The alliance system alone did not cause the First World War. It was the
result of a combination of factors which together shaped a European climate
which made the outbreak of a war inevitable. Assuming that the alliance
system was one of the factors involved, we must also assess events within
Europe which actually allowed the creation of the alliance system. The
primary origins of the First World War lie in the emergence of nationalism
and the new prominent power Germany, the Great Powers' desire for
colonisation and, ironically, a desperate longing for security which
triggered the arms race and the alliance system. Germany's foreign and naval
policies, combined with other European developments, elicited an Entente of
"defensive coalition" which, also because the terms of it were secret, heightened tensions within Europe. Therefore the alliance system was only an
unsuccessful response to European developments which were foreshadowing an eventual war.
Whilst trying to inhibit war, the alliance system actually
increased the likeliness of it and during later stages, when mobilisation
had begun, destroyed the chance of peace within Europe. But it cannot be
described as the cause of the First World War as such because other factors
which were operating, and without
which an alliance system would not have developed in the first place, were so severe that a war would have been probable with or without the alliance system.
An important factor which we must assess as a factor of World War One is the
legacy of the creation of the new German Empire which was established in
1871. The distribution of European Power was altered significantly and
Bismarck sought to stabilize Europe around the new German Empire. He was
aware of France's inevitable desire for revenge and for the return of
Alsace-Lorraine. Through skilful diplomacy he aimed to...