Causes of World War One

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IB History
October 9th, 2012
The Main Cause of WW1
The war that started on 28 July, 1914 was significantly different from all conflicts that had preceded it, making it a highly studied historical event. For the first time since the development of the modern world the fighting was not limited to a few select countries- every important force in the world at that time was involved in the rift, making this the First World War. The proposed causes of this war are a subject strongly debated by many historians throughout the world, including suggestions such as the arms race between Britain and Germany, the increased competition between the major powers for colonies, and the introduction into political planning of the concepts of Social Darwinism and militarism. Although all of these factors contributed to some extent to the build up of tension that led to and later fuelled the fighting in Europe and worldwide, the main instigator of the conflict was the complex system of alliances that tied together all the European powers. Alliances provided uninvolved countries- Germany, Russia, Britain, Italy- with reason and incentive to join the war, while also providing Austria-Hungary with the support it needed to begin the struggle that led to WW1. In June 1888 the new Kaiser of Germany, Wilhelm II dismissed Germany’s Chancellor in charge of foreign relations, Otto von Bismarck. Along with this dismissal came an extreme change in Germany’s foreign policy, from Bismarck’s Realpolitik to the Weltpolitik that the Kaiser preferred. The abandonment of the checks and balances that made up the former policy would prove to have immense impact on the alliances renewed, created, and maintained in Europe leading up to the war. Bismarck’s Realpolitik was very effective at keeping France isolated, which was achieved in part by the formation of the Three Emperors League, a coalition between Russia, Austria, and Germany. However, when the Kaiser came into power he...
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