The Major Causes of World War I

Essay by dimi19High School, 12th gradeA+, May 2004

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The World at the beginning of the twentieth century was a very different place from what is was to be two generations later. "Primarily this was so because Europe was still the center of the universe, both politically and economically, and Europe was still in the main the Europe of the ancien régime." (Petrie 7). By the year 1901, Europe's nineteenth-century promises had become substantial realities: the nation state, constitutional government, and a predominantly secularized society. Europe had also gained a position of world predominance, which was then lost in the course of the twentieth century because of two catastrophic wars. Great Britain was the foremost maritime Power with no continental commitments, just as Germany was the greatest land Power. The United States was still a debtor country, and neither the United States, Italy, nor Japan claimed the status of World Powers. Spain was temporarily in eclipse. The partition of Africa between the Great Powers was still in uneasy progress.

"The British Commonwealth of Nations had not yet replaced the British Empire, but there was still a United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, over which 'Queen Victoria, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India,' bore sway." (Petrie 10). Four great empires, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Turkey, dominated continental Europe east of the Rhine, just as three great empires, the British, the Russian, and the Chinese, dominated Asia. "It was a glittering facade, but it was little more." (Petrie 9). The appearance of a European order was preserved by the immense forces of tradition and sentiment, as well as by the fear universally felt by elder statesmen of all countries that even the most modest attempts at repair or readjustment would bring the whole...