The expanding rivalry between European countries for power and status through the globe led to fatal competitions that exploded into World War 1. Nationalism, militarism, and colonialism are the main thrusts that led countries into the bloody war (Heyman, 1997, p. 12). Military coalitions formed to help countries guard themselves encouraged nations to act more forcefully. The political uncertainty on the Balkan Promontory was the catalyst that prompted the war in Europe (Hamilton & Herwig, 2003, p. 5).
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Germany, the prevailing military force in Europe, faced the possibility of battling a two-front war. Steered by the Schlieffen Strategy, the Germans stormed over Belgium in a move that sidestepped France’s Maginot line. The German’s arrangement to thump out France, to begin with, and assault Russia later, came up short when the Russians were able to act faster than anticipated (Heyman, 1997, p. 12). By dividing its military, the Germans were forced into a two-front war.
The Central Forces contained their foes on the Eastern and Southern Fronts. However, the battle in the west was the heftiest. New weapons of war were uncovered amid the first year of the war. Combined with trench fighting, the compelling multitudes of Britain, France, and Germany fought a war of slow destruction. The ridiculous stalemate drove these countries to battle what is later depicted as “Aggregate War” (Hamilton & Herwig, 2003, p. 8).
A fight for the Atlantic developed as the Germans utilized their submarines to attempt to dismantle the British barricade of Europe. The utilization of submarines to drown commercial vessels forced the US to go into the war in favor of its allies. The financial and industrial power of the United States, alongside a huge supply of new troops, helped the British and French to win the war (Gay & Gay, 1995, p. 37).
Causes of World War 1
The causes of World War 1 can be categorized into long-term and short term causes. The long-term causes are linked to imperialism, militarism, nationalism, and alliance systems. Militarism refers to the veneration of military power. Militarism led to anxiety and suspicion as European countries became more ready to embrace military force to achieve their domestic ends. It led to an arms race among the dominant powers as they rivaled each about troop expansions and weaponry. One of the fiercest competitions was amongst Britain and Germany concerning their maritime force. Expanded apprehension and reservations among European forces also forced them to form coalitions, a hefty portion of which were entwined (Britain, France, and Russia) (Heyman, 1997, p. 20).
Through Colonialism, by 1900 the British Realm stretched out more than five regions and France had control of a significant portion of Africa. With the ascent of Industrialism, these nations required assets and fresh markets. The measure of grounds colonized by Britain and France augmented the enmity with Germany (Heyman, 1997, p. 24). Amid the early 1900s in pre-World War 1 Europe, forceful Nationalism was another wellspring of strain amongst countries.
Germany and France had one of the utmost nationalistic rivalries. France had lost to Germany in the Franco-Prussian War in the early 1870s. France had lost its place as a noteworthy European force, now supplanted by Germany, and needed revenge (Gay & Gay, 1995, p. 38).
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Russia, the biggest Slavonic nation, had reinvigorated a type of Nationalism in Eastern Europe known as Pan-Slavism, which attempted to bring together all Slavonic speaking individuals crosswise over numerous countries. Many Slavonic nations, in an area known as the Balkans, looked to Russia for help. The Austria-Hungarian realm firmly restricted these Slavonic Nationalistic movements going on in the Balkans. This caused incredible strain between the Austria-Hungary realm and Russia. Since the Balkan expanse was the primary wellspring of this strain, it has been alluded to as the “powder keg of Europe” and would in the long run lead to World War I (Kennedy, 1980, p. 45).
The short-term causes are attributed to the explosion of the “Balkan powder keg”. Strains kept on growing between the Austria-Hungarian Realm and the Slavonic nation of Serbia. On June 28, 1914, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the successor to the Austrian empire, was killed while going through the state of Bosnia. The Archduke was killed by Gavrilo Princep, an individual from a fundamental Slavic nationalistic group that was against Austria and the Austria-Hungarian Realm. Archduke’s death prompted a series of reactions where the major powers of Europe reacted as per their entangled pacts. The series of reactions led to World War I (Heyman, 1997, p. 18).
At the beginning of the war, the U.S. was impartial, but it sympathized with its allies. The U.S. continued to do business with Britain and, it is alleged, to offer subsidiary support during the war. To end the transatlantic trade, the Germans started to utilized submarine to sink commercial vessels. In May 1915, it sunk a British vessel, killing over 1000 passengers. Among those who were killed were 128 American citizens. After sinking two additional British vessels with American citizens on board, Germany pledged to stop attacking commercial vessels. However, the pledge did not last long (Kennedy, 1980, p. 45).
In March 1917, the German submarines sunk many American vessels, which forced the U.S. to declare war on Germany. President Wilson was hesitant to bring the United States into World War I for a range of reasons. Some were connected with his own political beliefs while others had more to do with his assessment of national interests and public opinion. Ethnicity was also a contributing factor. Even though many Americans gave overwhelming support to the American Allies, others did not support the U.S. involvement in the war, especially those of Eastern European and Irish descent (Heyman, 1997, p. 20).
The effect of World War 1 was devastating. Over 10 million people had lost their lives. The Western Front was completely damaged. In 1918, Germany signed a ceasefire. In the following year, a delegation of 32 nations led by the then U.S. President Woodrow Wilson met at Versailles to make a treaty that would end the war (Heyman, 1997, p. 21). There were two main objectives of the treaty. First, it was aimed at restricting the powers of German.
Second, to disarm Germany, force it to concede some of its territories and pressure it to pay reparations. Woodrow wanted to make the world a safer place. As a result, he pushed for the formation of the League of Nations, a body that was to oversee global peace and security. When he went back home, the idea was trashed by the Senate. Moreover, the Americans did not want to be dragged into other nations’ predicament (Gay & Gay, 1995, p. 35).
Being able to move troops from the Eastern to Western Front, Germany thought it could win the war. As a result, German started their last offensive attacks. However, the mighty American-Entente forces prompted the Germans to surrender. As a result, they signed a ceasefire agreement. The agreement led to the Versailles Treaty which was never honored. The failure of the treaty led to the Second World War. The Allied leaders each have a rundown of requests to make on the crushing forces. The peace gathering composes a brutal peace bargain that eventually drove Europe back on the way to war.
Friedel, F. (1990). Over There: The Story of America’s First Great Overseas Crusade. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1990.
Gay, K., & Gay, M. (1995). World War I. New York: Twenty-First Century Books.
Hamilton, R., & Herwig, H. (2003). The Origins of World War. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Heyman, N.M. (1997). World War I. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Kennedy, D. M. (1980). Over Here: The First World War and American Society. New York: Oxford University Press.