Imperialist Causes Of Ww1 Essay, Research Paper
The two trends that were most responsible for the tensions that eventually led to World War 1 were; one the Population growth and the subsequent political growth of a disenfranchised populous, and secondly the new age of Imperialism with its alliances, nationalism and great standing armies.Between 1880 and 1914 the population of Europe rose from 330 million to 460 million. The population slowly gained suffrage but with a diversified populace of different cultures economic and social backgrounds it was most often difficult to find a consensus in the political arena. The Europe of the turn of the century had in their minds six great powers . The Democracies of France, Great Britain and Italy, and the Autocracies of the Empires of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia. The Sick Man of Europe , the Ottoman Empire, was by this time not a factor any more in European power circles. The social changes that arose were the decline of the Liberal Consensus and the ascendancy of the Socialists. In the autocratic countries they looked to the changes and the privileges that the workers had and were frustrated, leading to even more radical political groups such as the Anarchists. With the huge population jump and the need for more land and better working conditions socialism viewed universal suffrage as the key to the workers well being. (1) Western Civilization, the continuing experiment . In Russia the peasant population grew by more than 50 percent but only owned ten percent more land. This led to wide spread poverty and a famine that killed hundreds of thousands. Coupled with comparatively poor farming techniques this resulted in mass dissatisfaction in the rural areas. In Russia labor strikes continued to grow yearly until the War.The New age of Imperialism that gripped Europe at the turn of the century was fueled by economic and social motivations, the distrust of their rivals, and the consequential build-up of massive standing armies. The recent previous wars had been short in duration and the general consensus was that any future ones would be to, although a few did see that the horrific arms race would not end in a conventional war.The hope of overseas profit was the key to the idea of Empire, although the social motives were still a factor. A large overseas colonial holding would ensure a steady market for the mother countries good, or so the thinking went. Though even with closed markets, and large tariffs the majority of the trade was still among the powers themselves. The colonies were seen as a long- term investment for the most part. The other reason for securing large tracks of lands was to protect your interests from your rivals. Great Britain acquired the Niger Valley for naught else than to keep the French from encroaching on it. The British likewise secured the Suez for its link to Her Crown Jewel, India. Although Britain and France played this game they eventually rallied around a common denominator, the bellicose rattling of Germany.
Socially the Empire was to play a part in overpopulation. Although large populations migrated in those years few went to the colonies, as they weren t as attractive as advertised. Because Europe was more technologically advanced than Asia or Africa many believed it their duty to civilize those lands with telegraphs, railroads, schools, hospitals and the trappings of western civilization. The Social Darwinist believed that the world was fierce competitors and that the white race was destined to succeed. They claimed it as a natural law that the weaker race should perish and that God was on their side. They pointed to the differences in the material culture as their proof. Asserting national power was a key factor in empire building. The physically smaller countries looked at the emergence of Russia and the United States and felt envious. A few key holdings, a military victory here or there and the national ego was smoothed. This also had the desired effect of taking away thoughts of a disenfranchised population. The growth of empires led to more economic and political competition than before. The power of Germany was unmatched in the 1870s and 1880s. She had alliances with the other autocracies in the Three Emperor s League and was part of the Triple Alliance with Austria and Italy. France was alone on the continent and Great Britain enjoyed her isolation. Germany had problems with its allies of Russia and Austria-Hungary over the latter s Balkan issue. Germany sided with Austria, and Russia got French support. Due to viewing Germany as a dangerous neighbor, France and Britain resolved their differences in Egypt and sighed an entente, as did Russia and Great Britain over Persia. The Powers had polarized around two camps: The Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy, and the Triple Entente of Great Britain, France, and Russia. Germany challenged the historical predominance of English naval supremacy. She began building her own navy in the 1890s. The arms race was on its way. The European powers arm expenditures in some cases doubled or more in the heady years from 1904-1913. Russia had lost a war to Japan. Germany felt Russia would be slow to mobilize and felt itself stronger than its eastern rival. Many thought a war was inevitable and a preemptive war was preferable. So the stage was set with an escalating arms race, territorial rivalries and shifting alliances motivated towards a greater share of power in the New World order.