World War I was mainly a consequence of the aggressive intentions of leaders from various nations supported by their public’s growing nationalist passion. Due to the competing economies and empires in Europe, tension rose and apprehensions that a war would break promoted the establishment of different military alliances among nation states and an arms race was also on the way. All these factors contributed to the escalation of fear and eventually caused World War I to finally commence. Nationalism is one of the primary causes of the First World War. In 1815, a peace settlement at the Congress of Vienna was enacted.
This agreement was signed primarily for the purpose of keeping the peace without the consideration for nationalism. Both the German and Italian states were left as in division. However, the strong nationalism among their peoples led to the unification of their states. Italy was reunited in 1861 while Germany in 1871. After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, the French were left in agitation due to their territorial loss to Germany of Alsace-Lorraine. In Austria-Hungary and Balkan states, where there are numerous national groups in conflict with one another, also faced the problem of rising nationalism.
There was a passionate Panslavism in Serbian people and this was supported by Russia. This led to Russia’s conflict with Austria-Hungary’s Pan-Germanism. Rivalry was already existent among nations in Europe prior the First World War. But this was further escalated by imperialism, as they competed for the expansionist aspirations. Due to the Industrial Revolution which spurred the economic growth and manufacturing increase of European states such as England, Germany and France, the need for foreign markets grew.
They needed more territories and therefore competed for the expansion of their economies in Africa. There were several encounters of conflict among the three major countries with interests in North Africa. The British and the French were able to arrive to a resolution to their problems but Germany continued to have clashes with the other two nations. The situation in the Middle East also contributed to the problem on imperialism as Austria-Hungary, the Balkans, and Russia had their interests on the Ottoman Empire which was in the verge of its collapse.
Another contributing factor to the outbreak of the Great War was the Bismarck’s development of two factions that oppose one another after the Franco-Prussian War. His objective was to isolate France. In 1872, in order to execute his intentions, he formed the Three Emperor’s League. This was an alliance comprised of Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary. Bismarck took advantage of the Italian resentment towards the French when France decided to occupy Tunisia. Bismarck called Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary to form the Triple Alliance in 1882.
However, this alliance was bound to collapse as Kaiser William II fired Bismarck from office in 1890. Germans traditionally hate the Slavs, and this kept the latter’s successors from continuing Germany’s alliance with Russia. France took advantage of this situation and formed the Franco-Russian Entente in 1891 and became an official alliance in 1894. But in another note, the Germans were far from establishing relations with Great Britain as Kaiser William II praised the Boer triumph of the English in 1896. This intensified the British distrust towards the Germans.
This resulted to an oversight by the British and the French of potential imperialistic conflicts arising between them. In 1904, they formed the Entente Cordiale while the Russian joined in 1907, forming the Triple Entente. This countered the Triple Alliance and greatly intensified the tension in divided Europe. The rising hostility further drove Europe to war. Every nation state knew that Germany was superior in terms of military organization and efficiency therefore patterned everything according to the Prussian system.
An arms race had spread all over Europe and the tension of international rivalry further intensified. But the breaking point for Europe was when Archduke Francis Ferdinand was assassinated on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo, Bosnia by a Serbian nationlist from the Black Hand organization. This caused Germany to give its full support to Austria-Hungary and pressured the nation to declare war against Serbia. While this was happening, France made its ties with Russia even stronger. But this declaration of war led to a domino effect. Russia supported Serbia while Germany supported Austria-Hungary.
The events escalated as Germany later declared war on Russia and France. Germany invaded Belgium, against its neutral status, in order to launch attacks against France. This prompted England to declare war against Germany. World War I had officially begun. The entry of America into the First World War was due to their claim that they need to keep the world “safe for democracy. ” But the primary reason that America joined the war was because Germany violated the agreement that they would not attack passenger and merchant ships in the North Atlantic region.
They continued to use submarine warfare against America and even attempted to create an alliance with Mexico against the United States. World War I ended with the peace agreement signed by the nations involved known as the Treaty of Versailles. This controlled Germany’s territories, as it took away some of Germany’s area of control and even took away port areas in order to prevent a naval strengthening. It also prevented the rearmament of Germany and it imposed sanctions such as giving France and other states the necessary payment for war reparations to those that were hardly affected by the military aggression.
The Treaty of Versailles also restricted the economy of Germany which led the German people suffering from high rates of unemployment and starvation. Italy was also badly treated in this treaty by not granting it the territories that it demanded, which also built intense fury for the Italians. Suffice to say, the greatest impact of World War I was that its end and the provisions imposed on countries that lost the war led to another major world military chaos, the World War II.