Did German Ambitions for World Power Make War Inevitable in 1914?

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Did German Ambitions for World Power Make War in 1914 Unavoidable?

The First World War was the biggest and bloodiest war to have been fought with modern technology and caused wide spread chaos and tragedy that until that date was unparalleled in Europe. Of the 65,038,810 people mobilized to fight from all the countries involved 8,556,315 died, 21,219,452 soldiers were injured, and 7,750,945 were reported missing/P.O.W. Because the war was fought on such a massive scale, and caused such wide spread tragedy, all within living memory, it makes it both an interesting and controversial subject, and because of this there are many different theories about what the cause of WWI was. The most blamed party for the outbreak is Germany. There were many different factors involved in the events leading to war, and Germany found herself at the root of the majority of them in one way or another. Even German historian F.Fischer was quoted saying “Germany had a will to war” in his book Griff nach der Weltmacht (Germany’s aims in the First World War) [1] Fischer’s theory on the origins of WWI was that Weltpolitik was instigated because Germany wanted a war. However the impact of the events surrounding assassination of Franz Ferdinand must be taken into account, as well as the other power’s actions/responses.

In 1890 after the dismissal of Bismarck for Caprivi, Germany’s Weltpolitik began with three main aims; colonial annexations, creation of economic spheres of influence, and expansion of the navy. It can be argued that Germany knew that each of these policies would cause conflict with the other powers, and that they were introduced not only for the purpose of making Germany a great power but also to instigate a war. In his first years in power Caprivi attempted to untangle the complex system of alliances and commitments Bismarck had created during his long stay in office, and it can be said that his most important decision in accordance with Weltpolitik was his decision not to renew the Reinsurance Treaty between Russia and Germany[2], however this was mainly due to Holstein- a senior official in the foreign ministry- who managed to use Caprivi’s lack of experience of foreign affairs to exert great influence over German policy.

By planning to expand their navy as part of Weltpolitik Germany began a naval race with Britain. In 1898 came the first German Fleet Act, two years later a second doubled the number of ships to be built, to nineteen battleships and twenty–three cruisers in the next twenty years By aiming to have a bigger navy than the other powers Germany hoped to become a great power, and to have influence over the Balkans, and to be able to gain a colonial empire[3]. It can be argued that, because as part of the naval expansion policy was to keep Britain in the dark about it, Germany knew naval expansion would provoke the British and that it could lead to a struggle between the powers. With their secretive naval race and the creation of the Dreadnought, Britain became severely provoked and soon Germany and Britain were turned into enemies. Germany and England had previously been friendly due to France being their mutual enemy, but with the secretive start of a naval race with Britain Germany pushed them away and towards a new Britain, Russia and France alliance. This was most certainly a large contributing factor to the events leading to WWI, and ensured that Britain would not take Germany’s side- a factor that they were ill prepared for and would eventually lead to their loss of the war.

Germany’s ambition for worldwide expansion, though, is arguably the single most prominent event whose ripples caused World War One. By 1890 almost all of the colonial territories that were rich in export goods and had a good climate, such as Africa, were already divided up and part of the major power’s empires so by the time Germany decided that she wanted to expand her empire worldwide there was little land to be gained, and the land...
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