Essay by GenowefaHigh School, 12th gradeA, January 2008

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What motives did the different Great Powers have for going to war and/or avoiding war?The World War I is one of the most significant events in the history. This period, is associated with the major changes in many aspects. The political systems, as communism and fascism have their origins in that time. After the World War I, the democracy grows, the monarchy ends, and many new nations appeared. However, what were the reasons for starting the war? What motives did lead the different Great Powers of that time, to the war? What motives would keep them away from starting to war?At the beginning of the 20th century Britain was considered to be the richest and the most powerful nation. It was the world’s super power with the most trade, the richest industries and the bigger navy. It seemed like that powerful nation would have no motives for going to war.

Of course, winning the war would benefit the country, but there was also a possibility of loosing, especially that the largest empire, had also problems with rising unemployment, strikes, riots and demonstrations. Moreover, Ireland, which was part of the Great Britain, wanted to be an independent country so attention of the Great Britain was concentrated on the possibility of eventual civil war in Ireland, between the Protestants and Home Rulers. If Britain would win, it would proof its power and gain more land – especially German East Africa that divided British colony on the south and on the east.

The second powerful empire was the German empire. It didn’t own that much land because it was a relatively new empire created in the 1871. Germany was the most united nation, but it also had some problems. Workers forced the government to improve their conditions through strikes that would eventually lead to the revolution. However, it was as well powerful with the biggest army of 4,200,000 soldiers. If Germany would win the war, it would become the world superpower and would gain some more overseas colonies.

Russia, was indeed was the largest of all the empires, but also the weakest and the poorest one. Russia was very difficult to govern because of its cultural diversity and the size. Moreover the Tsar was badly influenced by a monk, Gregory Rasputin. Northern Russia was frozen for half of the year, so it didn’t have a constant access to the sea. Russia really needed it for transportation and trade, so it could fully use its big amounts of minerals like coal, oil, iron, ore, gold, etc. Russian workers and peasants were ready to rebel against the Tsar.

The Austria-Hungary empire. It was the union of two separate countries that like Russia was hard to govern because of its diversity; two nations wanted to became independent. The country had no overseas colonies but it didn’t want to gain more; it could divide this country even more. Many people hated the rule of the emperor because he forced Czechs to speak German. It caused many riots. Anyway, Austria-Hungary didn’t really have a reason for going to war, as it was a weak and not powerful country.

Finally, the French empire. Even though it was comparable in size and the number of overseas colonies, with Britain and Germany, it was a weaker nation. France has the desire of revenge on Germany that after winning the French-Prussian war, took the French colonies in Alsace and Lorraine. The willing of revenge can lead to loose, but it was the matter of honour.

To conclude, the different empires have different reasons for going to war. The stronger empires race for the title of the world superpower. The weaker ones really need changes, reform and usable territory. However, all the empires seem to follow the quote that “the ability to conquer gives the right to rule.”