Causes of the First World War


In the summer of 1914 a massive war was started between the great powers. In this essay I will investigate the causes of World War 1 and try to work out which country or countries were to blame for starting it.


In the 1800\'s, Britain was by far the leading nation. It had an enormous world-wide empire and powerful navy to protect the large amount of land overseas that it owned. Britain manufactured many different goods, which were exported to other countries, including Germany. Before 1900 Britain was the world\'s leading industrial power, with it\'s main rival being France. Britain was by far the leading European power, but it feared other countries building up a larger navy and catching it up, especially Germany. Britain knew that Germany had caught up with it in industrial production and that Germany\'s leaders also had strong ambitions to build up a world-wide empire, like Britain already had. In 1914 Britain had an empire of 27 million km and Germany only had 2.5 million km, but Britain was still worried.


In 1870 there was a war between Germany and France called the Franco-Prussian war. The Germans captured a piece of French land called Alsace-Lorraine. The French wanted the Alsace-Lorraine back and were still worried that the Germans may attack again. Previously the French had had a fairly small army, but they expanded it and built strong fortresses on their border with Germany.


In 1908 Kaiser Willhelm, the king of Germany and the ruler of the German army announced that he intended to develop the German navy. Germany started to build more battleships. Because Britain was worried about Germany catching it up and having a larger navy, Britain also started to build more battleships. In 1906 Britain launched HMS Dreadnaught, a new battleship, which could get up to speeds of 21 knots. It was faster and more powerful than any other warship. The Germans copied the British and started to build their own Dreadnaughts. In 1914 Germany had 17 Dreadnaughts and Britain had 29. Even though Britain was well ahead in the Naval Race, it was worried that it could not fund many more of these ships to be built and that Germany would continue to build more of these battleships and threaten Britain\'s naval supremacy.


In the 1800\'s the very large country of Russia was a very backward country, with a large population. It also had a large army, but it was badly equipped and poorly led. Russia was quite a poor country which hardly had any industry at all. Russia, along with France and Britain, was worried about Germany\'s growing strength.


In 1904 France and Britain became allies. Fear of Germany\'s apparently aggressive policies led these countries to join in military alliance.


Because Russia was also worried about Germany\'s growth, France and Russia made a similar defensive agreement and became allies in 1907. This alliance between Britain, France and Russia was known as the Triple Entente.


Because Russia was a very backward country the other two countries in the Triple Entente planned to help Russia become more powerful. Some ways that they planned to do this were by funding its army to help it improve, by funding it\'s transport network to improve communications and to help the army get from one place to another more quickly and also by helping it to become more industrial.


Germany was surrounded by the three countries in the Triple Entente. Germany\'s leaders were worried by this and they started to make military plans, in case France and Russia jointly declared war on them. The countries in the Triple Entente knew that they were in a good position. They desperately wanted to weaken Germany and stop it becoming a very powerful country. Another country that surrounded Germany, but was not against it was Austria-Hungary.


Previously Germany had formed an alliance with Austria-Hungary. This was because the Austrians felt threatened by the Russians and by nationalism in the Balkans (an area of land in south-east Europe.)


The Russians wanted the Austrian empire (made up of many different nationalities) to fall apart because the Russians wanted a chance to expand their influence into Europe. Russia had a long-term aim of gaining ports on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Austrians were particularly worried by Serbia.