By Bobby-Jo Parker
Was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo the major cause of World War I? The writer believes and acknowledges the importance of this significant event, however would argue that the complex inter-relationship between National, Militarism, Leadership, Imperial rivalry, Colonialism and Alliances was the major cause of World War I. The simmering tensions between the five major powers was already accruing between these nations before 1914. The writer believes that the assassination was the spark that started World War I but was not the major cause.
Nationalism is to show loyalty, patriotism and to be devoted to the interest or culture of one’s nation. All the major powers of pre-World War I Europe displayed aggressive nationalistic tendencies. Even knowing that Britain adhered to a ‘splendid isolation’, Britain was still known as the richest, most powerful and proud nation in the world, due to its rich industries, highest trade in the world, the largest number of colonies and the biggest navy. This is why Britain was angry with Germany building a navy. Britain wanted to retain the status of the most powerful nation in the world. In 1914 Germany was a young country but had a very large army. Germany distrusted the French empire and was jealous of the British Empire due to the size of their navy. So Germany set out and built a navy. Russia wanted to support Serbia who had a strained relationship with Britain, as well as rivals with Austria-Hungary over the Balkans. Austria-Hungary was already struggling with being an empire of eleven different nationalities as well as being rivals with Germany of the Balkans. France wanted revenge on Germany over the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine France wanted them returned. So there was a lot at stake for the five powers. Serbia and Austria-Hungary had issues with each other due to Serbia wanting independence of Austria-Hungary Serbia nationalist within Austria-Hungary.
Militarism is the belief that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use force to defend or get advantages. The writer believes that this European ‘arms race’ was a major cause of World war I. Between 1871 and 1914 all European powers except Britain, carried out military conscription to build up their armies believing that a large military equals prestige and power. Due to this people came to believe war was just part of life and were happy to pay higher taxes to support armament programs. This resulted in the production of deadlier weapons, bigger battleships, as well as the invention of the aeroplane and submarines. So now war could be fought on land, at sea as well as below the sea and in the air. As a result of this all powers now had large armies and or navies. Some had also developed ‘war plans’, Germany had the ‘Schlieffen plan’, France had ‘Plan XVII which Niall Ferguson described as “mad strategy”.
We often think about leadership in the context of an individual being able to lead and influence others. King George V ruled Britain in 1910 – 1936, though all laws had to pass through parliament. Britain’s unemployment was rising causing strikes, riots and demonstrations to become more common. Britain’s biggest problem was what to do with Ireland, by 1914 it looked as if a civil war was about to hit. Germany’s ruler Kaiser Wilhelm II who reigned from 1888 – 1918 had issues. The people were unhappy. Their wages were low, food was expensive and working conditions bad. By 1914 the socialist party wanted to start a revolution. Russia’s leader Tsar Nicholas II reigned from 1894 – 1917. Russia was a weak empire, the people lived and worked in dreadful conditions like fourteen hour days, low wages, over crowed and unhealthy homes. Peasants of Russia were ready to rebel against Tsar Nicholas. Austria-Hungary emperor was Franz Joseph II his reign was from 1848 – 1916. Many of Austria-Hungary’s people hated the government rule. The Czech