World War I Essay
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World War I Essay example
World War I was probably one of the most important events in the twentieth-century history of Europe given the scope of war and the extension of colonized European powers. As the result of this war, four major empires had collapsed on the Continent, the Ireland and a rebellion, which grew later into a civil war, and the Russia had one of the most influential revolutions in the history of the world. World War I had also inspired the rise of mass politics and eventually fascism, discrediting the ideals of democracy and liberalism. It had also given the grounds for the first genocide of the XX century.
However, the World War I had brought not only negative outcomes. The positive results of war were seen in the resistance against authoritarianism and colonialism, the extension of rights to some women and men in different countries, and the acquisition of independence by certain European nations. Either way, the “Great War” had produced the extraordinary human toll. Moreover, political and economic stability were disrupted, while the history was witnessing an unprecedented experience of social fabric.
Division of Power
This was a truly global war, which had involved 32 nations, 28 of them belonged to the Allied and Associated Powers, whose major belligerents were the British Empire, Italy, France, Serbia, Russia and the United States of America. The Central Powers accounted the following opponents: Germany, Bulgaria, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire (Williamson, 2003).
Of all the countries fighting on the side of the Allied and Associated Powers, Great Britain’s motivation for entering the World War I on the side of the France was quite unusual. While Austria-Hungary declared the war on Serbia, because it was not satisfied with Serbia’s response to ultimatum, all other countries with Great Britain among them were forced to join either one of two forces, because they were bound by some treaties (Walzer, 2002).
Russia, for example, was bound by treaty to Serbia, therefore Russia’s government announced it mobilization, which turned out to be very slow. Germany, on the other hand, was bound by treaty to Austria-Hungary and viewed the Russian mobilization as a threat to Austria-Hungary. Thus, on August 1 Germany had declared war against Russia (Walzer, 2002).
France in its turn had announced the war against Germany, because it was bound by treaty to Russia. To get to Paris by through the shortest possible way, Germany had invaded neutral Belgium in response to France’s action (Walzer, 2002).
France and Germany have been rivals for a long time. At the end of the IXth – the beginning of the XXth centuries the rivalry had increased. It resulted from the war between France and Germany in 1870-71, when France was defeated by Germany and deprived of the areas of Alsace and Lorraine. France wanted to revenge Germany and return its lands, however it couldn’t start the war on its own, because Germany had a stronger army and more resources than France (Merriman, 1996).
Germany and France also had another quarrel, this time about control over Morocco. While “the British had abandoned their interest in Morocco” (Merriman, 1996), Germany had no intention to do so. Meanwhile, France thought that it should also have more influence in the western area of Mediterranean Sea, while already controlling Algeria and Tunisia. In other words, France wanted Morocco (Merriman, 1996).
The German Kaiser Morocco and ensured its people that in case of a French attack, the German protection would be granted to Morocco. In 1911 the control over Morocco was increased by France, so the Germany had sent its warships. At the end the Germans withdrew, but France had to give up the Western Africa to Germany. Both incidents have increased the tensions between Germany and France (Merriman, 1996).
Great Britain, however, “despite a decade of entente relations with Paris” (Williamson, 2003), hesitated to ally France, before Belgium was invaded. It had its own reasons, the “Irish home rule” (Williamson, 2003) was only one of them. However, soon after neutral Belgium was invaded, on August 4 Great Britain declared war against Germany. Britain’s major reason for taking part in the conflict was her obligation to defend Belgium, which was supported by the 75-year old treaty.
By extension, Great Britain was also at war with Austria-Hungary, same as France. The Britain’s entrance into the war ensured financial and military support from her dominions and colonies abroad, including Canada, Australia, India, the Union of South Africa and New Zealand.
Britain was envied by Kaiser William II for a long time. While Britain had a stronger nave, Germany started the race for its own better navy long before the outbreak of war actually took place. Britain responded with similar actions, increasing its navy and building more ships. The tensions between two countries started back at those times (approximately since 1906) and were later called the arms race (Walzer, 2002).
Great Britain did not want to have its navy defeated, because it would mean the end of the British Empire. Germany did not want to have its navy defeated either, because this would cause for Germany an absolute defeat. As the result, both countries had to drop their relationships dramatically, and that also contributed to the motivation of Great Britain to join the conflict on the side of France and Russia (Williamson, 2003).
The British entrance in the World War I was a turning point for the outbreak of the European conflict and later, for the victorious end of the war. Great Britain was the greatest imperial power in the world. Its interests and dilemmas were brought to the world-wide scale. It also had the world-wide friends.
When Germany had faced Great Britain as its enemy, it in fact had faced a variety of colonies and dominions already mentioned before. Being concerned over the defense of its Indian colonies has also motivated Great Britain to enter the conflict against the Ottoman Empire in 1914, which later grew into a major war in the Middle East (Walzer, 2002).
The Britain’s economic, political and cultural ties with the United States of America had also influenced the entrance of this powerful nation into the war. The American entrance into the war was not only a hallmark in the history of the United States, but also a turning point for the end of the European dominance and the beginning of the “American century”.
Human beings have been fighting each other since prehistoric times, and people have been discussing the rights and wrongs of it for almost as long. The ethics of war starts by assuming that war is a bad thing, and should be avoided if possible, but it recognizes that there can be situations when war may be the lesser evil of several bad choices. Britain’s entrance into the World War I had to lesser the evil, but did not destroy it completely, because there was another war to come, where Britain had once again to defend itself and to fight for its ideals.
1) Samuel R. Williamson; Russel Van Wyk. July 1914: Soldiers, Statesmen, and the Coming of the Great War. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003.
2) John Merriman. A History of Modern Europe from the French Revolution to the Present. W.W. Norton & Company, 1996.
3) Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars. New York: Basic Books, 1992.