The war that broke out in 1914 is one of the worst wars known in the human history. The war left a lot of peoples dead, and a scar was left in the European history which may last forever. There is a need to recognize the cause of this war in order to prevent the occurrence of such wars in the future. There are many factors, which may have, triggered the Great War in 1914. Some of these factors are as discussed below.
Many historians believe that the attitudes and views that countries had at the time of the war were one of the key factors that triggered the war (Kimber, 1980). The different attitudes and views among nations made the war in 1914 inevitable. Some nations at that time thought to be superior to others. This led to over confidence in national level. Therefore, every nation expected to win any war and war was viewed as being very attractive to any nation. Every nation had a given reason for joining the war. By the turn of the twentieth century, every nation was anticipating the war and wanted to show the world how powerful they were.
People began to adopt the view that, in case the war starts, their country would be in a position to win easily. This patriotism and nationalism was encouraged by national leaders, jingoism and policies, and the media. The government had to keep up the popular patriotism up to the war. This sense of xenophobia triggered racial distrust of foreigners also leading to a glorious view of the war. This further presented the idea of the war being an attractive idea (Strachan, 2004).
Another cause of the war was Imperialism and Colonization. The powerful countries at that time were all in tension since each wanted more land than the others. Each held an idea that if the rich countries wanted to expand it must have an empire. This led to mistrust among the European nations. Many nations were deploying excess military in an armament race among the nations which created a war atmosphere. Colonization led to a desire for freedom that was part of the great Empire. People were being ruled by others who spoke a different language and from a different religion. The primacy of nationalism, which led to war, can be seen in that; it led to the formation of alliances and determined its pattern. Apart from shaping and initiating the two rival camps, nationalism also led to conflicts between the two camps. In fact, nationalism can be considered the cause of all the other factors which contributed to the war.
World’s alliance system also was another cause of the war. Many nations were coming up with political and military alliances. This caused a lot of tension and hostility among nations. Due to the conflicting national interest, two major alliance systems were developed. These were the “Triple Entente” being made up of Russia, France and Britain and the “Triple Alliance “of Germany, Italy and Astro-Hungary. Several other countries also became indirectly involved and this divided Europe into two rival camps (Keegan, 1999).
The formation of Dreikaiserbund
The triple alliance first step was the formation of Dreikaiserbund in 1873. Bismarck brought Russia, Austria and Germany together in order to isolate France and to befriend the other two nations. There was also the formation of the Dual alliance in 1879. The Balkan Crisis had angered Russia; therefore, Germany had to keep befriended to Austria-Hungary (Fussel, 1975). The Dreikaiserbund was not renewed; therefore, Germany and Austria-Hungary signed the Dual Alliance in 1879. They were to help each other in case one was attacked. Italy also joined the Dual Alliance in1882 leading to the formation of the Triple Alliance.
The second camp was the Triple Entente. Bismarck had attempted to win Russia’s friendship by signing the Dreikaiseiserbund in 1881 and the reinsurance Treaty in 1887. Being abandoned, Russia sought to have another ally. There was the formation of the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1893. Germany followed a very aggressive policy threatening both Russia and France. Frace had been isolated so much and wanted to befriend Russia. She did this by giving Russia loans. They even signed a secret military agreement and agreed to support each other in a Germany attack.
The alliances system increased the possibility of war. For instance, since members of each alliance were bound by the alliance to give military support in case war broke out between any of their members and the enemies, a local quarrel led to a war involving all the powers. This is why after Sarajevo was assassinated; Russia had to intervene on behalf of Serbia. Germany was also obliged to come to the defense of Austria and so, the war started.
Some alliances were kept secret which produced suspicion, fear and uncertainty among the members. Due to the military support, the nations were over confidence were ambitious in annexing territories. This sometimes triggered international crises among the members more frequently.
Germany is the primary cause of the outbreak of the war. Germany didn’t bear the sole responsibility of the war, as it was laid down by the Versailles treaty. They had been actively planning a war with France in order to gain territory (Gilbert, 1994). However, when the conflict between Ausria-Hungary and Serbia started, Germany tried to intervene by warning France and Russia not to aid Serbia, but they ignored the warnings. Germany, therefore, went ahead with their territorial acquisition.