Written By Arav Barmecha (Grade 7)
Several indicators point to the first world war being caused by the alliance system. Firstly, on the 28th of June, when Archduke Franz Fernandez, the heir to the Austrian throne was assassinated by the slavs, Austria-Hungary blamed Serbia. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia and this caused Russia to get involved. Russia was backed up by France but Germany backed up Austria-Hungary. This was the spark that ignited the First World War. Secondly, when Germany implemented the ‘Schlieffen plan’ they had to go around the French’s defenses, through Belgium. Britain was responsible for safeguarding Belgium according to the 1839 Treaty of London. Britain used this invasion of Belgium to declare war on Germany. This was because Germany was about to build more Dreadnoughts and overthrow the two-power standard which said that the British Navy had to be bigger than the next two largest navies combined. This is how and why Britain got involved. Finally, on December 1917, America joined the war for a number of reasons. These included the sinking of RMS Lusitania which cost 1,198 American lives and the Zimmermann telegram which was a secret alliance between Germany and New Mexico. America declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary. The entrance of America into the war was very important because it was what changed the tide of the war. America had a large population of germans living in its country but, as the war progressed and they saw the atrocities that germans were committing they were shocked.
Several reasons say that the alliance system did not cause the first world war. Firstly, regardless of any alliances, imperialism was still bound to happen. Because Germany and Austria-Hungary wanted more territory and they would have tried to expand their territory. This type of expansion would result in the first world war. Britain and France would expand their empires and this would anger Germany. There would be a scramble for land. Secondly, by 1914 an arms race had begun and militarism caused countries to increase their army and power. With Britain and Germany both increasing their navies at lightning speed, there would be a point where someone would attack. Without alliances, militarism caused tension between countries, this tension could get out of hand and lead to the first world war. Finally, technological advances and strategies like the invention of the HMS Dreadnought and tanks meant that countries were bound to turn on each other. Any conflict like the assassination of Archduke Franz Fernandez could have caused war and forced countries to get involved. This involvement of countries could lead to the war extending out of Europe.
It is clear that the alliance system did not cause the first world war. Imperialism, Militarism, and tense relations between countries would lead to the first world war regardless. From the arms race that increased the production of battleships and armies, to the new technology and inventions like the HMS Dreadnought kept countries ready for war. The tense relationship could mean that any conflict could have been the spark that initiated the first world war. Imperialism caused countries to want to expand and create an empire, especially Germany who wanted its place in the sun. Regardless of the alliance system, the first world war was inevitable. There would have been an outbreak of war in an attempt to show who is superior out of the countries. The alliance system did not cause the first world war.
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