Was Germany primarily responsible for the outbreak of the Great War?

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The Great War was the turning point in European if not global history; it was the starting point of the most violent century humankind has ever known. Over the past ninety-one years historians have become almost obsessive in the search to explain who was responsible for causing the Great War. Many historians spent their life searching for an answer that never truly came.

In deciding wether or not Germany was primarily responsible for causing the Great War of 1914-1918 several main points have to be addressed such as the alliance systems, nationalism, the arms race and imperialism. Evidence of these can be found in the actions and decisions made by Germany in the period from Unification in1871, outbreak of war in 1914 and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.

The unification of Germany in 1871 was announced at Louis XIV palace at Versailles before the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 came to an end. The unification of Germany was controversial the two great powers of Austria-Hungary and Prussia wished to rule the unified German state. Prussia had an efficient government it believed that Germany had to be a strong state of which other weaker nations could join. Austria on the other hand did not want Germany to be unified at all, as it saw advantage in ruling a weaker, un-united Germany like it did in other states such as the smaller Slavic states. An advantage for Prussian was that not only did it have an efficient government the majority of its population were Germanic and it had one of the best armies in Europe. After the Unification was signed, King Wilhelm I of Prussia became Kaiser Wilhelm I of the German Empire.

The new German state set the terms of peace for the Franco-Prussian War, France had to pay Germany one billion dollars and cede two provinces that were on the France-German border Alsace and Lorraine. Alsace was predominantly German speaking whilst Lorraine was French speaking both preferred to stay under French rule but were given no choice.

Unification allowed Germany to enter a period of rapid industrial growth and no other power on the European continent had a strong enough military to challenge the Unified German military might. Otto von Bismarck, Chancellor of Germany had a policy of "Blood and Iron" blood being the military and iron, Coal and iron natural resources that was plentiful Germany. In a short period of time Germany made massive steps forward in the steel and chemical industries. Germany had become a world leader in the manufacturing of precision workmanship such as that needed to produce glass and mirrors for telescopes, cameras and optical .

The unification of Germany was a turning point in the prosperity of the new nation state. By the end of the Nineteenth century Germany began to rival Britain in coal, iron, steel production and shipbuilding. The population rose rapidly from forty million in 1870 to approximately seventy million by 1914. The German government was well organised but undemocratic with the common people having little voice; the elected men in Reichstag had little power to control the chancellor who was the Kaiser's representative. Whilst the upper house members of the Reichstag were chosen by the rulers of the different states in Germany, it had only slightly more power than the lower house. At this time the Kaiser had the power to block any changes to the constitution or the army.

Germany's power was dependant on the fact that it had no powerful rivals. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was two separate states who from 1867 were governed by Francis Joseph of the Hapsburg family, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. They shared common ministries for war and foreign affairs but maintained separate legislatures with their own ministries. This arrangement favoured Germany and Hungary as it did little to satisfy the needs and wants of other national groups in the Austro-Hungarian Empire; the Czechs and Slavs wanted self government whilst the Slovaks, Croats,...
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