Causes of World War One

Essay by grandimundiHigh School, 12th grade February 2008

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Tensions between nations before 1914 set in motion the events of World War One. The rise of world-wide industrial capitalist economies proved they were no limits to the Great Powers ambitions to expand. Military planning, the alliance system, nationalism and imperialism were the major causes to the events leading up to 1914. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was only a trigger, for the First World War.

Militarism was a crucial factor that invoked the onset of World War One. By 1914, the French and Germany military doubled in size from the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. Under Weltpolitik (Germany's ambition to be a world power), Kaiser Wilhelm II, intended on constructing a navy capable of maritime dominance over the British. Furthermore, Russia borrowed money from France for army expansion and modernisation. All European powers increased arms expenditure in the years before 1914. The rigid military planning of nations involved in World War One was a defining factor of the onset of World War One, "all were trapped by the ingenuity of their military preparations, the Germans most of all."

- A.J.P Taylor 'War by Timetable' 1969. German military planners were forced to prepare for a "…pre-emptive strike being the only way of defending themselves against hostile powers," James Joll 'Origins of First World War' 1986. The Schlieffen plan intended on a surprise attack on France from the North through neutral Belgium, Holland and Luxemburg on the assumption it would take six weeks for Russian troops to mobilise. The movement of 1.5 million German troops and equipment was worked out hour by hour. However the plan was so rigid that as the German Kaiser had second thoughts, the arrangements that took a whole year of intricate labour to complete could not be altered. The Schlieffen Plan as A.J.P Taylor asserts was...