International rivalry was, debatably, the biggest factor that caused the First World War. As the European powers such as Britain, France and Russia had been competing with each other in might, prominence and colonial expansion. Furthermore, Britain and France had been rivals for an incredibly lengthy period of time and had a bitter relationship with each other. Europe was already unstable, with the hostility between Britain and France and with Austria-Hungary at the brink of war with the Serbs and the Slavs; the appearance of Germany and Italy in 1871 posed a serious threat of shifting the balance of power in Europe.
The two alliances that separated Europe into two camps also played a major role in causing tensions between European powers. The alliances were formed following a series of agreements that were made by the majority of European powers that committed them to fight if their ally were to ever be threatened. An example of one of these agreements was the Entente Cordialle. Shortly after these treaties were signed, it was clear that Europe had been divided into two sides; namely, the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance. Moreover, smaller, newly formed countries such as Serbia would ask for the support of their allies if they were ever threatened, this meant that what would have been a little dispute between two countries would turn out to be a full blown war between all the major powers of Europe.
Another very important source of the tensions in Europe was the race for military power. There was competition over both the army and the navy. The arms race involved most of the countries in Europe, it meant that all the major powers were building up their military and anticipating the outbreak of war. France and Germany also built up their defences as Germany had humiliated France in 1870-71 by taking Alsace-Lorraine. This meant that France despised Germany and would employ any excuse to start a war with her and take back Alsace-Lorraine, their honour and Germany's pride. Even the notion of war caused discomfort in many countries and consequently increased the tensions between the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente. The naval race was primarily between Britain and Germany. Britain did not have a large army; they relied on their navy for protection and support. Because of this, Britain made sure it had the largest navy in the world. So when the Germany started building their navy Britain felt threatened and started to rapidly expand her navy as well.
Although Germany was had both a strong economy and military, it had not been given any chance to demonstrate this strength. At the time, the best method to demonstrate strength was in the acquirement of colonies. However, Germany could not get any good colonies as they had begun the race for colonies a lot later than the rest of Europe; this meant that they only got the worst bits of land.
In 1905, the German Kaiser visited Morocco, which was presently going to be under French control, in an attempt to break up the Triple Entente, he stated his desire to protect German trading interests there. A diplomatic row soon followed and war almost broke out. A conference was held and no one supported the Germans except for a half-hearted Austria. Morocco was now under French control. This infuriated the Kaiser, as he had not got what he wished or destabilized the Triple Entente. However, the crisis of Morocco was not over. In 1911 a rebellion in Morocco forced the Sultan to ask for French assistance, Germany could not allow this to happen, she demanded that the French troops withdraw from Morocco and sent a gunboat to Agadir. Another conference was held, and after much diplomatic activity, Germany, again, was forced to back down. The Kaiser had been humiliated for the last time, he would not lose a diplomatic clash again, and the next time would mean war.
The constant disputes in the Balkans between Austria-Hungary and Serbia also caused a large amount of tension in Europe. Although Austria-Hungary was corrupt and feeble, it still had the capacity to cause the outbreak of war. Because of their constant disputes with Serbia and the other Balkan countries, Serbia could set off a war with Russia and thereby cause the rest of the countries to join in. Furthermore, Austria-Hungary was concerned about the Serbian motive to unite all the Slavs. Their concern was so great that in 1908 they mobilised their troops and occupied Bosnia; this action made Serbia ask their ally, Russia, for assistance. Nonetheless, the Tsar had to back down when Germany threatened to support Austria. Soon after this incident, in 1912, Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia fought a join war against Turkey and pushed them out of Europe; this was the First Balkan War. The Austrians could not let the Serbs have control over the cost, so they called together a peace conference and created Albania; this stopped the Serbs expanding to the coast.
In the end, it was the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that lit the powder keg of Europe. This was the excuse Austria was waiting for, it threatened Serbia and gave them a Ultimatum, however, Serbia could not accept the terms and war broke out, the carefully knit network of alliances soon started to get dragged in to the war. Soon, all of Europe was involved in the war. The First World War had begun.
Overall, the tensions in Europe were steadily increasing and it can be said that after 1912, the outbreak of war was almost certain and it would have taken a miracle to stop it. There was six countries all intertwined in alliances and treaties and six countries all building up their military power; it was the perfect recipe of war.
BibliographyAll information was gathered from the following internet sites:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_Ihttp://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwone/