Origins of WW1

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Wilhelm II's weltpolitik

  • literally mean 'world politiks'
  • term used to describe the Kaiser's foreign policy in germany 1888
  • new nation of germany was the strongest industrial country in europe. Army was the most powerful in the world, yet it did not have an empire
  • they felt undervalued by other european countries.
  • Aim of weltpolitik was; To win germany the respect it deserved from the world, the kaiser wanted it to have 'it's place in the sun'
  • He sought to achieve this goal with an aggressive foreign policy.
  • The kaiser wanted to turn germany into a huge trading nation.
  • Wanted to become an imperial power- wanted a strong navy, as strong as Britains
  • Wanted to create 'Mitteleuropa'.

The Alliance system 1900-14

major great powers of europe divided into rival alliances is often seen as a major cause of the first world war.

  • 1882 Germany, Austria-hungary and Italy form the Triple Alliance.
  • Germany also had a treaty with Russia, but lapsed in 1890.
  • 1894, Franco-Russian alliance.
  • Britain tried to remain in 'splendid isolation' in the 19th century, but emerged into the alliance system in fear of germany's growing power.
  • 1902 Britain made a naval agreement with Japan.
  • 1904 Britain signed Entente Cordial with France.
  • 1907 Russia joins and they become the Triple Entente.

People thought Alliances would prevent war, not cause them, as the alliances were defensive.

In a number of ways, it increased the atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust-

  • Treaties  were signed in secret- a country would think its rivals are making an aggressive move, when it is defensive,
  • Relations between rival powers worsened, each power would look to its ally. Local disputes became wider hostility.
  • Great Powers were also involved in a race to build up their armies.
  • Conflicts took place between 1900-1914 which increased tension between powers, strengthened alliances and created highly volatile situation.

Arms Race 1900-1914

It was argues that the only way to ensure peace was to have a strong army and ward off invaders. 

This was supported by weapon manufacturers as they made a vast profit from it.

All of the great powers, except Britain, increased in size of their army during this period.

-in 1913 the french raised their period of conscription from 2 to 3 years. The russians raised theirs from 3 to 3 and a half.

- by 1913 germany was very powerful, only russia had more soldiers, yet it was ill equipped. 

-Britain was the only power that had not introduced conscription by 1914.

Naval arms race 1906-14

Britain needed a powerful navy, relied heavily on it. At the end of 19th century, it


sophie Ward


Apologies for spelling mistakes

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