World War I - Treaty of Versailles


In the peace settlement Germany was forced to accept sole 
responsibility for causing World War I. This was a totally 
justifiable demand on the part of the victorious powers. The Treaty of 
Versailles was enacted into history in June 1919 with Germany forced 
to accept sole responsibility for causing World War I. Since then 
there has been considerable debate concerning the war but even today 
historians still cannot fully agree upon the causes. Some support has 
been given to the theory that Germany was totally responsible for the 
war however substantial evidence does not support that view. 
Therefore the insistence by the victorious powers to include in the 
Treaty that Germany accept total blame cannot be justified. This 
essay examines certain events and actions prior to the July crisis. 
These caused tension and hostility among nations but did not have a 
direct bearing upon the war. Also it has been determined that there 
were decisions and courses of action taken by several nations 
following the assassination of Franz Ferdinand heir to the 
Austrian-Hungarian throne which did have a direct bearing upon World 
War I. 

 Development of political and military alliances caused tension 
and hostility among nations leading up to World War I. Two major 
alliance systems developed due to conflicting national interests 
which had been evident during the past two decades throughout Europe. 
These were the "Triple Alliance" of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy 
and the "Triple Entente" of Britain, France and Russia. Also several 
smaller countries became indirectly involved in the alliances which 
effectively divided Europe into two "Armed Camps". Russia pledged to 
support Serbia in order to prevent further Austrian-Hungarian 
expansion into the Balkans. Germany stated its support for 
Austria-Hungary and Britain had given its support for Belgium's 2.
neutrality in 1839. However while these political and military 
alliances existed there is no direct evidence to indicate that any 
nation declared war on that basis. There had been several 'crisis' 
during the period 1905-1913. First the Moroccan crisis involving 
France and Germany during 1905 and 1911. No wars eventuated only 
tensions and fears regarding Germanys aggressive expansionist 
policies. Britain supported France being involved in Morocco and 
France conceded some territory in the Congo to Germany. Second the 
1908 Balkans crisis eventuated because of the collapse of the Ottoman 
[Turkish] Empire. Austria-Hungary annexed the provinces of 
Bosnia-Herzegovina. Serbia was insensed and sought Russian 
assistance. Germany became involved and Russia backed down. Finally 
two wars developed in the Balkans. The first Balkan war [1912] was 
between Turkey and the Balkan League [Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece] 
with Turkey being driven out of the Balkans. The second Balkan war 
[1913] occurred between Bulgaria and Serbia/Greece. Winning this war 
strengthened Serbs position and this gave Austria-Hungary concern 
regarding its influence in the Balkans. The main significance of the 
Balkan wars was the position of Britain and France placing restraint 
on Russia and Germany restraining Austria-Hungary. This did not 
happen with the July crisis of 1914 which resulted in World War I. 
[Condron - The Making of the Modern World] Also the two Balkan wars 
resulted in renewed antagonism between Bulgaria and the other Balkan 
states especially Serbia and caused general dissatisfaction because 
of the interference of the great powers in Balkan politics.[Grolier - 
World War I]. Evidence does support that while the various events 
discussed did not contribute directly to World War I they did indeed 
contribute to extreme tensions and suspicions between the great powers 
and certainly fueled the arms race which in effect prepared nations 
for the total disaster that was to follow the July crisis.

 The arms race which mainly involved Britain and Germany began 
in 1896 when Germany took the decision to significantly expand its 
navy. This intense competition which developed created significant 
tensions between nations. The intensity to expand was further fueled 
following each major crisis which developed during the period 
1905-1913. Britain hardened its position towards Germany. The arms 
race also extended to other areas such as the expansion and 
modernization of armies. Evidence suggests that due to the large 
increase in expenditure on navies and armies together with 3.
transport and equipment Britain and the European nations were in fact 
preparing for a war that they knew would eventuate at some stage. 
Germany ignited the arms race with its aim to develop a navy two 
thirds the size of Britain's to protect the vulnerable North Sea and 
possibly through the fear of "encirclement" but evidence supports 
that Britain led the arms race and thus this action contributed 
significantly towards the carnage and destruction that resulted from 
World War I. 

 The assassination of Archduke, Franz Ferdinand, heir to the 
throne of Austria-Hungary occurred on the 28 June, 1914. This crisis 
was seen as the key event that started World War I. Austria-Hungary 
were presented with an opportunity to move against Serbia and resolve 
it's Balkan problems. Germany agreed to support Austria-Hungary and 
presented them with the infamous "Blank Cheque" resulting in 
unconditional support. Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum containing 
impossible demands in effect provoking war with Serbia. However 
Serbia agreed to most of the demands. Germany advised 
Austria-Hungary to negotiate but instead they declared war on Serbia 
(28 July 1914). Russia immediately mobilised its troops and Germany 
supported Austria-Hungary. By August 1914 all major European powers 
except Italy, had become involved. Britain delayed its entry until 
German troops moved through Belgium in order to attack France.

 The alliance system failed to prevent war as previously but 
perhaps nations did not expect it to escalate outside the 
Austria-Hungary and Serbian borders. Russian mobilisation may have 
been a show of strength for Serbia or perhaps it was in relation to 
the Schlieffen Plan. However the speed with which the mobilisation of 
European armies occurred would not have given time for negotiation. 
The Schlieffen plan was put into action by Germany and controlled by 
the Generals rather than the German government. It was apparently 
very rigid in nature and it was the Schlieffen Plan or nothing even 
though Germany at that point had no specific quarrel with France.

 However what really contributed to the commencement of World 
War I. Historians today still cannot agree upon the causes. 
Nevertheless it is suggested that the events leading up to the July 
crisis such as imperial rivalry, arms race, alliances and the Balkan 
wars though not directly related 4. must share some blame. This view 
can be supported due to the immense tensions and hostility that was 
generated among Britain and the European nations. Evidence suggests 
that there was no single major cause for World War I but in effect 
there was several major events associated with its commencement. For 
instance the assassination of the Austrian-Hungarian heir Franz 
Ferdinand while an important event because it triggered off a series 
of events did not have any direct bearing on the war. However the 
Austrian-Hungary declaration of war upon Serbia did and this hatred 
for Serbia had been building up over many years. Also blame can be 
shared by Russia, Germany and France over their mobilisation 
plans-particularly Russia who commenced action first. Germany was 
further to blame for its totally unconditional support for 
Austrlia-Hungary who was the aggressor in the war with Serbia. It 
seems their thinking was that the war would be contained within the 
Balkans. Finally Britain must share some blame because had they been 
more decisive in supporting France then Germany would most certainly 
have had second thoughts about invading France under the Schlieffen 

 Military alliances resulting in Germany's encirclement, 
diplomatic mistakes, the arms race, imperial rivalries and immediate 
causes combined to cause World War I eg/ July Crisis. Each was a 
signficant factor, no one cause was the sole cause. It is clear that 
the Articals of the Treaty of Versailles, claiming sole German 
responsibility for causeing World War I was unjust, thus it was a 
shared responsibility for the cause of World War I.


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