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Should Any one Nation Be Seen as Responsible for the Outbreak of the First World War?

Essay by   •  June 7, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,349 Words (6 Pages)  •  2,285 Views

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It is difficult to fully blame one country for the outbreak of the First World War. There were many key events in Europe, at that time, which acted as a catalyst to the inevitable growing tensions between the five Great Powers; these being Great Britain, Russia, France and Austria-Hungary - However it could be deemed that the last Great Power should take more responsibility than the rest and that country is Germany.

It was the late 18th Century to 19th Century and an industrial revolution was beginning. Changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transport and technology allowed Great Britain to thrive with the most powerful Empire in the world to which the rest of Europe eventually followed. Although, Austria-Hungary (allies with Germany) were slow to progress resulting in both countries uniting, further adding to Germany's power and move towards 'Weltpolitik' - in other words, 'World Domination.' As the rest of Europe began to flourish, Germany strived for acquisition of colonies in search of 'raw materials and markets for their goods.'

Her quest for world domination (Weltpolitik) proved to be one major key event that ruffled the feathers of surrounding countries. Kaiser Willhelm II was determined to make Germany powerful, to gain more territory and wealth. He was said to have produced the popular slogan of imperialist power politics, as that of Germany seeking 'a place in the sun' next to the other Great Powers. Willhelm II, grandson of Queen Victoria, has been reported to be a weak character. His overly pushy mother was constantly trying to make up for the fact that he was born with a withered arm. Biographers including Miranda Carter have suggested that this disability affected his emotional development. Not only did Willhelm suffer from this, but some believed he was hugely influenced by German Militants who wanted Germany to prosper with the biggest Empire of the world. One may argue that the Kaiser's plans for world domination are what pushed surrounding countries, Great Britain, Russia and France to form the 'Triple Entente Alliance' as they felt threatened. On the other hand, this may have lead to Germany wanting to grow stronger as the fear of encirclement of surrounding countries dawned on her.

As Great Britain, Russia and France joined alliances, Germany retaliated by building a hugely powerful army. The German's power was increasing rapidly, their military was one of the most advanced and she placed great emphasis on high quality training and maintaining a large number of experienced Senior Officers. Meanwhile, Russia was also building a vast army, as arms race began between Nations, due to their insecurities about their nationalism and expansionism. Germany, feeling increasingly surrounded and threatened with the possibility of a combined attack from their perceived enemies, came up with a plan of attack. This was known as the 'Schlieffen Plan,' devised by 'Alfred Von Schlieffen' - the German Army Chief of Staff. He believed that if an outbreak of war did happen, then it was with great importance that France be speedily defeated, in the hope that Britain and Russia would be unwilling to fight. He also calculated that due to the fact that Russia was such a vast country, it would take their army at least six weeks to mobilise and be ready. Therefore it was vital for Germany to invade France and force surrender before Russia could intervene.

In order for Germany to attack France, they planned to use the majority of their army to cross through Belgium towards France and for the lesser majority to stay and protect the eastern border. On 2nd August 1914, the Schlieffen Plan was put into operation. The German Army invaded Luxembourg and Belgium resulting in a battle with the Belgium Army, who to the German's surprise, was readily prepared and the fact that Germany had invaded Belgium, didn't sit well with Britain, who then stepped in to help their allies. Russia also mobilised quicker than originally thought and Germany were said to be 'shocked' by this.

The Schlieffen Plan could be seen by some that Germany was purposely building her army with every intention to use it, regardless of feeling encircled or not. Russia had begun to mobilise, yet Germany chose to follow the plan to attack Western Europe



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