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The First World War - Essay Example

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The First World War was one of the most important turning points in the history of modern civilisation. The enormous military conflict dramatically changed the face of Europe producing seven new states (Czechoslovakia, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Yugoslavia), ended the epoch of huge empires such as Austro-Hungary and Ottoman Empire and brought serious changes to the colonial territories in Africa and Asia…
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The First World War
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Download file to see previous pages The seeds of the First World War had been sawn several decades before the conflict actually occurred. After a decade of using the military power to unify Germany and finally establish the second Reich in 1871, Otto von Bismarck applied his energies to win the time needed for the country to recover and gain power. The only way to achieve that goal was to neutralize at any cost the potential enemies that might threaten the country's new found position as a major European power. Therefore, Bismarck's foreign policy was coloured by the shades of peace over the next two decades and resulted in the famous Bismarckian Alliance system.
Bismarck had three major goals establishing a complex system of European alliances: (1) to create a peaceful German facade; (2) to create defensive alliances; (3) isolate the potential enemies. Consequently, after Europe recognised Germany as a nation during the Berlin Congress in 1878 Bismarck focused on keeping France which he perceived as the most dangerous threat to Germany in isolation. It is commonly believed that this task became the cornerstone of Bismarck's international policy from 1871 to 1894. Simultaneously the Chancellor took every possible effort to uphold peaceful co-existence with the other two major conservative European powers, Russian and Austria-Hungary by assuring them Germany did not represent any threat (Carr, 1987).
The first crucial step toward creation of the new balance of powers in Europe occurred during the Berlin Congress of 1978 when Bismarck took advantage of the opportunity to act a peace mediator between the Russian Empire, Austria, and Great Britain. The role allowed Bismarck to maintain the peace between major European powers, establish closer ties with Austria, prevent the Russian Empire from gaining too much power out of its win in the Balkan War, and promote the image of Germany as an effective international peacemaker (Pflanze, 1990). The Chancellor immediately capitalised on such an impressive success: a defensive military Dual Alliance with Austria against the Russian Empire was established in 1879 and after five years of intensive political manoeuvring Bismarck signed the defensive Reinsurance Treaty with the Russian Empire in 1885.
Bismarck supported the colonial interests of France in Africa and Asia being perfectly aware that Great Britain would sooner or later become concerned about the French threat to its traditional colonial supremacy. Consequently, France and Britain got involved in a series of conflicts over the colonies: the countries had neither time nor resources to seriously influence the political developments on the territory of Europe and threaten Germany. Bismarck further limited the influence of France by convincing Italia to join the Dual Alliance in 1882; the new configuration became known as the Triple Alliance (Carr, 1987).
Only Bismarck retirement revealed the true amount of complexity associated with the Bismarckian model of alliances. Thus, Germany participated in defensive alliances with Austria and Italy against France, the Russian ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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