Lectures Notes 2.docx

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15 Apr 2012
World War One March 20
Long Term Causes of the First World War
1. Structural reasons for the increasingly deadly and total form of warfare
a. The influence of industrialization on warfare
New machines techniques used to promote human progress were
turned to kill people (much more effective at killing)
Societies were much richer, could fund war for much longer
b. European states increasing powers with respect to society
Able to borrow money far beyond the annual budget, ration food,
Leaders failed to appreciate modern technologies that could be
sued for war, did not expect the war to reach the level that it did
(much longer and more devastating than any other war)
Bismarck, like others, believed success could be had if they struck
quickly before the opponents were prepared (didn’t work)
2. German ambitions in Europe and in the world and the Allied resistance
a. Eyre Crowe’s analysis of the bases for German ambitions
Germany rapidly industrialized, not satisfied with its existing
position of power
Germany wants its own empire for a source of raw materials
Looks back at Prussian Frederick the Greats’ aggressive imperialism
Later leaders aggressive action (taking of Alsace, etc.)
Suggests it will be difficult to get Germany to change its policies that
have been historically ingrained and moderately successful
A cost of imperialism (Britain’s) is that someone else might look to
imitate it (Germany)
Recommends a long term policy of aggression (arms race) and
alliances to choke out the power
b. Influence of domestic politics on German foreign policy
Foreign policy is often closely connected to domestic
How people behave in the past indicates how they will act in the
Within Germany the ruling elite used to behaving in a harsh manner
with groups that got in their way (i.e. German elections reading)
Leaders didn’t listen carefully to minorities without power
German elite was insecure, not based on parliaments, monarchs
and elite had power, were constantly trying to manipulate elections
Tried to sway people through nationalism, beating the drums of war
Government felt weak and wanted to appeal to public sentiment,
thus they were prepared for war
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c. German foreign policy methods
Germany wanted its own empire (Morocco, China, etc.)
Intimidated other powers to gain territory
Started to build a fleet in 1890’s, wanted two ships for every 3
British ships
Felt that Britain would not dare to attack Germany with this ratio,
Britain recognized this threat and also started building
Britain stopped fearing France more than Germany and so aligned
It was stupid of Germany to challenge Britain, France, and Russia
William II had a lot of power, allowed the navy and the army to
develop their own policies; wasn’t strong enough to implement his
own agenda
d. Consequences of German goals and methods: increasing isolation and
pessimism about the future
Natural result of Germany’s technique was a strong coalition
between its opponents
Resulted in sense of isolation and feeling of pessimism among the
German rulers
Started to believed that war was inevitable, project their methods
on the other side; Germany was prepared to make war
After thinking this way people start wanting war to happen
Willingly accepted the idea of a war
Only ally was Austria-Hungary which was very weak, many
minorities made it close to dissimilating
Germany thought if they didn’t make war soon they would have no
Not worried that Austria-Hungary would not live up to its
obligations, had to by the alliance
3. Conflicts in the Balkans between Austria-Hungary and Russia, and the
weaknesses of each of these states
The power of the ottoman empire was receding
Russia, since the 1850’s had suffered series of humiliations
Creation of new nation-states in the Balkans were un satisfied with
their borders, presented a threat to Austria-Hungary
4. French refusal to accept the loss of Alsace-Lorraine
5. Military plans that promoted aggressive responses to challenges, in particular
the German Schlieffen Plan, but arguably also Russia mobilization plans
Schlieffen Plan- called for a sweep by the German army through
Belgium, clearing out the French army
Assumed the Russian s would take a long time to mobilize
In practice it would be a one front war, France first and then Russia
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