World War I/Lesson 1 - Introduction
With this lesson starts the course 'World War I'. For the first two weeks everyone who wants to participate can post his/her expectations of this course. Maybe we can develop some main questions for the period between 1914-1918, which can be answered during the course or in the last lesson.
Before the outbreak of World War I, tensions between many European nations were rising. Lesson 1 will discuss events and factors, which contributed to the outbreak of the First World War.
Historical Approaches to War
Besides looking at the origins of the Great War these approaches will also focus on the Treaty of Versailles and how this treaty reflected the mindset of the nations that were pivotal in its creation.
- The second approach is to view World War I as a war, just like any other war. There were many wars before World War I, and they see the 'Great War' (another name for World War I), as similar to the ones before it. Historians following this approach tend to place great emphasis on nationalism, imperialism and militarism. They see these factors as the great causes that link all the actions of the countries involved in the war.
Problems Leading Up to the War
Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries
- In the early 20th Century Great Britain was an imperial power. It held numerous lucrative overseas territories, which provided the empire with raw materials, wealth, and soldiers. These colonies were vital to Britain's status as an imperial power. Thus, the British focused on securing their colonial holdings, instead of interacting in European conflicts.
- In 1899-1902 Britain faced the crisis of the Boer War in South Africa. The British concern was that other European states might intervene on the side of the Boers. European states did not help out the Boers and in the end British won the war, but they realized that a conflict away from Europe drastically spread their forces thin.
- Along with South African colonies, Britain also controlled India. It was considered the 'Jewel in the Crown' for Britain's colonial holdings. By the end of the 19th Century it was the largest market for British goods. In the 20th Century, however, Russia started advancing itself as an imperial power. Russia began to move into Asia and Afghanistan. This aggressive movement by Russia was seen as a great threat to Asia.
- The Franco-Russian Alliance was also seen as a great threat. Russia had tried to strike an alliance with Germany, but Germany refused. The Franco-Russian alliance was purely defensive. The French and the Russians agreed that if Germany used military force against either of them, the other nation would enter the war, threatening Germany with a war on two fronts.
- To create a balancing effect in Asia, Britain and Japan entered into an alliance, in 1902. |The Anglo-Japanese Alliance stipulated that if Japan and Russia went to war, Britain would remain neutral. However, if France became involved Brtain would also mobilise.
- In 1904, France and Britain entered into an alliance. This alliance was called the |Entente Cordiale and settled the last vestiges of outstanding colonial issues between the two countries. This included fishing rights off the coast of |Newfoundland. The alliance's main intention was to maintain peace and to avoid a major war between European countries.