Great War, also known as The First World War, lasted for four year (1914 to 1918). It brought a huge development of war technics and weapons. More number of countries had been involved in the Great War than any previous war.
It involved the mobilization of the whole nations, not just an enormous army that turned the war into a “total war”. (Clare 6) However, historians are still arguing about the major cause of the World War I. The major cause will be one of the four long-term causes of WWI, which are Militarism, Alliance, Imperialism, and Nationalism.
In my opinion, the two major causes would be Alliance and Nationalism.
Alliance is an association between two or more countries for mutual benefits that formed with different treaties, while Nationalism is feeling and principles of patriotic. In 1914, Europe was diving into two separate powers. One was Triple Entente composed of France, Russia and Britain. Other one was Triple Alliance, consists of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy.
(Pope 2) Each of the countries was connected with different treaties. The caused of European countries’ unstable political situation and threat of war was present. By arranging alliances with other governments, most countries found ways to protect themselves from assault.While Germany was becoming the center of the struggle, Europe made a spider web of tangled alliance that led most countries into two opposing powers.
(Hamilton 16) In the late nineteenth century, the most surprising event in Europe was the birth of united state of Germany. Under the leadership of the Chancellor of Germany, Otto von Bismarck, system of alliances was established to achieve peace in Europe. By 1890, Bismarck succeeded in having every major power into his alliance system, except for France. He desired to prevent any assay by France’s revenge and to recuperate the land of Alsace-Lorraine lost to Germany in 1871.
Bismarck’s alliance system brought peace between the European countries. (Stewart, Fitzgerald, Pickard 12) His alliance system starts with a treaty with Austria-Hungary who was one of the 5 powers in Europe. In 1879, Germany and Austria-Hungary signed the Dual Alliance, which was planned as a merely defensive arrangement or military alliance. Both governments promised that they should help or remain neutral when other powerful countries such as Russia or France attack.
(Stewart, Fitzgerald, Pickard 13) The second allied country was with Italy.In 1882, Bismarck turns Dual Alliance into Triple Alliance by making Italy to join in his alliance system. Since Italy had close friendship with Great Britain, although Italy was not a strong military nation, it was an influential part of the Alliance. And at the same time, Great Britain and Germany had conflict in North Africa on colonial aspiration.
Therefore, it was the perfect time to be an ally with her to isolate France. (Stewart, Fitzgerald, Pickard 14) Making Great Britain as a close friend was a benefit for Germany. Bismarck’s next target to isolate France was Russia.In 1881, the Dreikaiserbund was made a treaty, which was the agreement between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia promising not to help the fourth power, France.
However in 1884, this treaty had renewed and Russia refused to renew her membership in Dreikaiserbund. Then Bismarck discussed the Reinsurance Treaty with Russia and promised to remain neutral when a third power got to attack. (Stewart, Fitzgerald, Pickard 15) By accomplishing alliance and completing Bismarck’s alliance system, Germany secured its position in the case of attack from France. Bismarck had his own principle of being one of three.
He says, ‘Nobody wished to be in minority. All politics reduce themselves to this formula: to try to be one of three, as long as the world is governed by an unstable equilibrium of five Powers. ’ Those five Powers were Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia and France. If Germany were only one of the two, there is a possibility for a least two other powers to be united.
Bismarck had succeeded to become one of two and three at the same time. Alliance system of Bismarck gave Germany security and allowed to dominate politics of European (Pope 3). However, in March 1890, Bismarck dismissed from the Chancellorship by Kaiser Wilhelm II.The major mistake that Wilhelm had made was to end the Reinsurance treaty with Russia.
When the treaty ended, Russia turned to French financiers for help. For France, this event was a godsend opportunity and they were no longer isolated. France and Russia needed each other for finance and military. Hence, in 1894, a military treaty between Russia and France was signed, which was a Dual Alliance against Triple Alliance.
(Pope 7) J. F. V. Keiger said, “ General de Boisdeffre was dispatched to Russia to negotiate with the Chief of the Russian General Staff, General Obruchev.
But there were a number of difficulties.In the event of a war with the Triple Alliance, France wanted Russia to direct her forces principally against Germany. However, Russia viewed Austria-Hungary as the main adversary. A compromise was reached and on 17 August 1892 the secret Franco-Russian military convention was signed.
It was to have the same duration as the Triple Alliance. ” in his own book titled as France and the Origins of the First World War. (Pope 7) Another change in Bismarck’s foreign policy was Entente Cordiale between Great Britain and France. Great Britain was another isolated country by Germany.
Therefore, Britain secretly pledged to uphold French to the independent North African state of Morocco and in return for French identification of British rule in Egypt. In 1907, France and Great Britain signed a similar pact with Russia. Since Japan and Great Britain were connected with military alliance, Japan became one part of Entente. Finally, Triple Entente was formed with France, Russia, Great Britain and Japan.
(Brendon 6) One alliance between countries leads the third country to the creation of another alliance. Did the creation of alliances cause fear on both sides and that eventually led to war?If the answer is true, the answer to the argument about major cause is to be found in the European alliance system before the Great War. (Pope 8) Based on Alliance system with European countries, Germany was the main country that actually caused the Great War. In 1891, Germany formed an influential group with two different programs for the development of patriotism.
The influential group named Pan-German League made propaganda in industrial and government circles and also managed other organizations among Germans abroad. The only purpose of these programs was to develop patriotism of their nation.By inculcating nationalism in people’s heart, the German government convinced them to join the war. German government also used the lectures in University to convince students.
German’s best generals, Moltke and Tirpitz, were influenced by Treitschke who had great control in Germany. His lecture in University of Berlin helped to change German’s image to a forceful military country next to Prussia. He also said that Germany has strong, well-trained armies and it is their fate to go on war. (Stewart, Fitzgerald, Pickard 60) Another powerful influence was General Friedrich Bernhardi.
In his book‘best-seller’, he wrote that war represents the strength and life of cultured peoples. According to his writing, Germany’s only choice was to achieve world power. The Germans wanted to make their country to suffer and fail(Stewart, Fitzgerald, Pickard 61) By using different ways, German government gathered lot of young soldiers who were willing to die for their country. However, German was not the country who was full of people with patriotism.
Around late nineteen century, the power of nationalists was rising. Austria-Hungary was a powerful empire and Serbia was one of her colonies.Serbia, a country in Balkan Peninsula, was colonial country of Austria-Hungary. When the nationalists heard that Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary is visiting the Bosnia-Herzegovina capital of Sarajevo, they wanted their imperial country out of the region and planned to murder the archduke.
(Hamilton 19) June 28, 1914, it was the start of crisis, which began the Great War (Stewart, Fitzgerald, Pickard 23). Dragutin Dimitrievic, a member of Serbia government, formed a secret society. This secret society named Black Hands, arranged with seven young students who had wanted movement as nationalists of Serbia.After the assassination, the next thing followed was the reaction of alliances, with most of European countries and that also led to war (Hamilton 19).
One century had passed and the people from the countries involved in WWI would always remember the valor and heroism the soldiers have fought for the independence and sovereign of their land from the hands of their enemies resulted from the complicated yet effective Alliance and Nationalism of their government to achieve their goals and give their people the government and leadership they well deserved.Works CitedHamilton John. Events Leading to World War I. United States: ABDO Publishing Company, 2004.
Print.Clare John D. First World War. Great Britain: Riverswift Random House, 1994.
Print.Brendon Vyvyen. The First World War 1914-18. Great Britain: Hodder & Stoughton, 2000.
Print.Stewart David, Fitzgerald James, Pickard Alf. The Great Wars: Sources and Evidence. Australia: an International Thomson Publishing company, 1987.
Print.McCullough Edward E. How The First World War Began: The Triple Entente and the Coming of the Great War of 1914-1918. North America: Black Rose Books, 1999.
Print.Martel Gordon. The Origins of the First World War. Malaysia: Pearson Education Limited, 2003.
Print.Pope Giles. The Origins of the First World War: International Baccalaureate. Victoria, Australia: IBID Press, 2002.
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