The Controversial Verdict:
Was it Fair to Place the War Guilt Solely on Germany’s Shoulders?
Candice Wei Wang
Social Studies 11
November 2, 2012
The Controversial Verdict: Was it Fair to Place the War Guilt Solely on Germany’s Shoulders?
One of the most traumatizing bloodsheds in human history, the First World War left all of its combatants in pain and grief. Germany, in particular, bore the most afterwar consequence; the Treaty of Versailles placed full blame for causing World War I (WWI) on Germany’s shoulders. However, it was unjust to force Germany to assume sole responsibility for triggering World War I. Other powers in Europe played roles equally significant to that of Germany in giving rise to the four factors leading to WWI: imperialism, militarism, nationalism, and alliances (Plante,Yvette, Miller, & Falk, pp.41). Imperialism, the extension of a country’s rule and influence on other countries, led to vigorous competition among great powers over colonies, which increased tension in Europe and eventually gave rise to WWI (Plante et al., pp.41). Despite the fact that Germany assumed sole responsibility for the war, the practice of imperialism was, in fact, not only present in Germany but also equally prevalent in other parts of Europe. Great Britain played a particularly significant role in fostering imperialism with its vast areas of land in South East Asia, Africa and all around the globe. Through the Suez Canal it had built, it took over Egypt and occupied the rest of East Africa (www.suburchill.com). Consequently, other powers were compelled to seize more lands in order to compete against Britain, and the level of pressure within Europe was significantly augmented. Besides Britain, other powers in Europe also contributed as much as Germany to the growth of imperialism. France occupied numerous colonies in the Western Hemisphere and Africa, including the Ivory Coast. It also played a key part in the Scramble for Africa, in which it competed vigorously with Britain and Germany over African territories (www.suburchill.com). Russia, even though not involved in the Scramble for Africa, also contributed significantly to imperalism in Europe. It colonized its neighboring small nations, and attempted to unite the Slavic peoples of the Balkans to dominate the Balkans area. As a result, Russia came into direct conflict with Austria-Hungary, who aimed to prevent Slav nationalism to secure the empire’s unity. The strained relation between these two powers further heightened the tension in the Balkans area, where the assassination of the Austrian Archduke triggered the war (Plante et al., pp.42). On the other hand, even though Germany did participate actively in colonization and imperialism, it had much fewer colonies than Britain, France and Russia (www.public.iastate.edu). The dominant powers’ roles in imperialism in Europe were best articulated by Sidney Fay: “it can be hardly said that any one of the Great Powers was more responsible than another for the international… friction which arose out of imperialism” (Fay, pp.45). It was beyond question that Germany was not alone in fostering imperialism; all great powers in Europe made similar contributions. Militarism, one of the four key factors giving rise of WWI, is the belief that a country should always strengthen its military forces (Plante et al., pp.43). Its pervasiveness in Europe resulted in competiton and arms races among great powers. Even though Germany was held solely accountable for WWI, it was not the only nation who had contributed to the growth of militarism. The prioritization of armaments was in reality equally common in other parts of Europe. With the largest navy in the world in the early 1900’s, Britain was especially noted for its possession of weapons. It also invented large, heavily-armed battleships known as Dreadnoughts, and built 18 of them, whereas Germany only owned 9. In...
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