Was The Alliance System The Main Cause Of The First World War?

1755 Words Oct 20th, 2015 8 Pages
To what extent was the alliance system the main cause of the First World War?
The First World War, often referred to as the ‘Great War’, started in July 1914 and ended in November 1918. There are a number of complex interlinked causes for this devastating international conflict, and this essay will compare five of them to determine whether the widely believed notion that the alliance system, a series of agreements between the major powers at the time, was the main cause. Other suggested causes of the war that will be analysed in this essay are German foreign policy, nationalism and the existence of old rivalries, Serbia and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and finally the reaction of Russia on the last few days before Britain entered the war.
It is understandable why the alliance system is often blamed for the outbreak of war. The multiple diplomatic agreements made between the European countries- Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Italy- from 1879 onwards (and a peace treaty with Belgium in 1839) bred mistrust and paranoia. Firstly, the two main alliances, the Triple Alliance, formed in 1882, and the Triple Entente, formed in 1907, came into existence through Germany not wanting ‘encirclement’. She felt that with Russia on one side, an ever-increasing power, and France on the other, slightly weaker but bitter from previous wars, it was trapped and vulnerable to attack. Therefore she formed an alliance in 1879 with Austria-Hungary (the Dual…

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