“World War One Was Unavoidable” Discuss.
World War One began in 1914, August 1, when Germany declared war on Russia and France. Countries started mobilizing for a continental war, one of the bloodiest conflicts in the history of the humankind surrounded by many different theories, why it has emerged and how it could have been avoided. In order to fully understand the origins of World War One, I am going to start analysing European diplomacy from 1870’s when the war was still avoidable. The first major changes in Europe were made when France lost the Franko-Prussian war and Otto von Bismarck united the Germany. Britain was a well economically established country and Russia was going through industrialisation but their citizens were increasingly unhappy with their regime and Austro-Hungary had problems with their dual monarchy system as the national rivalries kept emerging within their European empire. The second part of my assignment will consist of analysis of the period when World War One was unavoidable and this mainly relates on German Kaiser Wilhelm Second, which dismissed Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck and started bullying Europe. When the July crisis appeared in 1914’s, German and Russia did not backed down, Germany gave ‘the blank check’ to Austria-Hungary and Russia did not restrain Serbia, a peaceful conference also was no longer a solution and so the first World War has began.
First of all, Germany was one of the major influential countries in European Diplomacy by the end of 19th century. It is very important to analyse its actions taken, which later led to this worldwide massacres. From 1870’s Germany was a democratic monarchy with power held by Kaiser Wilhelm II and Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. As the United Germany had dominance in Europe after the Franko-Prussian War, Otto Von Bismarck had his main objective to keep France isolated and do not give any reason for major European countries to ally with them. The reason why Otto Von Bismarck has been doing it was to avoid any actions from France towards Germany because they wanted revenge. As we can see Otto Von Bismarck never wanted to emerge major conflicts, his amazing foreign policy planning was only looking forward to keep the countries away from each other and retain the industrial growth within the country, which by the end of 19th century overtook Britain. It is obvious, that neither Germany, nor France were ready to start the war, as both of them did not have any allies or enough armaments to organise the quick and deadly strike. What is more, German leaders had plans to seize the colonies and it was Britain who had the largest empire territorially which left Germans to decide whether to work together or compete in the 20th century. Furthermore, Otto Von Bismarck was delighted about the country’s performance, which was probably his biggest mistake, as the Kaiser Wilhelm II was driven by imperialistic ideas to expand in Europe and to start building overseas empire, so he removed Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck from his position in 1890’s. From this point, German foreign policy changed and country became insanely greedy for power and new territories. If we think whether the war was avoidable from Germany’s prospective until the removal of Otto Von Bismarck, I would say it was avoidable, as the Chancellor had amazing strategies and communication with other leaders, but since he was removed by Wilhelm II who started looking forward to interactions and conflicts because he began investing a lot of money into country’s armaments. Another important aspect to look at is Britain’s foreign policy until 1900’s. Britain was a well-established parliamentary democracy and it was the first country in Europe to achieve Industrial revolution. It was seen as the superior for all European countries because of their self-sufficiency, developed economy and number of colonies. Britain did not show any interest in Europe as they had their own empire, in other words, their foreign policy towards Europe was neutral, which meant that Britain did not even think about starting alliances with European countries or interact into conflicts between other countries. Although they had huge military power, it was comprised mainly of their navy, which was prepared to protect their trade routes in the seas. Another important participant in European Diplomacy was France. Country, which has lost the Franko-Prussian war and gave away Alsace-Lorrain territory to Germany. France was furious and seeking for revenge, if they would have started invasion into Germany this could have been the start of the war. Once again, the German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck has completed his task perfectly and isolated France from potential alliances with Russia or Britain until the end of 19th century. On the other hand, Austro-Hungarian Empire was having a lot of trouble with their dual-monarchy system and they never had friendly foreign policy towards European countries because they did not have any interest in them. They were only looking to the southern part of the Europe and this can be identified by constant conflicts with Balkan region because their foreign policy contained of the requirement to preserve them. In this case, Austro-Hungary Empire knew that they are making waves, but they did not have the intention to start the global conflict. On the eastern part of Europe Russia also had its own problems starting with people being unhappy with their regime, and the entire system being bureaucratic and ineffective. Nevertheless, the country’s foreign policy remained impartial towards Europe, because they had huge territories and resources to develop their industrialisation process until the level, where they would be confident enough to start conflicts with major countries. Furthermore, Russia has always been imagined as a weak country because of its size, which unveils their demobilization. Moreover, Italy did not have a lot of interests in Europe as well, as the country was more concentrated in preserving their colonies. Even though Italy has joined the triple alliance with Germany and Austro-Hungary, they never wanted the war to emerge and the joining of alliance was only for defencing purposes. I believe I made it clear that at the end of 19th century the war was still avoidable due to the lack of interests into Europe from Britain and Russia, which at the same time managed to stop France from getting into war with Germany. But everything has changed drastically when Otto Von Bismarck was removed from his position and Wilhelm II placed the new Chancellor Leo Von Caprivi, to expand Germany’s territories and to become the major world power, so the World War One became unavoidable.
From my prospective, since the European alliance started formatting, everyone understood that someday the conflict would occur, otherwise, why would any country feel insecure and look for allies? In this case, I see Germany’s European Diplomacy after 1890’s being provocative on other countries. Germany became obsessed with a need of colonies and Wilhelm II knew that the only way to achieve it is not to be afraid of the war. Germany started building naval which would be able to beat Britain’s fleets, foreign policy flattered Austro-Hungary and motivated them towards the conflicts with Serbia. It became clear that Germany with its tactics is not trying to avoid any military conflicts anymore. If we look at the France, which was waiting a long time to find allies and invade Germany, they have received their opportunity, when Otto Von Bismarck was removed and countries started to realise what Germany is trying to achieve. France took advantage of the situation and helped Russia, which was in need of investments to build up their war machine, but in return “ The French wanted immediate Russian pressure on Germany if war came…” Another member or Triple Entente Britain, also felt the pressure from Germany as they had their navy rapidly matched and it was a possible threat to their overseas empire. By understanding that Germany will be seeking to expand no matter what “Paris pressed London to confer with Russia about naval issues…” which proves that Triple Entente was not looking forward to back down and surrender to Triple Alliance. If we look at Triple Alliance, it is obvious that countries and especially Germany started to look for the conflicts to show their militaries authority for example the two Moroccan crisis in 1905 and in 1911 or the first two Balkan wars in 1912 and 1913. During the first Moroccan crisis French stepped back and agreed on peaceful conference but during the second Moroccan crisis Germany stepped back and agree on a far smaller compensation than it demanded for. If we look at the Balkan Wars, in the first one British foreign minister Sir Edward Grey intervened and proposed a peaceful conference, in the Second Balkan war unlike in the First one, Germany urged Austria-Hungary to remain restrained and not intervene into the situation which can be seen as a sign of preparedness, lack of confidence to make a major step towards the war. At this point it was a pure ‘Arms Race’ in Europe. According to Niall Ferguson “ Historians seeking great causes for great events are naturally drawn to the pre-war arms race as a possible explanation for the First World War.” Within few months in 1914’s another intense situation occurred between Austro-Hungary and Serbia, although this time Germany showed full support to Austro-Hungarian empire and Russia backed up Serbia with a Triple Entente behind.
In conclusion, I certainly believe that the war was avoidable until the 1890’s as the Otto Von Bismarck was completing his plans but in a friendly and professional manner with other European countries. Britain was more than happy to retain its colonies and economy stability and Russia started their industrialization. After the German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck was removed Germany sparked the armament race and made everyone feel insecure. From this point, it was just a question of time when will Germany be ready to declare the war, as it was not avoidable anymore.
In this essay I have discussed whether the World War One was avoidable or not. In order to fully analyse the European Diplomacy I have looked at the war from the prospective of each country, which has participated in the war. To get the in depth knowledge on why World War one was avoidable or not I have started at 1870’s an analysed country’s actions taken to keep out of the war zone and why countries were not able to avoid the arms race which led the World War One to begin in 1914’s.
1. Ferguson, N. The Pity of War: Explaining World War I (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1999),
2. Williamson, S. R. ‘The Origin of World War I’, in Rotberg, R. I. & Rabb, T. K. Rabb (eds.) The Origin and Prevention of Major Wars (Cambridge: Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).
3. Schroeder, P. W. ‘World War I as a Galloping Gertie,’ Journal of Modern History 44/3 (1972)
4. Keegan, John (1999), The First World War.
5. Stevenson, David (1998), The First World War and International Politics.
6. Strachan, Hew (2001), The First World War. Vol.1, To Arms.
Bibliography: 1. Ferguson, N. The Pity of War: Explaining World War I (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1999), 2. Williamson, S. R. ‘The Origin of World War I’, in Rotberg, R. I. & Rabb, T. K. Rabb (eds.) The Origin and Prevention of Major Wars (Cambridge: Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). 3. Schroeder, P. W. ‘World War I as a Galloping Gertie,’ Journal of Modern History 44/3 (1972) 4. Keegan, John (1999), The First World War. 5. Stevenson, David (1998), The First World War and International Politics. 6. Strachan, Hew (2001), The First World War. Vol.1, To Arms.