The outbreak of war in Europe in 1914 was due to an aggressive German foreign policy which had been waged since c.1900 Essay
The outbreak of war in Europe in 1914 was due to an aggressive German foreign policy which had been waged since c.1900
How far do you agree with this opinion? Explain your answer using the evidence in Sources V, W and X and your own knowledge of the issues relating to the controversy.
It’s debatable whether Germany’s foreign policy created long term tension which led to the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914. The argument commonly raised is whether this movement was aggressive or defensive and how this stemmed from c.1900. Berghahn’s representation argues that it was both domestic and foreign policies which led to war however not from as early as c.1900. Blackburn’s representation counters this and states it was in fact international tensions prior to c.1900 which created the war; despite the fact it states their actions were defensive. Lastly Moses’ representation suggests it was not just Germany to blame and Austria were also partly responsible. Berghahn’s argument is the strongest as it has a clear argument and both supports and challenges the claim. Overall it’s clear the outbreak of the war was caused by Germany’s aggressive foreign policy in the long term since c.1900.
The strongest representation agrees with the given statement in that the aggressive foreign policy was responsible. Blackbourn states that long term aggression since the 1890s did lead to the war, and that the admiral Tirpitz built the battle fleet, purposely ‘aimed at the British’ suggesting an aggressive attitude. In 1898 a new naval law proceeded through Flottenpolitik by Tirpitz suggesting a larger navy is necessary to defend and prevent war with opposing fleets. This competition with Britain continued and in 1906 the naval race reached a new level when the British created the HMS Dreadnaught, a new battleship which carried 10, 12 inch guns. This suggests long term international tension created through the naval race which stemmed prior to 1900, agreeing with the statement. Secondly Berghahn states that the Army Bill of 1913, had ‘unleashed yet another major conflict’, another aggressive move imposed by the Germans.
The Army Bill was created from the Balkans War of 1912 when the Germans aimed to increase troops by 170,000 and although the French and Russians also improved their troops by increasing the length of compulsory service; the entente powers were also rapidly developing. This supports Blackbourn’s representation through the long term aggression methods originally developed to protect themselves, which could be seen either aggressively or defensively. However by 1913 it was apparent a war was near which indicates an aggressive plan to defend. Lastly Moses’ representation suggests that Germany planned to ‘unleash a war’ only a month previous to the Sarajevo murder.
This overall indicates only to a short term planned aggression which both agrees and challenges the claim. The Schlieffen plan supports this idea, acting as the first aggressive move played by the Germans in 1914. This attempted to remove France before Russia mobilises to further help Germany when the war proceeded. Moses representation supports the idea of an aggressive German foreign policy however only from a much shorter time scale.
To summarise Blackbourn’s idea of long term aggression is the strongest representation out of the three, due to support from other sources as well as further evidence. Another viewpoint is that of Berghahns, which suggests that Germany used the ‘escape forwards’ plan as a way of solving all domestic issues and thus being able to resolve foreign issues too. ‘The diplomatic isolation of Germany which started in 1904 had worsened – the generals could only think of further rearmaments expenditure as a remedy’. Germany had many domestic problems which led to them being divided both politically and socially. Unemployment was high in Germany at this point and the industrial revolution also meant that strikes were occurring often. And in 1912 election the SPD challenged the Elites, which led to further division within society.
These domestic issues involved over time which suggests that Germany were looking for a way out of their isolation, however it challenges the claim as this result wasn’t intentionally violent. Moses’ representation counters this as he states it was more so international tensions which caused the controversy , the shorter time period mentioned of summer 1914 also suggests that the domestic reasons had little or no involvement behind the planning as they had stemmed prior to this.
The weakening of the Triple Alliance supports this and shows the tension between Austria /Hungary and Germany. Blackbourn’s representation agrees with Berghahns and states that ‘they would have preferred to get what they wanted without war’ and also that Tirpitz ‘professed peaceful intentions’ regarding the battle fleet. This suggests all aggressive actions were completed in a defensive manner in order to protect and maintain Germany. Blackbourn agrees that all Germany wanted was peace however the only way they managed this was through war. Overall it’s clear that part of Germany’s intentions were for resolving domestic problems; however it’s debatable that this wasn’t the primary reason for Germany’s outbreak of war in 1914. The final viewpoint of Moses suggests that it was the role of other powers and primarily Austria and Hungary.
The friction between the two allies persisted during the entire war and ‘flared up every time there was a military crisis’ Immediately before the war the heir to the Austrian throne Franz Ferdinand was shot by a member of the Serbian Black Hand gang, this conflict between Austria and Serbia increased when several ultimatums issued by Austria were declined. This assassination in Sarajevo was the breaking point and the last stage before war broke out. Berghahn agrees and suggests that Germany felt isolated and encircled and that ‘the weakening of the position of the Dual Alliance’ caused another major conflict. The friction initiated from the feud in the Balkans which challenges the claim as this occurred only in 1912. However the alliance between Germany and Austria was created in 1879. The Balkans war caused a lot of new conflict and increased old friction, emphasising the time for war was near.
This suggests that it was Germany’s aggressive foreign policy which led to the war, but also the role of international aggression too. Blackbourn’s representation strongly agrees with Moses and states that ‘German actions going back to the 1890s had done much to create international tension’. This agrees with the claim that not only was it a long term aggression but also that it was mainly international. Although a few years later, this is supported by the Moroccan Crisis which saw tensions rise between France and Germany who fought for half a dozen years over the possession of Morocco.
Germany failed numerous times at claiming the country despite many aggressive attempts. Overall its clear many viewpoints believe that Germany wasn’t singly responsible for the aggressive outbreak of war in 1914 and much evidence prior to c.1900 supports this. To conclude it’s clear that Blackbourn’s main argument of an aggressive outbreak due to Germans foreign policy is the most supported response. Both Moses’ and Berghahn’s representations support this claim and argue that although Germany had many domestic problems these weren’t the factor which led to the outbreak of war in 1914.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 5 May 2016
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