Was Imperial Germany was the main reason for the outbreak of WWI?

ben.wilko1 By ben.wilko1, 10th Feb 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Essays

At the end of the First World War, the Treaty of Versailles outlined “the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage” of Europe (Treaty of Versailles, 1919). However, it could be argued that it is far too simple to state that Imperial Germany was the cause of the outbreak of war in 1914 when there are several other factors which also played a roll.

Introduction

At the end of the First World War, the Treaty of Versailles outlined “the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage” of Europe (Treaty of Versailles, 1919). However, it could be argued that it is far too simple to state that Imperial Germany was the cause of the outbreak of war in 1914 when there are several other factors which also played a roll. This essay will discuss the extent to which the blame for the First World War can be given to Imperial Germany and although Germany is historically seen as the main cause for the war, there are other factors that must be considered.

Why did war break out?

One point that could be made is that Imperial Germany was not in fact to blame for the cause of the First World War, but was merely “presented with a unique opportunity to change the European balance of power in their favour” (Perry, 1976). So although Germany, in effect, was named as the guilty party for the war and had to pay heavy reparations to the allies, a converse argument could propose that Imperial Germany merely acted in a way it thought that it could protect its best interests.

Thomson describes the condition of Europe in 1914 as “feverish and turbulent, and with strong suicidal tendencies” (1966). This interesting statement could in fact also provide some explanation to the outbreak of war in 1914, as Europe was indeed a place of great internal and international unrest. As Otto von Bismarck prophesised in 1897, a great European war would come out of “some damn foolish thing in the Balkans" (Assassination in Sarajevo). A testament to the fact that war was in fact to be anticipated as a result of years of international unrest.

Europe was entangled in a complex system of empires, this was worsened by the larger system of alliances and agreements between nations which “had no option but to declare war” (World War One Causes, 2000) if one of their allies declared war first. The Serbian nationalist Black Hand group and the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo in August 1914 was the precursor for war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. War between Austria-Hungary and Serbia would unavoidably lead to war between Austria-Hungary and Russia. For the Russian Empire this was an opportunity to show their support in the Balkan area and therefore expand their circle of Pan-Slavic influence. Because of the Triple Alliance war between Russia and Germany was imminent, therefore causing war between the German Empire and the remaining members of the Triple Entente.

Other issues such as the naval arms race between Germany and Britain and the continuing struggle for nations to obtain overseas colonies could only heighten the international tensions in early twentieth century Europe.

Severe internal problems such as civil war, revolution and economic crises, coupled with the popular nationalism which was fostered during the nineteenth century, for many nations, war on an international level could have been seen as a necessity in order to unite citizens of nations. With this in mind,

Conclusion

With all factors taken into consideration it is perhaps too simple to say that Imperial Germany was the main reason for the outbreak of World War One. Of course Germany had the motives to declare war as a means of becoming a greater imperial power, but due to international uncertainty and internal crises, war on any front was inevitable. Imperial Germany, as with other empires of the time, were merely trying to protect or expand their existing circle of influence. Ultimately it would be correct to say that “the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914 acted as the final spark”(2009).

Bibliography

Treaty of Versailles (1918) Part VIII. Reparation, Article 231

Perry, K (1976). Modern European History Made Simple, P101

Thomson, D (1966). Europe since napoleon p541 pelican: Aylesbury Causes of World War I. (2009). In The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather guide. Retrieved 10/04/2010 from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/heliconhe/causes_of_world_war_i

Retrieved 10/04/2010 from http://www.historyonthenet.com/WW1/causes.htm Retrieved 10/04/2010 from http://www.worldwar1.com/tlsara.htm

Tags

Europe, Germany, Russia, Treaty Of Versailles, War, World War 1, World War I

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Student of German studies with a passion for languages

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Comments

author avatar Ptrikha
11th Feb 2013 (#)

A great analysis. Complex political situations at that time-1914 made the situation for an all out war inevitable.

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