The First World War has established an unforgettable memoir in the history books. World War 1 was a massacre of human life and an important event that determined the present state of the modern world. Yes, World War 1 was inevitable. The foundation of the causes of World War 1 can be traced back to several factors that were building up international tension to the ultimate result of war. In the 1900s, the European countries were extremely competitive in extending their influence around the world.
Their competitive nature was motivated by the encouragement of nationalism within countries, the entangled alliances between nations, the arms race and the battle to acquire colonies around the world contributed to the small disputes that exploded to the conclusion of World War 1 with the assassination of Austro-Hungarian heir, Franz Ferdinand.
Firstly, nationalism was a chief contributor to promoting competition between the European countries. In the 1900s, the European countries were experiencing a period of massive industrialization which created a surplus of goods and weapons.
As a result, foreign markets had to be dominated to sell goods and to ensure the nation’s prosperity. The leaders of Europe instilled patriotic feelings in their citizens and were spreading a belief that their country’s superiority made them destined for greatness. The need to control foreign markets provoked a competition for territory which caused further patriotism among the nations in Europe that evolved into a fear and suspicion of other countries. This patriotic attitude was negatively impacting the relationships among the people living in Europe such as in the multinational Austria-Hungary where there were conflicts between different cultural groups due to the desire to be independent from Austro-Hungarian rule.
Additionally, the Serbians living in Bosnia murdered Franz Ferdinand because they wanted to be free of Austro-Hungarian rule and return to previous Serbian rule as they felt their loyalty was to only Serbia. Austria-Hungary acted on its irrational nationalistic behaviour when it declared war on Serbia for its involvement in the assassination of their heir, even though there was no solid proof of Serbia’s involvement in the crime. Furthermore, the independent nations in Europe were craving more power which put them in a constant battle to prove their superiority to the other countries. This issue was present in many ways in World War 1 such as when Germany was building up their army as a way of increasing their prestige, the French wanting to gain back their two lost provinces from Germany through military means and the Russians wanting another chance to redeem their national honour that had been lost through another war.
The nations of Europe expressed their desires for peace but not at the expense of their national honour. With these attitudes, it was not long before the tension and disagreements led to war. The patriotic attitudes that formed in Europe were stressing relationships negatively and it caused a rise in international tensions. The build up of these disputes were making the outcome of war unavoidable. Though countries looked at each other in unfavourable light, they knew they were vulnerable if they were alone so they decided to form alliances.
Alliances were becoming a very common issue in Europe. Alliances made the European countries pick sides, therefore it divided Europe. The alliances were made in secret thus it produced much distrust and suspicion among European powers. There was the Triple Entente which consisted of France, Russia and Britain who feared the rise of Germany and in return, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy established the Triple Alliance. The general suspicion involved in alliances prevented their diplomats from devising a suitable solution to many of the crises. As well, alliances were mostly created on a war-footing and so heightened the war tension and further contributed to the arms race among the European powers. For example, within four years after the formation of the Triple Entente in 1907, Germany had built 9 dreadnoughts and consequently Britain built 18. This leads to the conclusion that the European powers were ready for war in 1914. It is important to realize that since the European powers made alliances with each other, small arguments concerning one power might lead to a war involving all the powers.
In the case of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, this situation created a serious misunderstanding between Austria-Hungary and Serbia and as a result, the other nations in Europe involved in alliances with either 2 countries were obligated to support them. Alliances were originally created strictly for defensive purposes but by 1910, many of the alliances had changed their character like the Austro-German alliance. Germany promised to give military aid to Austria-Hungary to invade Serbia and on the other hand, Russia provided Serbia with military assistance. As alliances had become instruments of national aggression, the chances of war doubled. The probability of Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia due to the death of their heir increased because Austria-Hungary could rely on the support of Germany to help achieve its goal. In addition, this fragile interlock of alliances relied on the leaders of the European countries to act reasonably however, this was not the case in the situation of World War 1.
The Kaiser of Germany felt his country was being denied the chance to unleash its full potential by Britain so the power hungry ruler was determined to prove to the World that Germany was as capable and powerful as Britain. He was continually being pressured by his military officers to start a war because a war would be good business for the military and his determination to demonstrate the supremacy of his country made Germany a strong contender for war. On the other hand, the Czar of Russia’s lack of participation in his country’s politics symbolized the weak leadership of Russia. The combination of strong military alliances and bad leaders promoted the certainty of the occurrence of the First World War. Also in the early 1900’s, the European powers were building up their armies in the competitive arms race.
The countries in Europe were building up their military as a nation’s power rested on its military strength. The German army was a powerful force but Germany wanted to increase its strength by acquiring colonies. Britain’s vast army protected the British Isles and secured the trade routes within the empire. Germany’s jealously of Britain’s strong army and naval fleet resulted in the arms race. By the end of 1914, Germany had built 17 Dreadnoughts and Britain had built 29 Dreadnoughts. The two rivals were competing for the title of the “Master of the Sea”. The competition placed a strain on relationships between countries and seriously depleted the wealth of countries, making war even more likely. The new technologies such as the dreadnought and poison gas that were developing in the 1900s were making a war more deathly and expensive.
Russia was developing its army to help it gain a strong voice in the matters in Europe and restoring its lost honour by constructing a mighty fighting force to intervene in the conflicts rising in the Balkans. France was preparing for the potential outcome of war by increasing the size of its army. As a result, all the countries in Europe were anticipating a war to resolve the conflicts stirring about each country’s supremacy and the cost of war was a great expense for the countries. Germany was very ready to go to war because it wanted a war. Its economy would receive a good boost from the increase in the ammunitions industry if Germany went to war. The spark that set off the war was small however; Wilhelm was yearning for any reason to start a war. If Germany wanted a war then war was an unavoidable situation because the Germans were trying to find any conflict to commence a war. Furthermore, imperialism was becoming a very popular practice in Europe.
At the beginning of the 20th century, industrialization in Europe required countries to dominate other foreign markets thus establishing another reason for competitiveness within countries. All the European powers except Austria-Hungary and Russia had colonies in Africa and consequently, there were many clashes between countries like France, Britain, Germany and Italy. For example, the French Empire lost its colony in Canada to the British Empire in the Seven Years War. Colonial rivalry among the European powers made the First World War expected due to the bitterly strained relationships between the nations. Germany was looking to acquire more colonies due to its need to strengthen its economy but there were few places left to establish colonies. Germany and Britain’s aggressive battle for colonies intensified the arms race.
The battle for colonies caused the European countries to become more competitive and reach the end verdict of war. Colonial rivalries led indirectly to the formation and strengthening of alliances and ententes such as when Germany was attempting to invade Britain’s and France’s colonies in Africa, Britain and France’s alliance would have strengthened against Germany. The hostile behaviour created by the competition to set up colonies gave more reasons for countries to start to war to resolve past conflicts. Most importantly, World War 1 was fought on the basis of a full World War because of the colonies of each European country that involved mostly all the nations. Imperialism was definitely a key contributor to ensuring the inevitability of the First World War.
World War 1 was the conclusion of many problems that escalated to the final stage of war when Gavrillo Princip killed Franz Ferdinand. The pressures from the problems were causing a rise in international tensions that ultimately reached the peak with the First World War. Firstly, the industrialization occurring in European countries at the beginning of the 20th century was a cause to the nationalistic attitude among the citizens in each country that reached the conclusive result of war to settle the battle for supremacy among the nations.
Alliances contributed to dividing Europe into 2 sides, heightening the war tension and bad leaders pushed Europe to start the First World War. The arms race created further rifts between the European countries but more importantly, Germany wanted a war to prove its military dominance. Lastly, the colonial rivalries increased tensions between countries, making the chances of World War 1 more inevitable. In conclusion, World War 1 was a predictable war. Is World War 3 going to be inevitable too?
Bolotta,A.,Hawkes,C.,Jarman,F.,Keirstead,M.,and Watt,J.Canada Face of Nation.Toronto:Gage Educational,2000.
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