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To What Extent Is Germany Responsible For The Start Of World War One?

2282 words - 10 pages

On the 3rd August 1914, Germany invaded Belgium and declared war on France; Britain then declared war on Germany. The First World War had begun, and by the end of it would leave millions dead and would have reshaped the world. Although the event that set off the war was the assassination of the Austrian emperor Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, historians argue that there are many other underlying long term causes that led up to this event. Germany has been held responsible time and again- the official report written by the victorious powers just after the war claimed that 'the war was premeditated by Germany, who committed acts which made it unavoidable and it worked to defeat all the proposals ...view middle of the document...

The historian Geiss claims that the dominant cause of the war was a German desire for Weltpolitik, which eventually made tensions run so high that peace became impossible to uphold. The 1908 Bosnian crisis, when Austria Hungary annexed Bosnia Herzegovina and angered the Tsar, soured relations between Germany and Russia even more- Germany said that if Russia made any offence against Austria Hungary, it would stand by its only ally. This 'diplomatic bullying' of Germany's part certainly did not aid the situation between European powers. Another offensive move on Germany's part was during the Morocco crisis in 1911, which brought about a 'danger of war' and brought Britain and France closer together against Germany. After this event, these 2 countries even started making military plans together. Heiss believes that the German blank cheque to Austria Hungary during the 1914 July Crisis 'escalated the crisis, provoked Russia, and drove France and Britain to the wall'. Austria Hungary's confidence in their ultimatum was due to the fact they knew Germany was backing them, and Germany didn't seem to make any real efforts to dissuade its ally. Fischer, in his thesis, claims that Germany even encouraged Austria to go to war with Serbia, and continued even when it became clear that the conflict could not be localized. He states that the government had planned the outbreak of the war from 1912 onwards in an attempt to dominate Europe. Another historian, John Rohl, has found evidence supporting the claim that the government was following a pre-existing plan during the July Crisis; it required Russia to declare war first in order to swing public opinion behind the war. However, other historians disagree with him- Zechlin claims that Germany wanted a 'preventative war' with the limited aim of breaking free of its diplomatic encirclement and had no master plan for vast expansion. Ritter says that Germany's main aim was to defend its only ally, and the government realized too late that the conflict couldn't be localized; their actions were a 'gamble' which went wrong- they wanted to risk a war in order to gain diplomatic victory.Another factor apart from Germany itself which contributed to the war was militarism. The Anglo-German naval race created a lot of hostility, mainly between 1908 and 1910; the German desire for a large naval fleet, as a result of Weltpolitik, clashed with England's desire to maintain naval supremacy. Dreadnoughts were being built at an alarming rate, producing panic (probably about how they could be used) and also enmity between the two countries. It led the British government to become even more worried about German policy and Sir Edward Grey claimed it was a major reason why Britain went to war in 1914. Detailed war plans arose between many different countries and they increased their expenditure on arms; Michael Howard argues that 'each announcement of increased armaments' expenditure...was viewed as a threat by its perceived rival...

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