In 1900, almost every one would have agreed that to be a great country, you had to have a great Empire. Two such examples of this were France and Britain. Since 1800, they had been increasing their empires steadily. I will be looking at how the desire to expand Empires led up to one of the most bloody wars in history. The two other main causes that I think led up to the start of the First World War are: Serbian Nationalism and Germany’s military build-up. Serbia was ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. But it wanted to rule itself.
Much like the modern Northern Ireland, it had it’s own Nationalist and Loyalist groups and there was a lot of friction caused by the conflicting sides. The Serbian Nationalists sought allies from other countries including Russia who would gain from disruption within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. At the same time, Germany was very keen to become an Imperial power(a country whose power is judged by the size of it’s empire) and , to do so, it was having to build up it’s navy extremely quickly because you couldn’t be an empire without a large navy.
Britain’s may have still been the largest navy in the world, but the sudden advances by Germany made Britain nervous. A feature of this was the race to build large, powerful battleships such as the Dreadnought. In 1907, Europe was divided into two alliances, each jockeying for power over Europe and it’s respective colonies. These alliances were: The Triple Entente, consisting of, Britain, France and Russia. The Triple Alliance, consisting of, Germany, Austro-Hungary and Italy. These two alliances wanted to be the super-powers of Europe and extend their influences over existing and future colonies.
Germany was paranoid about the Triple Entente surrounding it on all sides, so it drew up a battle plan to attack France first in the event of war as it thought that Russia could not mobilize it’s troops fast enough. Meanwhile, the Serbian Nationalists were still fighting for independence from Austro-Hungary and, whilst on a visit to the country, the heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated by a Serbian Nationalist fanatic. Austro-Hungary saw this as the excuse that they had been waiting for and declared war on Serbia.
As Serbia was in alliance with Russia, who were in the Triple Entente, all of the countries involved in the two alliances were brought into the war as well, as a result of what might otherwise have been a purely local incident. In conclusion, I would say that with these three factors, war was inevitable; the assassination of Franz Ferdinand was just the spark that set it all off. Serbia would still have fought for independence; the Triple Entente and Alliance would have still been made to protect their interests and German military expansion would still have increased the friction in Europe.
There would just have had to have been another excuse for declaring war. I think that although what Germany did in building up their military power was right for themselves and their empire, it made war more likely to happen as other countries began to feel threatened by such a vast advance of power. I think that maybe Germany felt that they didn’t have enough military resources to protect their empire from attack by other countries. A better way to have handled this would have been to settle any fears they had politically rather than through war.