There were many events that led up the firstWord War and the debate for which ones were the most significant are stilldiscussed today. Some reasons includedthe competition to gain and keep colonies, the growing arms race, and variousdiplomatic crises all increased the growing international tensions amongst thegreat powers. It can be argued that three most significant political changesthat preceded the Great War are that of the alliances, militarism, andnationalism. Europe’smain powers were divided into two alliance groups. One was the Triple Alliancewhich consisted of Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary.
The other was theTriple Entente that was made up of Great Britain, France, and Russia. Thesenations tied themselves together to gain more protection from rivaling states. Indoing so the stage was beginning to be set for a global conflict due to thegrowing tensions between the neighboring states. Germany had a rivalry withFrance over the Alsacs as well as a rivalry with Great Britain over theirnavies and economic power.
Russia and Austria fought over the Balkans. (McKay,Crowston, Wiesner-Hanks, Perry, 2014) This coming together of powers would goon to cause an inevitable chain reaction. Martin H. Levinson and Alfred Korzybski describedthese alliance as a “chain gang” and “when one gang member yanked hard on the chain, the other gang membershad little choice but to mindlessly react.” (Levinson,Korzybski, 2014)Withtension growing there was almost a natural progression and expansion of themilitary and nationalism. One could say that militarism sprang from the growingnationalism that was starting to emerge during this time. Germany started toexpand their naval fleet with large gunships called “dreadnoughts”. Germansviewed having a large navy as a right of a great world power which gave them asense of national pride.
(Levinson, 2005) Great Britain began to feel as theywere being challenged by Germany to grow their navy as well. In turn theyfollowed and starting to spend more money then they had in a long time onbuilding their naval fleet. Many thought if a conflict arose it would be over quickly,so the portrayal of war was glorified. (McKay, Crowston, Wiesner-Hanks, Perry,2014)Leaderspromoted nationalism and militarism in hopes to distract the peopled from thevarious domestic conflicts that were arising.
Many of the countries in thealliance were starting to feel pressure within their states to make a change. GreatBritain was facing a war with North Ireland and growing women’s movement. Thevictory of the Marxists Social Democratic party in the elections led manyofficials to think that the country was beginning to fall apart. The Russiandefeat in the Russo-Japanese war as well as the 1905 revolution weakenedtsarist regime.
With these popular movements the upper-class elite werefrightened they might lose power. (McKay, Crowston, Wiesner-Hanks, Perry, 2014)They were advocating and glorifying war to help take them postpone the internalsocial and political conflicts. The thought of victory would help rally themasses behind the nation and push any previous issues aside.Thesethree significant changes all helped lead these European nations into the firstworld war. The issues outlined in this essay help set stage for a European wideconflict as tensions grew high.
The final catalyst that would thrust all thesenations into the first World War was the assassination of Archduke FranzFerdinand. With his assassination nation upon nation began to declare waragainst the other until it spiraled out of control and all-out war wasunleashed.