In the 1800s and early 1900s European states were characterized by intense competition for colonies, economic rivalries and an arm races that set the stage for the First World War. The war started in 1914 with most of the European state participating though initially only a few countries were involved. The rest joined in after choosing sides. Germany, Austria-Hungary, Britain, Belgium, France, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro were the initial countries to get involved in the war. Germany and Austria-Hungary were on one side as the central powers while Britain, Belgium, France, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro on the side formed an alliance to counter the central powers. The central powers were joined later by Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire
The causes of world war I can not be traced to a single cause .the war was as result of a myriad of factors .however there are several factors that heightened the hostilities between the Germans and Britain and its allies. They include diplomatic clashes between the great powers which comprised of France, Germany, Italy, Britain, Russian and the Austria –Hungarian empire. These clashes were as a resort of power balance issues in Europe, and old colonial issues that were unresolved for years. The war was finally triggered by tensions that arose when Austria –Hungary, Russian and Serbia competed for Balkan territories.
Serbia had managed to increase its territory and influence in the Balkan wars leading Austria -Hungary to perceive the country as its major threat (Allan, 2008). They were therefore to prepare to go to war to ensure that they contained the Serbia threat as a preventive measure. In 1912 the Austria –Hungary government threatened to go to war with Serbia and was seeking Germanys support in this endeavor. Germany made know its intention for backing Austria incase the country went to war.
Russia on the other hand had been expanding their military in line with the arm race that was in Europe at the period and were willing to help Serbia in case of a war breaking out. This led the British to react by threatening to join the conflict if Germany was to get involved and help Austria. These declarations for support for either side of the conflict become increasingly open hostilities until 1914 when world war one broke out (Allan, 2008). There were complex alliances in existence among the European states that were designed in interest of balancing and counterbalancing powers in the continent. Among the complex alliance was the French –Russia military alliance that started in 1872-1917 with the aim of undermining the military and economical strength of Germany. Germany and Austria- Hungary also had an alliance from 1879 that was aimed at limiting the Russian threat to their territory but limited if any of the country went to war with any other European country mainly France. Italy after losing the Tunis colony to France also in 1882 formed an alliance with Austria and Germany.
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There was also the France Britain and Russia alliance that was formed in 1907 to counter the Italy, Austria and Germany alliance. Accompany these alliance were treaties that were signed by various parties declaring neutrality incase of war between the various alliance such as the reinsurance treaty that was signed by the Germans in 1887 pledging neutrality should France and Russia ever break to war (Allan, 2008). It was however the treaty that recognized and guaranteed the neutrality of Belgium that played a major role ion sparking the first world war ,signed by Britain ,France ,Austria, Russia and Germany the treaty gave Belgium independence and neutrality. Germany violated this treaty in 1914 by attacking Belgium in order to use its territory to in case Russia attacked it pushing Britain to declare war on the Germans.
Beside the open hostilities that existed due to unresolved territory disputes’ arising especially from colonial exploits. There was therefore a lot of imperialism as powerful countries competed to dominate colonies economically, culturally and politically. This was primarily led by the need to acquire wealth and raw material for the industries. The countries were therefore competing to gain more territories to increase their sources for the raw materials. This also led to imperialism which is the domination by one country of the political, economic, or cultural life of another country or religion. In turn this competition turned into economic rivalries especially among the power empires of the period leading them was Britain, France and Germany among other European states.
These countries were also faced with internal squabbles and a war presented an opportunity for them to whip nationalistic spirits among their citizens .they were therefore had incentives or ulterior motives to go to war in order to reorganize their society composition and change the power balances within their individual states. The perception of a breakdown in the power balance in Europe was also held by the top players especially after the Balkans territories were annexed by Austria (Allan, 2008). Germany also mistakenly thought that Britain would not join in the conflict this coupled with the military plans that were in Germany had prepared and it desire to stop Russia from gaining more military strength led to war.
World war one claimed more that eight and half million lives and left large number of maimed members of the population .The war also left most of European countries economically devastated and destroyed the infrastructure and curtailed development in most of the states for the war period. The USA during the First World War had managed to remain neutral in the initial stages of the conflict.Among the many reasons that had led to the neutrality policy was the fact that during this period the country did not posses the military strength that it is known for today (Books, LLC, 2010). However during the war both Germany and the British increasingly provoked the country to join in the conflict without success initially.
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This was however changed after Germany attacked its fleet and blocked shipments to Britain. There were also untold acts of barbarism that were allegedly committed by the Germans against the civilian populations in Belgium not to mention the bombings that were carried out in London killing many civilians. The Germany navy also sank a civilian ship with over one thousand passengers among the over one hundred Americans. Such acts led to America to join the war and become part of the allied force .During this period the American society was very moralistic and were strong supporters and promoters of democracy and independence of states plus individual freedoms. They therefore joined in the war 1917 with the aim of helping to ending the conflict. And to ensure that democracy prevailed by defeating the Germans who were viewed as evil and authoritarians. They therefore considered any victory by the Germans as an affront on democracy and freedom.
The devastation that resulted both economically and in infrastructure and left a number of unresolved issues in Europe .The war aftermaths which included resentment among participating state and the rise off socialist party in Russia polarized the world instead of bring the world democracy the Americans were hoping for. This was also followed by the economic depression in the USA in the 1930s as well as the disfranchised German soldiers joining the Nazi party in Germany setting a stage for the Second World War (Dowswell, 2008). After the Second World War there was the rise of communism in Russia and the beginning of the cold war .Russia and America were competing to influence the world with their ideologies with the USA fronting the capitalist agenda while the Russian promoted the socialist agenda.
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The world also saw the need to form an international body that would help resolve the disputes between nations without resulting to war. The United Nations was therefore formed to help resolve disputes and to act as the global policeman. The era also arise among the societies on the living conditions of their fellow men this spurred an interest in human rights. This marked the beginning of a major fight against individuals or states that were deemed to violate human rights by the international community (Dowswell, 2008). This marked with advances in technologies that saw communication greatly improve and trade relationships throughout the globe increase led to more corporations between states. It also enhanced the need to form economic alliances that saw the rise of the European Union.
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