When Baldrick gave his opinion about the cause of the First World War he stated that “I thought it started when a bloke called Archie Duke shot an ostrich because he was hungry”. What he means by this is that he thinks the war started when the Arch-Duke of Austria Hungary got shot. This is one of many theories about how the war started, and different historians think that some of the factors were more important that others. I will be looking at these factors and giving my opinion as to which ones are more important.
Baldrick’s cause of the war was the assassination of Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of the Habsburg Empire. This happened in June 1914 and is often called the July Crisis because of the events that followed. He was assassinated in the Serbian capital Sarajevo, and so the Habsburgs blamed the Serbians. With the promise of German support, the Habsburgs issued an ultimatum to Serbia, with a set of harsh demands. Serbia agreed to all these demands except one, they would not allow Habsburg officials freedom to enter Serbia and investigate. The Habsburgs declared war on Serbia on the 29th of July, closely followed by Germany who declared war on Russia and France on the 1st of August. Britain declared war on Germany later on the 4th of August when they invaded Belgium.
This was a short term cause of the war, and therefore it was only the trigger that set off the war. You could argue that is this had not of happened, then the war might never have began, but because of the tension between the five great powers there would have probably been some other event that would have triggered the war. Therefore, I think that even though this seems to be the direct cause of the war, it is not a particularly important factor in causing the war.
Another possible reason for the cause of the First World War was the alliance system or old diplomacy. This was the joining of the five great powers into two powerful alliances. The Triple Alliance, which consisted of Germany, Austria Hungary and Italy and the Triple Entente, which consisted of Britain, France and Russia. These alliances were created by Bismarck, because he wanted to try and prevent a war, and isolate France. Ultimately, the Alliance system could have done the opposite, given France allies and maybe even cause the war.
The first attempt at an Alliance was the Three Emperors System that included Germany, Austria Hungary and Russia. However, this fell through because of differences between the Habsburgs and Russia. Germany chose to stick with the Habsburgs, and were later joined by Italy to make the Triple Alliance. This exclusion of Russia worried them and so they signed a binding treaty with the French to mnake themselves feel safer. They were later joined by Britain to form the Triple Entente.
The idea behind the Alliance system was that there would be two vast opposing sides who would deter each other from going to war. The problem was that it drove the countries in one alliance away from the countries in the other alliance and created tension and fear between them because each side felt threatened by the other. It also meant that if a war started then all of the five major powers would all be involved, greatly increasing the extent of the war if one did occur.
Another possible cause of the war was the Arms race, both the Anglo-German Naval Race and Russian rearmament The Anglo-German Naval Race was the German desire to have a navy, and the British reaction to it. The fact that Germany began to build a navy worried Britain, and so they also began to increase the size of their navy. They also came up with Dreadnoughts, which were a new class of ship that made all others obsolete. This helped to create tension between Germany and Britainas they both felt threatened by the others military expansion. It also increased the assumption that a war would occur, because the opposing sides were both building up their military power.
The Russian rearmament was basically the Russian rebuilding their army after losing most of it because a war with Japan. They used the most advanced training and equipment, and even got a German to be the new head of the military organisation. This worried the Habsburgs and the Germans because they feared the size of the German army, which was one million men at peacetime. They were also worried about having to fight a war on two fronts.
Imperialism or empire building could have been another cause of the war. This was largely Britain and France feeling threatened because Germany wanted “a place in the sun” as Bismarck said. This helped to attribute to the war because the threat of Germany pushed Britain and France together and strengthened the Entente as well as greater tension because of the imperialistic rivalries. The two Morrocan Crisises were examples of how imperialistic matters could contribute to the war. The first Morrocan Crisis began when Germany tried to take control of Morroco, an area of French influence, saying they would uphold Morrocan independence. Germany did this to try and drive a wedge between Britain and France but it did not work as Britain backed France over the matter. Germany backed down over the matter. The second Morrocan Crisis was a similar incident, when once again Britain backed France and Germany backed down.
The mood of 1914 could also have helped contribute to the war . This is the feeling of the inevitability of war amongst the major countries and the ordinary people. There is the theory that if you think something is inevitable then it will be so, and this may have applied here. There was also a lot of nationalist feeling in 1914, particularly because of the popular press and this would have driven the countries further apart. Germany and France hated Germany, partly because they were scared of them and the French were resentful of the defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. Germany also hated Britain and France as they thought they were leaving Germany out. These antagonies were increased by the poular press in thse countries. There was also a feeling that war is noble, manly and invigorating, and it makes men complete. It was also seen as the solution to problems.
Domestic issues also helped to contribute to the war. This is the idea that a country may have been trying to support a war because it may have been beneficial or may have been distracted. This idea was introduced by the historian Franz Fischer, who said that Germany deliberately provoked the War as they did the Second World War.
He said that Germany provoked the war for several reasons. He said that war would have been beneficial for Germany in several ways. It would have distracted attention away from internal issues as well as helping to solve some of them as it could alleviate unemployment and help to provide for an expanding population. It would have promoted nationalism, which would have helped Germany, especially because of the recent unification of the separate states. It would also have appealed to the ruling aristocracy, as a war could have helped them control the other two classes since the aristocracy made up the higher ranks in the army. This could apply to any of the major countries involved, but the reasons for the other countries are less significant. The only realistic factor is that Britain was distracted by the situation in Ireland, and so did not give the July Crisis the attention it deserved. This is written in records, and so we know it is true.
Baldrick’s reason for the start of the war was the direct cause as it set all the countries along the road to war. However, if it wasn’t for the other, long term factors then I think that the war could have been avoided. I think that all of these long term reasons helped to contribute to the war. The arms race and tension created from imperialistic matters all helped to gear the countries into the two fixed alliances that gave the war the size and the impact that it had, and without this alliance system, helped along its path by the other two factors, the war would have been much less significant or even nonexistant. I do not think that you can blame one country for the start of the war, but I do think that the mood of 1914 was an important factor. The sheer inevitability of the war would have discouraged countries from trying to avoid it as they would not have thought it worthwhile. I think this is important, especially when combined with the antagony created by the popular press, as this would have removed the chance that the countries concerned could ever really get along, unless there was a war to sort it out. Therefore, I think that although Baldrick is correct in his statement on how the war began, other factors such as the mood of 1914 and the Alliance system are more important.