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Ð''The First World War Started More By Accident Than By Design'. Discuss.

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Ð''The First World War started more by accident than by design'. Discuss.

To some extent it is correct to state that the First World War started more by accident than by design. However, it can be argued that many nations within Europe had planned for war and some even pushed for war. Despite this, those nations never wished for a full scale Ð''World War'. They were hoping for a war on a much smaller scale, for example, the earlier Balkan wars of 1912 and 1913. In this essay I will discuss both sides of the argument; an accidental war and the planned war. I will then conclude the essay with which side of the argument I believe holds the strongest position.

There are many different angles to be looked at on the origins of the First World War. They include how different countries related to each other in an era of multi national empires; the military thinkers or planners of the time and the weapons available. Other points to consider include the beliefs of people at the time and attitudes to war, the question on whether Germany was the main cause of the outbreak of war, how did the arms race affect the pre-war crises and how did the alliance structures of the central and entente powers make a general war unavoidable?

One must study the empires before 1914 and what threats arose from various people as they attempted to obtain freedom and nationalism. There is also the development of the two Alliances; the Central and Entente powers and did these keep the peace or did they make war inevitable? There is also the military preparations and planning within the nations of Europe, due to new technology and weapons; an example being the new British warship Ð'- the Dreadnought. Germany's intentions must also be taken into consideration. Was Germany, like all the other European countries, willing to risk war or did they have intentions for a war of expansion and domination?

I will discuss all of these points within this essay.

A planned war?

It was after the Franco-Prussian war in 1870-71 that the nations of Europe began to prepare for the next war. This next war was seen as inevitable due to the conflicting nature of these European nations. France, for example, wanted revenge on Germany after it had lost the territories of Alsace and Lorraine during the Franco-Prussian war. After this France had developed what was known as Plan XVII which laid out how to recapture these lost territories in an offensive against Germany. However, they did not take into account that Germany may invade France via Belgium as they were convinced that the idea of British involvement in the war would stop Germany invading Belgium, whom Britain had a treaty with.

Germany too had planned for war and developed the Schlieffen Plan, which was both defensive and offensive in character. Its chief developer was Count Alfred von Schlieffen. The plan involved a war on two fronts; against France in the west and Russia in the east. However, many more countries would be involved due to the alliance system currently set up. Russia was allied with France and then Britain who were against Germany and her allies Austria-Hungary and Italy. Despite this huge threat from Russia, Schlieffen assumed that it would take six weeks for the Russians to mobilise all their troops. During this time Germany's forces would knock out France by assaulting Paris via Belgium and then concentrate on Russia.

Even Austria-Hungary had plans, notably Plans B and R. These plans were designed in the assumption that the upcoming war would only be limited to Serbia. Plan B stated that six armies would be required; three would invade Serbia and three would guard the Russian border to prevent an attack. Plan R was just a revision of B and just increased the troop numbers guarding the Russian border in the South and assuming Germany would defend the north.

The Russian plans consisted of G, A and 19. These were all very different. Plan G made the assumption that Germany would launch an attack against Russia. Plan 19 or A as it was otherwise known was an offensive plan. It was created in 1910 and changed in 1912 and made the assumption that Germany would start the war by attacking France.

Britain did not have a war strategy like France, Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary. Britain certainly did not desire war and was only keen to protect her vast overseas empire. Britain only joined the war after it broke out and campaigned to its people that it was coming to the aid of Belgium, making it a moral war.

The neutral kingdom of Belgium could never plan for war. Its troops were grounded in defence of Antwerp when the Germans invaded.

Serbia had a very straightforward war plan. They would increase their army divisions upon the declaration of war and would strike against Austria-Hungary when they knew what Austria's plans were.

It is obvious that many countries had rigid war plans that were to be used for a possible and perhaps inevitable war. This goes some way to show that the First World War was in fact more of a design rather than just an accident.

Accidental war?

However, the causes of the First World War are complex and include many factors. The war did not just happen due to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand or because of these war plans. The origins of the war can be traced back to the problems of the last four decades leading up to 1914 and the changes in Europe since 1870.

One particular factor was the unifications of Germany and Italy as single nations. Nationalism had spread through Europe during the 1860's and 70's. It was Otto von Bismarck who brought German unification through a number of wars in 1864 to 1871. It was the Franco-Prussian war of 1871 that left the German people feeling proud and the French humiliated. Italy became united in 1866. These two new nations utterly transformed the balance of power in Europe and would lead to greater conflict in the years to come. It was also in 1867 that the governmental structure of the Austrian Empire changed as it became the dual monarchy that was Austria-Hungary.

Imperialism is one cause for the war. France and Britain already had overseas colonies and controlled vast natural resources. Germany wished to obtain colonies but was blocked from entering Africa and Asia by Britain. Therefore rivalries began to develop within Europe for control of overseas territory. Germany interfered in Morocco in March 1905 which was intended to divide France and Britain, but this led to closer ties between them and eventually led to an alliance between Britain and Russia in 1907. Germany interfered again in 1911 when they sent a gunboat



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