifically the development and advancement of its naval warships as well as powerful leadership in the person of Kaiser Wilhelm II. On the other hand, France, although a leading military power of Europe at that time, was in fact torn apart by Germany during the 1871 Franco-Prussian War, hence was not impressively strong compared to Britain and Germany.
27. Tucker, 3. 28. Heyman, 6. 29. Westwell, 9. BIBLIOGRAPHY Griffiths, Williams R. and Griess, Thomas E. The Great War. New York: Square One Publishers, Inc. , 2003. Heyman, Neil M. World War I. Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc. , 1997. Tucker, Spencer. The Great War 1914-18. Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1998. Westwell, Ian. World War I Day by Day. New York: The Brown Reference Group, Plc. , 1999.
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