The system of alliances in place across Europe,

The First World War was the consequence of a severely managed Balkan Crisis in the Summer of 1914, instead than a merchandise of long-standing competitions between the great powers.

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The causes of the First World War have long been debated. Surely the longstanding competitions between the established great powers were a conducive factor. The complicated system of confederations in topographic point, the imperial aspirations of the great powers and a powerful combination of increased militarism and patriotism in the early old ages of the 20th century all provided a background that might take to war. It was nevertheless the crisis in the Balkans that provided the flicker for war. The struggle in the parts had for some clip been suggested as a possible accelerator for war. The events of the summer of 1914 sparked a series of events that led the remainder of the universe into war.


The system of confederations in topographic point across Europe, whilst intended to forestall war held out the danger that a little struggle between two provinces could unknot into a much larger struggle. Hickey writes that “by the terminal of the first decennary of the 20Thursdaycentury the universe was mature for war. In Europe the great powers each endeavoured through a web of pacts to keep a favorable equilibrium of power” ( Hickey p10 ) .

The confederations could be traced back to Bismarck’s efforts to supply long-run security for Germany following the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. He had wanted to set in topographic point a system of confederations that would forestall Germany from of all time holding to contend a two-front war with both France and Russia. The job with the system was that it could arouse instead than prevent war. The confederations slackly saw Britain, France and Russia lined up against the Central Powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary along with a more probationary Italy. Theoretically, as Riezler wrote “one ally would keep another ; a critical involvement for one would non be a critical involvement for another” ( p100 Strachan 1998 ) . The complexnesss of the system in topographic point by 1914 nevertheless did small to advance peace. Italy for illustration, holding been signatory to a Ternary Alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary, had negotiated a secret pact with France plighting neutrality should Germany assail France ( ) . The confederations finally did small to forestall war, and as Hickey suggests, may good hold been a accelerator for war: “Frequent displacements of power and the strings of pacts drawn up by the tampering chancelleries of Europe throughout the 19Thursdaycentury had contributed to the general instability” ( p8 Hickey 2002 ) .


There was a noticeable tide of patriotism across Europe in the old ages prior to the War. Howard writes “France herself had been traveling through a stage of hawkish patriotism after the Agadir crisis and was both militarily and psychologically ready for war” ( p19 Howard 2002 ) . Britain besides, whilst trying to remain detached from the on-going crisis in the Balkans was progressively drawn into military one-upmanship with Germany and would be improbable to digest German efforts to set up itself as a World Power. In the Balkans, patriotism was rife, as Hickey describes: “Nationalism and peculiarly Pan-Slavism were strong in the disparate states of the Austrian Empire, notably in the Balkans ( p8, Hickey 2002 ) . Patriotism in Germany every bit good was prevailing and its turning economic and military power was a powerful look of national pride.

Nationalism entirely was non a direct factor in the eruption of War. Patriotism is something that be contained and does non needfully take to conflict. Nevertheless, the spread of patriotism across Europe at the beginning of the 20th century did small to better relation between the great powers.

There was a noteworthy rush in militarism amongst the great powers in the 10 old ages taking up to the eruption of war. For the first four old ages of the new century the ground forcess remained mostly in the province of slow peacetime development that had continued since the terminal of the wars in the mid-nineteenth century. The size of ground forcess and the budgets used on the military were under some signifier of restraint everyplace and international competition appeared to play merely a little portion in their modernization. From 1904 onwards nevertheless there was a clear displacement in policies towards the armed forces, sparked to a big extent by Russia’s military recovery following its war with Japan. German efforts to construct up its naval forcess and subsequent competition with Britain serves as another illustration. The rise in militarism accelerated as 1914 approached. As Herrmann writes: “between 1912 and 1914 nevertheless, the chief European ground forcess undertook a series of additions in both manpower and equipment, in a mutual moral force of competitory armament steps directed explicitly against each other” ( p5 Herrmann 1996 )

Such militarism was surely a lending factor to war. The military competition made the provinces that were constructing up their ground forcess look aggressive, making a clime in which war would be more likely. The mobilization of province resources for armaments besides required a corresponding mobilization of political sentiment and soldierly sentiment to back up it. As Herrmann concludes “the procedure tended to make perceptual experiences that “windows of opportunity” for successfully contending a war were shutting, due to the belief that a challenger could pull upon huge resources in the hereafter while one’s ain side was nearing the bounds of its capacity” ( p7 Herrmann 1996 ) . As with the other signifiers of competition between the great powers, the growing in militarism gave an indicant that war was a existent possibility.


The imperial bequests of established great powers and the turning imperial aspiration of Germany were another beginning of competition between the states of Europe in the early 20th century. As Strachan writes: “the scuffle for settlements and imperial influence had shaped the docket of late-nineteenth century international political relations and tensenesss did non ease in the early twentieth century” ( p12 Strachan 1998 ) .

For Germany in peculiar, the constitution of Empire became progressively of import. There were statements with France over Morocco in 1906 and 1911, and Germany discovered that he colonial universe was something that was hard to interrupt into: “But the universe had already been conquered and partitioned ; there was no topographic point in the Sun for Germany and her huge economic power remained extremely concentrated on a comparatively little national district, her field of enlargement narrowly circumscribed by her challengers positions” ( p22 Ferro 2002 ) . Germany would happen it hard to run into the demands of its maturating economic system and to widen its zone of influence and markets.

Britain in bend felt threatened by German efforts at imperial enlargement. Britain’s success with her settlements was a beginning of great national pride and any challenge of competition was unwelcome.

A physique up of German navy power after 1900 was besides of concern to the British, something that served as grounds non merely of imperial aspirations but besides of a turning patriotism and militarism within Germany. The German attempts to better their naval fleet merely spurred on the British who built powerful Dreadnoughts presuming that the Germans would non follow suit. Germany did nevertheless, widening the Kiel Canal and constructing its ain Dreadnoughts. Anglo-German competition deepened as the media in both states stirred up the issue. Ferro writes that “some solons in both states sought agreement: but the states were pushed by the logic of imperialism and character of solon into ill will.

Colonial power became a farther beginning of competition between the great powers prior to 1914. For Britain and Germany in peculiar, the competition became intense and can be seen as another lending factor to war.

The Balkan crisis had been boiling up since the decomposition of the Ottoman Empire and observers had been foretelling for some clip that it would finally slop over into war. The crisis of 1914 followed on from earlier struggles in 1912 and 1913. The first Balkan War had begun in 1912 when members of the Balkan League – Greece, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Serbia attacked Turkey over the ownership of the Turkish state of Macedonia. A peace program was finally brokered by Britain, Russia and France in which the disputed districts were divided among the Balkan Alliess. Peace did non last for really long nevertheless – shortly afterwards, Bulgaria, unhappy about its portion of the district, attacked Serbia and Greece. Other states rapidly became embroiled in the new struggle, giving a clear indicant as to how volatile the full part was. Montenegro, Romania and Turkey individually declared war on Bulgaria and, following the licking of the Bulgarians, saw the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest divide most of the district claimed by Bulgaria within Macedonia between Serbia and Greece.

The event that finally set the Balkans ablaze nevertheless, and more than any other individual event sparked World War One was the blackwash of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914. The secret plan had been hatched by the Black Hand, a group of Belgrade-based Serbian patriots who wanted to stop the Austrian-Hungarian domination of the Balkans and unite Serbian minorities across the Balkans with an independent Serbia. As was the instance elsewhere in Europe, patriotism was really much at manus.

That the secret plan succeeded and finally led to war, is mostly due to the incompetency of Habsburg functionaries in Sarajevo. The visit was publicized months in progress and an earlier failed bomb effort failed to motivate greater security. The existent motorcade that Ferdinand was going in was besides ill organised, giving the bravos chance to strike. Maurer writes: “a modicum of better security readyings could hold prevented the blackwash. The eruption of war in 1914 hinged on an unlikely series of bloopers on the portion of Habsburg officials” ( p53 Maurer 1995 )

Following the blackwash, war appeared about inevitable. The remainder of Europe realised that Austria would be determined to penalize the Serbs – whether the remainder of the continent would go caught up in the struggle was the most urgent inquiry. In the earlier Balkans crises, Franz Ferdinand had played an of import function in keeping in cheque the voices naming for war. As Maurer argues: “Now his blackwash changed dramatically the political balance within Austria-Hungary” ( p53 Maurer 1995 ) .

Whilst it was clear that Austria wanted to utilize the blackwash to arouse war with Serbia, other European powers did small to step in or so to forestall escalation of war across the continent. Once Austria had declared war, Russia began to call up its military personnels to protect its Slav Alliess and within yearss Germany had later declared war on both Russia and France. The German invasion of Belgium shortly prompted British entry into the War.

The struggle in the Balkans was severely handled from the initial interruption up of the old Turkish Empire. The great powers in Europe were unable to happen a colony that would maintain all parties happy and keep the peace. The wars of 1912 and 1913 should hold given an indicant as to how volatile the part was and focussed diplomatic heads of happening a declaration. The crisis in the summer of 1914 was once more due to events being ill handled. The visit of Franz Ferdinand to Sarajevo was severely managed and in the hebdomads following the blackwash, the great powers did small to forestall the struggle escalating. The systems of confederations plus the effects of other competitions between the great powers combined to multiply the unsafe effects of the Balkans crisis.

Ultimately, the First World War was a merchandise of the crisis in the Balkans. The longstanding competitions between the great powers did small to forestall the escalation of the struggle, but without the flicker produced by events in the Balkans the competitions may non hold escalated into World War. The blackwash of Archduke Franz Ferdinand took the European powers over the precipice.


Ferro M,The Great War,Routledge, London 2002

Herrmann D,The Arming of Europe and the Making of the First World War,Princeton University Press, New Jersey 1996

Hickey, MThe First World War,Osprey Publishing, Oxford 2002

Howard M,The First World War,Oxford University Press, London 2002

Maurer, J,The Outbreak of the First World War,Praeger Publishers 1995

Strachan H,The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War,Oxford University Press, Oxford 1998

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