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The origins of World War I

The origins of World War I - JC Stiassni Early Modern...

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JC Stiassni Early Modern Europe Teaching Assistant - Maddy Carey The Crisis: How Domestic Politics lead to WWI In the early 20 th Century many European countries participated in a period of economic expansion and political upheaval. Starting in the late 19 th Century new technological improvements from the Industrial Revolution allowed England, France, Italy and Germany to enlarge their trade networks. This gave European countries access to more raw materials and as well as new markets to sell their products. As a result, European powers had more capital with which they could invest at home on domestic improvements or abroad on additional international investments. Also, in the late 19 th century the political and economic power structure of Europe changed. In 1870 Italian and Germanic provinces each united to form independent nations, and the French established a more centralized parliamentary republic. Once these countries were better organized they took a more active role in European and International politics. By the early 20 th Century, nearly all the territories in Africa and South East Asia were partitioned, and European powers began to focus more of their attention on issues relating to their own continent. Countries gradually began to increase spending on their militaries, which created an ‘arms race’, and some feared they would fall behind and be vulnerable to threats from other countries. Germany’s political system prevented it from increasing its military spending to match that of its counterparts. As a result it feared it might be exposed to an attack from France or Russia. In England the Liberal government had been criticized for mishandling domestic matters and Liberal leaders saw war as a way to regain the trust and confidence of voters. Finally, in France political leaders
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viewed their alliance with Russia as a resource which would protect them from military defeat, and were guided to follow their ally into war against Germany. Each country had its fair share of domestic political issues, and relations between the powers grew tense. When Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, a crisis emerged. Austria-Hungry mobilized its troops against Serbia, and Serbia urged Russia to mobilize its troops as well. Some historians believe Germany saw Russia’s mobilization as a threat, and then declared war on them. France and Britain quickly joined the side of Russia, and declared war upon Germany. For generations historians have argued whether economic or political factors were the primarily causes of WWI. I will look at historical events and policies in different European countries from 1900 to 1914, and then argue while economic forces were important in bringing about the war, political issues played a larger role. Germany’s political structure in early 20
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