DBQ: Causes of World War I
At the turn of the twentieth century, Europe seemed to enjoy a period of peace and progress. Yet below the surface, several forces were at work that would lead Europe into the “Great War.” On of these forces was nationalism, and it had an explosive effect in the Balkans. But, nationalism was only one of the many causes of WWI. Historians and eye witnesses have described the causes of WWI and have tried to assess the responsibility for it. All wars occur because of basic political issues, such as nationalism, imperialism, alliances, militarism, and economics. World War I was no exception to this rule. Each of these played a part in bringing about The Great War. Along with these causes, all wars also have a spark and World War I is no different.
The spark that started World War I was the murder of Archduke Ferdinand, the Austro-Hungarian Empire by Serbian nationalists. This was brought about by the nationalism and desire for independence in the Austro-Hungarian controlled Balkans. The Russians, according to Snyder, considered herself the “Mother of the Slavs” and had to protect and control the Slavic people living in eastern and central Europe (p.163), including the Serbians who, alone, were not match for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, even if it was weak, and aided the Serbians. The Slavic people’s desire for freedom from the Austro-Hungarian Empire was only one part of the nationalism that caused the Great War, however. French nationalism also played a part, as the French were bitter about the loss of Alsace-Lorraine and also the nationalism in Turkey played a role as the Turks wanted freedom from the Ottoman Empire. Propaganda also sparked a lot of nationalism in countries, with newspapers revealing the rival countries in insulting ways. Imperialism went hand-in-hand during this war with nationalism, as the Archduke’s assassination was brought about by Austro-Hungarian imperialism in Serbia. And Document three tells us that Serbia did not commit the murder. The Moroccan Crisis of 1905 also brought about WWI as it showed how everyone wanted a hand in the world, no matter what the cost. France gave up the Sudan to England while claiming Morocco and Germany tried to intervene and gain some land, cementing its place as an enemy of France. Alliances cause war when rival countries create coalitions, which seem to threaten one another. The initial alliances before WWI were the Triple Alliance, made up of Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Italy, and the Triple Entente, which was made up of France, Russia, and Great Britain. This is all proven is Document two, where a map shows the alliances which were formed. Although the alliances changed throughout the war, specifically Italy changing sides, the United States joining the Entente and Russia leaving it, the alliances primarily stayed the same throughout the war, with each side striving for power.
Militarism also played a great role in the bringing of WWI, primarily because Prussia was such a militaristic country that it could not remain at peace. The Prussian monarchy, history, traditions, and ideals are simply those of war and the entire country is military (p.165). Prussia tried to attract Great Britain into waging a war with it by building a larger navy to rival that of the controller of the seas, Britain. Modernization also played a part in the militaristic aspect of as it enabled the countries to utilize more sophisticated weaponry such as the artillery weapon Big Bertha and U-Boats.
Economics also played a vital role in bringing about World War I as it aided in the rivalry between Germany and Great Britain. In fact, the rivalry between the two brought about the Second Industrial Revolution, which enabled them to manufacture goods more easily and export them to Africa, India, China, and elsewhere. The rivalry increased as the Great Powers competed to spread their goods in their spheres of influences and this eventually led to Germany’s previously mentioned naval rivalry with Britain in order to trade as rapidly as Britain could, as it could protect its merchant ships better. Some, for instance in Document four, say that Germany took responsibility for “causing all the loss and damage”. While others, in Document five, state that the Germans claimed that were merely fighting out of defense. The Second Industrial Revolution also aided in the military aspect with the invention of new weapons.
Whatever the spark of WWI may have been, if one accredits the war to it solely, one is most definitely wrong. A war does not break out by one murder; rather it is brought about overtime when tensions between countries rise to their boiling point. The Great War met this boiling point many times over and that was what caused such an extreme war to be brought about.