The First World War (Revision)

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The First World War (Revision)

The rise of Germany upset the balance of power in Europe

The Old Balance of Power - a balance of power was established between Russia, Austria, Prussia and France, with Britain holding the scales.

The rise of a unified Germany upset this balance. Germany was unified not only by ‘blood and iron’ but also by ‘coal and iron’. Rapid industrialization, concentrated military power, a young and dramatically increasing population (43% increase between 1880 and 1910) had raised it into a position of potential domination over Europe. With an expanding economy and overseas colonization, she now started to demand recognition as a world power. Yet Bismarck was wise and cautious enough not to alarm the other powers. He knew exactly what he wanted and how to get it. He put forward the idea of a balance of political power between the Republican West and the Autocratic East. He pledged to maintain peace in Europe and made alliances to keep his friends and to make his enemies friendless. He supported the Republicans in France, as it was the least revanchist. As long as France remained a Republic, the autocratic Russia and Austria-Hungary would not be allied with it and agree to maintain a certain relation amongst the three autocratic powers.

Things changed after William II took over the power. The term Weltpolitik (World Policy) was first used by William II in 1896 as a description for the German version of an imperialism which was shared by the other Powers. It was summed up in his statement that ‘nothing must henceforth be settled in the world without the intervention of Germany and the German Emperor’. This concept of expansion found expression in the intervention in the Moroccan Crises, the construction of the Baghdad railway, the launching of a large navy and the quest for colonies both in Africa and Asia. Through their naval and colonial ambitions they were seen to menace British and French imperial interests. By assuming the role of protector of Turkey, Germany was felt to be thwarting the traditional aims of Russia in Asia and Asia Minor and in the Balkans.

The Imperial and economic conflicts

Imperial rivalries

The scramble for colonies started in the 1880s.
In the Conference of Berlin the powers discussed the partition of Africa in order to prevent conflicts, but it actually speeded up partition. Germany, which originally had little interest in imperialism, joined the imperial game and created fear among the powers.

There were rivalries between
France and Britain: Egyptian Sudan (Fashoda Incident)
France and Italy: Tunisia
France and Germany: Morocco
Germany and Britain: the Boer Wars
The only independent states in Africa by 1914 were Abyssinia and Liberia.

The scramble for colonies in Asia
Britain: India, Malaya, Burma, and Singapore
France: Indo-china (Annam, Laos, and Cambodia)
Germany: late comer, got only some Pacific Islands, a concession in Shandong Belgium: East Indies (Indonesia)
Russia: Siberia, concessions in North-east China
The only independent state in South-east Asia was Siam (Thailand)

The Alliance System – the establishment of a new balance of power

Bismarck's aim:i. To isolate France by making friends with other European great powers to prevent a war against Germany (especially by a ‘nightmare coalition of Russia and France’) on two fronts. ii. To maintain peace so that Germany could consolidate her power

Alliances

Dreikaiserbund (1872) → Dual Alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary (1878) → Revived Dreikaiserbund (1881) → Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy (1882) → Reinsurance Treaty between Germany and Russia (1887).

Results: - at first successful. His complicated system achieved the diplomatic isolation of France, an understanding with Russia and the maintenance of European peace. But at time passed, his...
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