At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the world was seething an explosive, hair-trigger force. Capitalism was undergoing a transition to imperialism. The worlds territory was divided among the worlds most powerful nations. Colonies were scattered throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The struggle between the new empires and the old ones was getting larger and larger. In the era of the jungle, wars were quick to break out. As new forces began to snatch resources, uneven economic development and inadequate allocation of resources among countries as well as the enthusiasm of showing national status and pride, the First World War broke out in July, 1914. There were four main reasons militarism, alliance, imperialism and nationalism aroused the nerves of these Kings in this animal world. The four main reasons lay hidden dangers in these great powers and these four reasons are inseparable, intertwining together.
Militarism is when a country develops strong military and advanced technological weapons to pursue its own interest aggressively, highlight the national status, and as a mean to protect, expand territory as well as a diplomatic mean to intervene other countries. A military arms race amount nations led countries constantly and intensely to create advanced military weapons, such as breech loading rifles, artillery, and machine guns. (Cleary) Strong military strength is seen as the criterion of whether a country is strong or not. Who has the most progressive military technology, sophisticated combat system and solid troops, then who is the boss. A German used to say, We have won our position through the sharpness of our sword, not through the sharpness of our mind. (Cleary) Before World War I, the most drastic forced competition was between Great Britain and Germany; respectively showing their supremacy in military powers.
At that time, Great Britain possessed the strongest and best naval power which was the foundation and protection of this empire. Battle-hardened British Navy helped Great Britain win a quarter of the worlds landmass, therefore, it was called The sun never set on the British Empire. The empire had The British Naval Defense Act Of 1889, which mightily required Great Britain to maintain a navy twice as large as the next two largest navies combined. This such strict requirement and management displayed its strong military ambition and make the British Navy far ahead of other countries. In 1897, 62 warships of over 5,000 tons were possessed by the British Navy, while the Germans had only 12 warships. Britain saw Germany as a threat in its military engagement with Germany, and continued to intensify its efforts to develop its military, especially navy. As expected, solid artillery technical foundation led British Empire to create a new, fast steel ships called Dreadnought, which had 12 inch guns. This breakthrough allowed people to replace wooden ships that had been used for centuries with steel battle ships. Immediately, building Dreadnought as quick as possible became the primary mission. Countries aspired to create this new type of fearsome weapon. In 1914, Britain had the maximum naval personnel which was 209,000 and the largest number of Dreadnought battleships, 29, while Germany took the second place with 79,000 navies and 17 Dreadnought. (Cleary)
Germany set Britain as a military target and then attempted to catch up it. Germany Kaiser, Wilhelm II believed that formidable military strength will bring Germany prestige and power. Meanwhile, Germany will be received respect from other European nations. If Germany could not possess a powerful troop and advanced weapons, there would be no place and no discourse power for Germany in many European countries. Wilhelm IIs call boosted the pass of The German First Naval Law in 1898. The law claimed to begin the process of building powerful navy. After that, the second law required to double the size of the German Navy from 19 battleships to 38. Wilhelm IIs encouragement supported the improvement of naval forces: Germany is a young and growing empire. She has a worldwide commerce which is rapidly expanding, and to which the legitimate ambition of Patriotic Germans refuses to assign any bounds. Germany must have a powerful fleet to protect that commerce and her manifold interests in even the most distant seas. She expects those interests to go on growing, and she must be able to champion them manfully in any quarter of the globe. Moreover, Germany had this most powerful army, the Prussian army, which defended themselves against the French in 1871, and the victory made them the most dangerous and effective military force in Europe. (Cleary)
The national government constantly instilled militarism into peoples minds, regarding leaders as heroes, advocating officers, glorifying and romanticizing militarism. The nation permeated this idea into every corner. A strong military force could bring them prestige, protection, expansion and improvement of economy. It was inseparable with nationalism and imperialism. Militarism did not start World War I but it created an environment where war,
rather than negotiation or diplomacy, was considered the best way of resolving international disputes. (Militarism)
Alliance is an agreement of two or more countries in regard to political, military or economic cooperation. European countries had many alliances before World War I. Many alliances were short-lived. They might be alliances one second and become enemies the next second. Some were due to the emergence of new leaders or the replacement of old alliances with new ones. Some were due to the collapse of the countries or the betrayals between nations. Europe, the melting pot of ethnic and territorial disputes, is a place where change is possible and it is happening fast. For example, the Three Emperors League, established in 1873, contained Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary. Russia quitter from the league because of the disorder in the Balkans. The league collapsed in 1878, and then Germany and Austria-Hungary formed The Dual Alliance in 1879. In 1894, the Franco-Russian Alliance formed in order to response to the formation of the Triple Alliance which included Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. This military alliance also provided economic benefits to each other. (Alliances)
Military alliances usually require signatory nations to support each other when they have wars with other countries. Although the alliances can make countries under checks and balances, if war breaks out, the harm of war will be huge and terrible. The Triple Alliance formed in 1882, including Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. The agreement was driven by anti-French and anti-Russia sentiment. Each of the signatories promised to provide military support when one of them were attacked or invaded by other powers. The enemy of an enemy is a friend. Britain, Russia and France overcame cultural differences and historical tensions, then formed the Triple Entente in 1907. Britain had armed race and economic race with Germany; France attempted to recapture the provinces of Alsace-Lorraine where was ceded to Germany after the Franco-Prussian War. France and Italy also had disputes in North Africa. Russia rivaled with Austria-Hungary for the domination of the Balkans. These intertwined conflicts and disputes divided Europe into two major alliances, which buried time bomb for the World War I that followed. The alliances created an excessively rigid diplomatic framework, within which relatively small detonators could produce huge explosions , said by A. J. P. Taylor, an English historian who specialized in 19th- and 20th-century European diplomacy. (European History)
Imperialism is a system that powerful country expands its power and territory by annexing other countries or setting and exploiting colonies. Usually, colonies were controlled by the imperial nation or governed by local puppet government. Military troops stationed locally in aid of maintaining order, suppressing rebellions. Colonization allowed imperial nations to acquire abundant resources, cheap laborers and advantages of trade or commerce.
Before World War I, Great Britain was the largest and wealthiest dominant imperial power in the world. It possessed a quarter of global landmass and was called the empire on which the sun never sets. Britain had colonies in every continent except Antarctic. The British Empires imperialism focused on expanding and maintaining trade. It used the colonies as factories to provide its home country with raw materials and manufactured goods as well as cheap labor. France maintained colonies in Indochina (modern-day Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia), some islands in the Pacific and Caribbean, small territories in South America and areas of West Africa and India. German colonies included a province of China, Shandong, New Guinea, Samoa, some Pacific islands and several areas in central and south-west Africa. (Imperialism)
Before World War I, as empires grew stronger and larger, new empires emerging, the competition between them also became fierce. They needed more and more land, power, money and opportunities. Germany and Italy were two relative newcomers of empire-building. When they first joined this imperial group, they found out most of the worlds land had almost already controlled by their European neighbors. Germany Kaiser noticed and stared to design Germanys own imperial blueprint. He focused more on Africa. Immediately, Togoland, the Cameroons and South West Africa were put in Germanys pocket. Six years later, a large territory of East Africa became part of Germanys imperial blueprint. Germanys ambition and success of colonization in Africa were praised advocated by German population. Yet, the British Empire and the French Empire reckoned that Germany had threatened their benefits in Eastern Africa. (Imperialism)
The scramble for empire in Africa caused diplomatic incidents. One of the incidents happened in Morocco in North-West Africa. Although Morocco was not a colony of France, the location of Morocco led it to be influenced by Frances control. France was trying to expand its rule in Morocco, but the German Kaiser stirred up relation between France and Morocco by giving a speech which encouraged independence. This had angered the French government and
sparked wrathful diplomatic actions. When France attempted to suppress a revolt in Morocco, the German troops an armed vessel at the Moroccan port of Agadir. Germanys provocation almost touched off the war. Another event made the European situation become unstable and intense: The decline of the Ottoman Empire attracted tensions of other European nations. After several failed wars, the Ottoman Empire almost collapsed. Other empires were eager to gain territory and influence in this dying empire. Austria-Hungary, Russia, Germany, France and Britain were all had colonial and trade interests in this region. Increased intensions and struggles would happened in the Balkan sphere. (Imperialism)
Nationalism is when a country put its own interest above all the other countries. It inspires peoples patriotism and sense of national honor. It requires people to be loyal to the country and consider national interests first. Nationalism is the most significant cause that sparked the World War I due to it nearly permeate to the other three main reasons militarism, alliance and imperialism. Nationalism is the base that trigger these three reasons. Countries pursued strong military strength and competed in the armed race because nationalism made them want to have the best army. National interest should be primary so alliance guaranteed its economic benefits and safe protection from another signatory. Imperialism makes full use of nationalism. Nations continuously invaded others territories, and made them their own colonies for providing economic assistance to the mother country. The interests of these oppressed peoples and nations became insignificant. Meanwhile, imperialism brought countries prestige and respect. Nationalism allowed them to infringe other countries rights and sovereignty; they would be proud of their own countries power.
Nationalism persuades people that their countries are supreme in military, economic, cultural and ethnic aspects. The nationalism concept had conveyed through music, arts, theater and literature. In a bid to convince people that their own countries are supreme, literature usually slandered other countries image without logic, exaggerated facts excessively and created stereotypes. Great Britain was worried about the newcomer imperial power, Germany Empire, which had growing industrial base and expanding fleet. Germanys rising power was s threat to Britain. Nationalists continuously propagandized nationalism idea. Novels and articles about foreign conspiracy theories, foreign spies and invasions are constantly published in newspapers and books. Foreigners were often described as barbaric, vulgar and callous people. Music conveyed the message of supremacy of the country. A patriotic song had the lyrics that Britons never never will be slaves. (Nationalism)
Nationalism made countries excessively confident and gave them the illusion of military strength. Countries all believed their own military capacity is the best. The British were proud of countrys naval power and developed economy. The French reckoned that they have solid defenses to block the attack of other nations. In Russia, emperor believed he and his empire are under Gods will and protection. They had the largest land force which contained 1.5 million men and its massive population made the country believe they would defeat other smaller
countries easily. Germanys advantages were shown on its developed advanced military weapons and increasing battleships and U-boats. The Germans believed their Schlieffen Plan would be effective and successful. (Nationalism)
Great powers were considering invasion, defense and national supremacy, while those oppressed countries were looking for independence and freedom. Slavic group was a strong strength in the Balkans of Eastern Europe. They believed that Slavic people should have their own country. Serbia held a large number of Slavic population, but it was controlled and influenced by the Austria-Hungary Empire. Slavic nationalists were outraged by the invasion of Austria-Hungary, especially the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Young Slavic nationalists joined the Black Hand group to opposed against the Austria-Hungary Empire. The combination of the belief of independence and nationalism was powerful. The assassination of Archuduke Frank Ferdinand by the Black Hand in Sarajevo directly led to the outbreak of World War I. (Nationalism)
The four main causes of the World War I are closely related. A single reason is not enough to cause a Great War between several nations or between two alliances. However, when these factors come together, they increase the possibility of war. Nationalism plays the most important role in this because it led to military competition, land expansion and cliques.
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