Causes of WWI

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Causes of WWI

German Action

The isolation of France, who sought revanche (revenge) for the loss of Alsace-Lorraine and the humiliation of 1870 – achieved through alliances with other countries

March 1890 – the Kaiser’s ‘New Course’ started through refusal to renew Reassurance Treaty with Russia, instead starting a relationship with Vienna

Chief of General Staff of the army (Field Marshall Schlieffen) began working on the Schlieffen Plan allowing Germany to fight a war on two fronts – plan formulated between 1891 and 1905. The French were expected to capitulate within 6 weeks allowing German forces to transfer to the Eastern Front.

Relations with Britain

Kaiser Wilhelm II was grandson of Queen Victoria

After the failure to get Britain into the Triple Alliance, Germany’s attitudes changed.

Flottenpolitik – a direct challenge to Britain’s naval supremacy; sparked a naval race between the two nations.

                1906 – Britain launched HMS Dreadnought; prompted Germany into massive naval expenditure to avoid falling behind.

German support for the Boers in the Boer War further antagonised relations.

1901 – Britain made overtures for an alliance with Germany, but the German foreign office insisted Britain would have to commit to the Triple Alliance, believing Britain did not have any other options following her ‘splendid isolation’

March 1909 – the British government set aside a budget to build nine dreadnought-class battle ships that year

The Haldane Mission in 1912 marked the last chance for them to come to an agreement:

> Lord Haldane travelled to Berlin hoping to improve relations

> The Germans agreed to a limit on fleet expansion only if Britain agreed to neutrality in any future European land war

> In March 1912, Germany published a new Naval Bill proposing further expansion and the mission failed

Limits to Weltpolitik

Despite the policy and pressure groups, little was achieved.

> In 1897 – German involvement in China resulted in her gaining a lease on the port of Kiaochow

> In 1898 – Germany bought the Pacific islands of the Carolines and the Marianas from Spain

> In 1899 – an agreement was made with Britain resulting in Germany taking some of the eastern Samoan islands

These gains did not deliver Germany’s ‘place in the sun’

The First Moroccan Crisis (1905)

Kaiser Wilhelm visited Tangier in Morocco which was in the French sphere of influence. Germany had a number of economic interests there.

Plans by France to increase its influence there had been discussed with Britain and Italy. Germany demanded an international conference (Algeciras Conference), hoping to divide Britain and France but the opposite happened.

The Treaty of Björkö (signed July 1905) hoped to prise Russia away from the French but failed because of opposition in the Russian Foreign Office by those who did not wish to ruin relations with France.

The Algeciras Act confirmed French control of Morocco and strengthened the entente

The whole episode was humiliating to Germany, and the only country to support them was Austria-Hungary

The Second Moroccan Crisis (Summer 1911)

February 1909


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