Matthew BeingessnerTo what extent is Germany responsible for the outbreakof the First World War?Oneof history’s most controversial topics is the question of who was responsiblefor the First World War. After the end of this war, Germany was forced toaccept sole blame for the war under the “war guilt” clause of the Treaty ofVersailles. However, it is factually incorrect to solely blame Germany becauseof the impact other countries had on the war’s outbreak. Germany is the mostresponsible of all countries, but others played an import part too.
The war’sprimary cause was Germany’s aggressive militarism and expansionism, which isthe main reason why Germany is largely to blame. However, major alliances inEurope at the time, one of which Germany was a part of, as well as thecountries involved in Europe’s industrial revolution are all responsible for WorldWar One’s outbreak to some extent. Germany is responsible for the outbreak ofthe First World War to a very large extent because of their aggressivemilitarism and expansionism, but other countries are also responsible becauseof the alliances and their involvement in the industrial revolution. Germany’saggressive militarism and expansionism was the primary cause of the First WorldWar. For instance, Germany’s attitude played a significant role in building uptensions in Europe, and it tremendously aggravated the spark of the war, themurder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. In 1900, Germany had the largestarmy in Europe. However, Britain had the most powerful navy which lead Germanyto expand its own navy. Thus, Germany’s attitude lead to tremendous tension andhostilities, where they upset the balance of power which existed previously inEurope.
Another example is German expansionism through the construction of theBerlin-Baghdad Railway. This also worsened relations in Europe, and most importantly,the Russians felt threatened by the railway because they feared it would cutoff Russian access to the Mediterranean Sea. The British were also unhappyabout this because of Germany’s increasing influence. Furthermore, Germany’saggressive attitude during the Moroccan Crises interfered with the affairs ofnumerous European nations and increased tension.
During the first crisis,Germany had Kaiser make a speech declaring that Morocco should remainindependent to the Triple Entente of Britain, France, and Russia. This angeredFrance, and strengthened the Triple Entente because Britain supported Franceand it was decided that France must be given free rain in Morocco. This was arather foolish move by Germany, an almost appeared as if it was meant to “test”the Triple Entente”.
It was careless and aggressive, and undeniably increasedtensions in Europe at the time. Even more extreme, the second Moroccan Crisisended in Britain warning Germany that the British fleet was prepared for war.In these responses, is becomes evident that if Germany’s militaristic andexpansionistic attitude continued, a war would be quite difficult to avoid.Furthermore, Germany encouraged Austria-Hungary to start a war against Serbia,as well as to issue unacceptable demands in Serbia with the purpose of startinga local war in the Balkans. This aggressive attitude was largely responsiblefor bringing Russia into the war as they were a primarily Slavic country whosaw itself as a protector of other Slaves. The reason this was done was tobring the Russians in, giving Germany a greater reason to get involved. It isclear from these events that Germany was highly instrumental in starting thisregional conflict.
However, is was not a regional conflict for long as Germanyescalated the dispute by giving France only sixteen hours to either establishneutrality or enter the war. These extreme actions brought France into the war,meaning that Germany’s aggressive militarism and expansionism played a key rolein the outbreak of the First World War. Lastly, Germany brought even more countriesinto the war by planning to attack France through Belgium, Luxembourg, and theNetherlands ultimately escalating the war by involving Belgium and Britain.They carried out a part of the plan by attacking France through Belgium.
Thiswas careless and aggressive because they carried out this plan despiteBelgium’s neutrality and the likelihood of Britain joining the war in responseto the invasion of Belgium. This shows the great extent to which Germany causedthe outbreak of World War One through their aggressive expansionistic andmilitaristic attitude. Furthermore, as previously mentioned, the Triple Ententewas composed of Britain, France, and Russia, and they faced the opposingalliance, the Triple Alliance, composed of Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary.While Germany was the primary cause of World War One, the other countries inthese alliances also played a role. Major alliances in Europe at thetime, one of which Germany was a part of, played a key role in the outbreak ofWorld War One. This was primarily because all of the nations involved in eachalliance had pledged allegiance to each other for any conflict affecting one ofthem. This made the current conflicts in Europe significantly more critical,and made it very difficult for local wars to occur without war rapidlyspreading across Europe. Moreover, there were many conflicts occurring inEurope at the time which were worsened by the alliances, because this broughtmany more countries into these conflicts.
For instance, France wanted Germanyto return the provinces of Alsace and Lorrain, the naval arms race betweenBritain and Germany, and Austria-Hungary and Russia both wanted control overthe Balkans. All of these conflicts would escalate very quickly because of thealliances, resulting in a disastrous world war. This played out when Germanydeclared war, forcing all their allies to declare war as well. In total, morethan ten additional countries became involved in World War One because of thealliances.
This shows how other countries are to blame for the war in additionto Germany. Another key reason other European countries are partiallyresponsible is the Industrial Revolution. All countries involved in Europe’sIndustrial Revolution played a role in the outbreak of World War One. For somecontext, the Industrial Revolution was a huge shift from small, independentshops to large factories. It had a massive impact on Europe in terms ofeconomics, politics, and diplomacy.
The Industrial Revolution resulted in expansionismfor many European countries due to the requirement of stable sources ofmaterials and secure markets to which goods would be sold. Thus, Europeancountries began to gain economic control of foreign countries. Germany was onecountry involved, but many others were as well.
The Triple Entente feltthreatened and that the balance of power and Europe had shifted, contributingto a tense atmosphere in Europe leading up to the war. Furthermore, the primaryeffect of the Industrial Revolution on World War One was how it allowed forimmense quantities of new machinery to be built much faster than before. It waslargely with new technology and machinery developed during this revolutionwhich lead to the outrageous number of casualties during the First World War.Mass production was one of the deadliest weapons of the war.
Tanks, planes,rifles, and machine guns became common, whereas they would have been rare to seein most earlier wars. The Industrial Revolution also contributed to deadlyinnovations like chlorine gas and torpedoes, as well as improvements topre-existing weapons. Therefore, all countries involved in this revolution arepartially responsible for the outbreak of World War One, as well as the manytragedies that followed.
WhileGermany’s aggressive militarism and expansionism makes them very responsiblefor the outbreak of World War One, the alliances formed by other countries andthe countries who took part in the Industrial Revolution are partially responsibleas well. This contradicts the Treaty of Versailles which forced Germany toaccept sole blame for the war, which is one of the reasons why the study of historyis so important. Otherwise, countries would be falsely blamed for actions theynever committed much more often. In this case, the false blaming of Germany forbeing the sole cause of the First World War led to a rather uneasy peace whichwas destroyed later on into World War Two partially because of the wrongs Germansfelt had been done to them. While the Second World War could not have beenavoided by not laying all the blame on Germany, perhaps it would not have beena world war, which would have been much less disastrous.
Ultimately,understanding who or what caused World War One and gaining an understanding ofthe importance of being fair in our accusations is vital to avoiding futureworld conflicts and gaining an accurate understanding of how historical have andcontinue to affect us.