In what ways did the causes of the Second World War differ from the causes of the First World War?
The First World War (1914-1918) was the deadliest, most destructive war that had occurred in history up to that time; it was of a scale unknown to previous generations. Nonetheless, the Second World War (1939-1945) proved to be by far deadlier than the First One. Both World War I and World War II were total wars fought between the major industrial nations and their empires and both were wars of attrition, in which any means and weapons became justified in order to make the enemy unconditionally surrender. Understanding the differences of the causes of both wars is important to determine why two conflicts of a similar nature occurred under different circumstances and therefore be able to prevent other worldwide catastrophes of that kind. The long-term causes of the Second World War differ in some ways from those of the First World War: World War I was caused by imperial rivalry and rivalry over trade and markets while World War II was triggered by the impact the Treaty of Versailles had on the defeated nations; the alliances and treaties that existed between the Great Powers were another long-term cause of World War I, while the League of Nations was a cause World War II. The short-term causes of the Second World War also differ in some ways from those of the First World War: political and social unrest in the Balkans caused World War I, while the economic and political factors after 1929 caused World War II; mobilization led to WWI vs. appeasement that led to WWII; however, the Second World War was triggered by a unique short-term cause: ideology.
Both World War I and World War II were caused by long-term tensions between the Great Powers of Europe: the impact the Treaty of Versailles had on defeated nations was one of the main long-term causes of the Second World War, which differs from the imperial rivalry and rivalry over trade and markets that were a main long-term cause of the First World War. Imperial rivalry had existed between the Great Powers of Europe – Austria-Hungary, Britain, France, Germany, and Russia – and their empires since the late 19th century. Several conflicts had arisen due to this rivalry, which had not led to war: France and Britain were rivals in North Africa and almost went to war in 1898, France and Germany disputed during the Moroccan Crises in 1905 and 1911 and over the Alsace-Lorraine region in 1871, and Russia’s Asian empire threatened Japan and Britain. This imperial rivalry led to rivalry over trade and markets, since the Great Powers wanted to acquire territories to obtain raw materials as well as markets to sell their goods overseas. Hence, the Great Powers scrambled to dominate Africa and several conflicts developed, such as the Boer War in 1899 between Britain and Netherlands to control South Africa. All these rising tensions between the Great Powers are similar to the tensions caused by the Treaty of Versailles, which eventually led to the deadliest war in the history of the world. Germany had not been totally defeated in 1918 and, with insufficient supplies and increasing number of USA troops, simply felt unlikely to win the war. However, there was no unconditional surrender and the armistice was only an agreement to stop fighting, yet the Treaty of Versailles treated Germany as if it had unconditionally surrendered. Germany had many internal problems and had to accept this agreement, yet no German state would ever be able to accept the consequences of the Treaty in the long-term: Germany had lost its overseas colonies and had to accept an army of 100,000 men, among other restrictions. Russia, Italy, and Japan were almost completely left out of the Treaty and did not gain what they had expected when they joined the Great War. These tensions were a major cause that led to the Second World War. Although both wars were caused by existing tensions, the tensions in World War I were...
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