The 20th Century’s Thirty Years War
World War I and World War II are actually just part of one long war because the causes of the 1914 war which were the rise of Germany as a possible hegemon and its plans for expansionism, the threat that this presented to its western neighbors, France and Britain, and the presence of the alliance system, were also the causes of the 1939 war. I.
Rise of Germany and Its Plans For Expansionism
Germany, by the 1890s, was a force to be reckoned with. The German states had finally united, its military was large and well-trained, they were fast becoming industrialized and a good number of their population was, if not educated, at least literate. They were rising and during the years before the 1914 war, they had the power to become Europe’s hegemon. But the Germans were a bit paranoid. They believed that if they didn’t expand, “it will disappear from the map”. They also saw that expansion would bring in new markets for economic growth as well as good for defense against their enemies. They used this fear for security as their case to their people. They knew that their only loyal ally, Austria was weak, they saw that Russia had quickly recovered from the Russo-Japanese War and they foresaw that they were “destined to experience a decline relative to Russia and France”. They figured that a preemptive war was the solution to their problem. When Austria came to them for help with regards to Serbia, they saw it as the war they had been waiting for. German backing of Austria was one of the biggest reasons for the start of the 1914 war. If they hadn’t agreed to, Austria wouldn’t have declared war on Serbia. By the 1930s, Germany was back on its feet once again after being totally humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles. It was actually all due to one man, Adolf Hitler. He was able to clean up the major messes in the country. Politically, he was able to concentrate all the power of the state to himself, although he did this by killing a few people here (example Ernst Röhm) and dismissing a few people there (example economics minister Hjalmar Schacht). Socially, he was able to gain some favor from the people because he had found a solution to the unemployment problem. This isn’t to say that the Germans fully supported him because he had removed certain rights like trade unions and the right to strike but they were so traumatized by the depression of 1929 that they were willing to obey him. Economically, he was able to revive the economy. Hitler’s rearmament policy created more jobs and even though all the attention was put there, they were able to keep inflation under control. Hitler persisted on this because what he really wanted was German expansion. With the German people behind him and the policy of appeasement by Germany’s two main enemies, France and Britain, he was able to rearm, throw the Treaty of Versailles out the window and annex his hometown of Austria without a peep from his western enemies. His expansionist plan led him to Poland, which caused the 1939 war. II.
Britain and France Feel Threatened
During the 1914 war, Russia had rushed in to help the Serbs who had to face both Austria and Germany. France was Russia’s ally but for the past two times Russia needed France, France wasn’t there for Russia: during the Russo-Turkish war and during Austria’s annexation of Bosnia. If France didn’t help Russia this time, it knew that Russia would give them up as an ally. France couldn’t have that. There was no way it could take on Germany all by itself. Germany at that time was already the strong power that was mentioned above. Britain had an almost similar situation. However, after years of arms racing, the years before the war were actually better times in the relationship of Germany and Britain. In fact, it was even described as “cordial”. Britain considered staying neutral but after much thought, the leaders realized they couldn’t because if they did, whoever won the war...
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