World War One
From 1870 to 1914 a new theme was introduced and carried out by the great powers of Europe, the theme was called Imperialism. One ruler in particular, Kaiser Wilhelm II, was a great believer imperialism and believed that through it, he and Germany, would gain the much desired: prestige and respect. Imperialism was brought on by Germany’s fast growing economy and her want for colonial expansion. It became a headlong rush between the new power of Germany and the other existing European powers to establish colonies; particularly in Africa, parts of Asia and the Pacific. Imperialism brought disputes over these colonies and threatened the existing fragile peace.
Another major Nineteenth Century theme was Nationalism, which was a large threat to some powers such as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as it was made up of many ethnic groups. If some of these different ethnic groups were to adopt nationalism Austria-Hungary would cease to exist, (which it did). This is because nationalism was a powerful force and if adopted one was willing to do anything in the name of their nation to assert themselves and for their group’s independence, which is what Austria-Hungary feared. Extreme nationalism brought on new aspects that tied with international tension, aggression and militarism.
Militarism became another threat to peace, which was derived from the existence of large armies and navies. Leaders of the great powers believed in Social Darwinist theories - basically only the fittest and strongest empires could survive. They, the leaders, thought that as long as their nation was strong and prepared for war they argued that it ensured peace. Imperialists, nationalists and the makers of armaments, militarists, all supported these arguments and so an arms race begun, mainly between Britain and Germany. Britain had always had a policy in which its navy would be twice the size of any two navies in the world put together. Germany recognised that Britain’s navy was the reason for her colonial success, so she decided to build up hers. By building her navy Germany challenged Britain and in 1900 when the second naval law called for the development of Germany’s navy Britain responded by designing a new battle ship called the HMS Dreadnought. Germany felt encircled by a coalition of hostile powers, so she built her own version of the Dreadnought - “The Rhienland”. This constant build up continued and a full-scale naval race began but by 1914 the race calmed and Britain had one with twenty-nine ships. Germany only had seventeen ships, leaving her more resentful than ever.
Having large armies and navies however, was not enough, nations also sought to increase their strength by gaining alliances. These alliances were dangerous though because they made Germany feel encircled and the created fear and suspicion. Because of alliances a small feud between 2 nations could pull in all their allies and start a large-scale war. Austria-Hungary for a long time had wanted to attack Serbia because she felt that it was becoming a threat and controlling too much land. However, she could not as although Serbia was a small nation she had control over Russia’s support through an alliance. Serbia as a nationalist nation, assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire because they wished to assert themselves as independent and wanted Austria-Hungary’s southern Slavic states. This finally gave Austria-Hungary an excuse to attack Serbia and the militaristic Germany gave them a blanc cheque, allowing Austria-Hungary to do anything. This was a very dangerous and possibly foolish move by Germany as it allowed Austria-Hungary to practically control the large German army.
The combination of a nationalist Serbia, the old domineering and greedy empire of Austria-Hungary, an imperialistic and militarist Germany and the system of alliances all brought the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and the Austro-Hungarian attack on Serbia drawing in all the allies into a full-scale war. Imperialism, nationalism,I militarism, the system of alliances and the assassination of Franz Ferdinand were some of the topics covered in the informative video and all adjoined together to help me understand the origins of World War One.
Article name: World War One essay, research paper, dissertation