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Discussion

Discuss about the Role of Germany in Great War.

The Great War also known as the First World War was one of the most gruesome and damaging wars in the history of mankind, in which the countries were divided into two groups, or alliances, the war continued for 45 years from 1914 to 1918. In the following essay, the role of Germany in the outbreak of Great War is highlighted. Specific evidence and arguments are formed and described in the essay below to give a clear idea about the reasons or factors that led to the happening of the Great War. The first incident which gave a spark to the war was the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. The July Crisis has been one of the catalysts of the War following which the great powers declared the coalition. The killing of the “Austro Hungarian Loyal” was attributed to Serbian government and its support to the terrorist entities. The Austro Hungarian Monarchical government did not leave any stones unturned to decide on an invasion on Serbia in this regards. These incidents were happening throughout July, and was known as July crisis. The Schlieffen plan devised by the German military chief was another action that was beforehand planned against the outbreak of the War.  In addition to that was the invasion of Belgium and Luxemburg which would give a free passage to Germany in order to proceed towards the war against France and Russia. The essay will also throw light on the impacts of the First World War in Germany.

Germany was one of the major reasons that had caused the First World War to take place. The World War began in the year of 1914. However, the beginning of it was marked when the French people announced the war on Prussia. From the beginning of the 1900’s most of the country started to strengthen itself and its army’s with the help of technological advances and against their respective ally.

Argument: A simple “no” to Austria-Hungary’s plan of invasion of Serbia, would have stopped disaster in its tracks.

The murder of the Archduke and heir to the throne of Austria, Franz Ferdinand on 28th June 1914 in Sarajevo turned out to be one of the primary reasons which catapulted the Great Wars. It worked as a spark to the beginning of the war. Serbia was a self-ruling country. The harsh treatment over Serbia became the cause of the assassination of Franz by the terrorist group the Black Hand[1]. The assassination of the Archduke was caused by Gavrilo Princip part of the six-member terrorist group.  The assassination was aimed at detaching the South Slav provinces of Austria-Hungarian empire. Serbia was given an ultimatum by Austria-Hungarian monarchy which was rejected which caused the primary reason to start the war. The other countries of Europe had been entangled in various disputes, and hence the countries were subsequently divided into two groups which was going to go the war.

Argument: A simple “no” to Austria-Hungary’s plan of invasion of Serbia would have stopped disaster in its tracks

On the date of July 5, 1914, Kaiser Wilhelm II, the ruler of Germany assures his country’s unconditional and complete support for whatever action Austria-Hungary decides to take in the conflict and dispute with Serbia. This was known as the blank check that Germany provided to Austria-Hungary. Therefore, this further escalated the tensions. This blank check by Germany was one of the causes of the great war and therefore Germany has been held as responsible for the massacre.

Following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the officials of Vienna decided to punish Serbia and take over the Dual Monarchy. However, the Austria-Hungary needed the support of Germany which was clear when they stated Hoyos’ two documents to the Kaiser. Austria-Hungary was not in a strong position to fight with Serbia as the army was in the worst state and many problems were going on in the empire which was mainly a cause of the nationalism of the Balkan area[3]. The murder of Franz Ferdinand was a personal loss to Wilhelm. the day when the Kaiser’s took the pledge which was termed as carte blanche or blank check by the historians, marked the crucial moment in the various reasons of the outbreak of the First World War in Europe in 1914. The conflict would not have been possible without the unconditional support of Germany’s promise or assurance towards any of the punitive action on Serbia.

The July crisis of 1914 formed a chain reaction of events firing the Great War. The chain started with the murder of Austro-Hungarian royal in Bosnia. This incident was followed by the decision of “teaching a lesson” tyo Serbia by Austria-Hungary which was supported whole heartedly by Germany, in the form of the “Blank Check”. Germany also pledged to sign any documents that was required to ensure that Germany was a part of the coalition of Austria-Hungary, and the support of Germany would continue, even if Russia would turn for war, to accomplish the attack on Serbia[4]. Therefore, the month following the assassination came to be known as the July Crisis[5]. It can be added that the German’s believed that they were much more prepared than the Russians and the French and finally they wanted the war to begin sooner. Finally, on 23rd which was one month later after the assassination, Austria-Hungary sent an ultimatum to the Serbian government consisting of ten worded demands and a requirement to respond in agreement within 48 hours.  The Russians were not in the best prepared situation, the German’s had better preparations in terms of military might, and weaponry. The situation was chaotic and the political dimensions of the continent was changing fast, however the Great War started by the end of the July and early August 1914.

The Blank check is Marked as One of the Infamous Episodes in history and a Promotion of War

It can be stated by analyzing the present political situation of that time, German’s intervention in the crisis between Austria-Hungary acted as a catalyst in the first Word War. German was one of the militarily powerful countries of Europe, the support of Germany had made the Austria-Hungary monarch more confident about their attack on Serbia. If Germany had not assured its support, and Russia came up as a support to Serbia, Austria-Hungary would not possibly attack the Serbian nation. This can be related to the desire of Kaiser Wilhelm II who wanted to lead Germany and its power to its greatness. Germany already had a perception that if it would support Austria-Hungary to attack Serbia, then Russia would involve defending Serbia. These would help Germany to break the Russia-France ally, which was expected by Germany[6].

Germany had a different strategy to conquer and win over France and Russia both at the same time by breaking the alliance. France was in a period of economic modernization and was growing into national unity. It was transforming from a nation of peasants to modern and diverse economy. France has conducted negotiations and foreign visits to strengthen its existing alliances with Russia and Britain. The early 20th century informally began the plan by the German’s to fight and launch the Great War. Schlieffen’s Plan was created way before the assassination of Austria-Hungary royal Franz Ferdinand and even before there was any residue of the happening of the Great War. The Schlieffen Plan was initiated to plan for the war against France and Russia, created or designed by the German Chief Count Von Schlieffen[7]. It was a sort of battle plan which was drawn up by the Germans to safeguard the victory beforehand against France and Russia.

When Germany had been strategizing to launch offensive on France, and possibly Russia was a part of their strategy as well, Russia was engaged in a war with Japan in its eastern front. The Russo-Japanese war developed out of the rivalry between Russia and Japan regarding the dominance of Korea and Manchuria. Russia was drawn in the War because of its power and ability and the error of judgments like military overconfidence and enough of trust in the alliances which was not mandatory. The War started when Russia put pressure on China to grant a lease for the strategically important port of Port Arthur, in southern Manchuria, in the year of 1898. During These process, Russia had concluded an alliance with China against Japan, which led to winning the rights to extend the Trans-Siberian railroad across China and Manchuria to the Russian seaport. After building the Trans-Siberian railroad still, they lacked in the transportation facilities which became necessary to reinforce the armed forces in Manchuria. This was the time when Japan decided to launch an offensive against Russia, as the alliance with China had resulted in its security concern. There were multiple attacks on various occasions, and the Russian army was in the back foot, as its military preparedness was not up to the mark. This was one of the causes which weakened Russia economically and militarily, and Germany got an upper hand in its endeavor in the Western front of Russia to do as it wanted with France and Serbia. The German’s strategized that if an offensive was launched just then on the western frontier of Russia, then the Russians would take considerable time to mobilize its army from the eastern frontier, and till that time France will be captured and the German army can march further towards Russia. Military disasters at Tannenburg had majorly weakened Russian army in the initial stage of the War. The lack of leadership and army equipment was a drawback to Russia which was not in favor for the Great War against Austria-Hungary and Germany alliance.

Argument: Germany Already had a plan in place for the Attack of France and Russia

Germany wanted a large European war which was only possible after the involvement of the great powers in the Great War. At first, the war was simply initiated to break Russia-France alliance which was a prepared plan by the Germans much before the assassination had taken place[8].

The Treaty of London was signed in the year of 1839, in which Britain promised to safeguard the neutrality of Belgium after the recent invasions. It was designed by the allies to guarantee Belgium its impartiality and independence.

Belgium was a part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands since 1815. However, in 1830 the Catholic Belgians went apart and established their own independent Kingdom of Belgium. The co-signatories of the treaty of London were- Great Britain, Austria, France, the German Confederation, Russia and the Netherlands had officially accepted the independence and Britain agreed to protect the neutrality[9]. The major powers agreed to the treaty and signed it. The treaty is believed to catalyze the World War. On the other hand, Britain, Germany and France had all committed to respecting the independence of Belgium, but Germany stepped back with the commitment, and decided to divert energy just to fight against Russia and France.

Britain was one of the powerful empires which only focused on ruling its empire effectively. The difficulties and the treaty signed to safeguard Belgium neutrality became the reason for forwarding the ultimatum to Germany. The people of Britain were not at all interested in the activities that were taking place in parts of Europe. Great Britain with its empire was the most powerful among the major allies. It was politically and socially stable with a great naval, financial and its strength were critical in the victory[10]. Regarding military Britain was the substantial winner of the war as compared to Germany.

Germany has an effective strategy in capturing Belgium and henceforth protect itself from its rivals encircling its territory. Its rivals were France and Russia[11]. The plan was to acquire France, but first Belgium had to be brought under control to achieve that, and they knew that Russia would be busy meanwhile in mobilizing the Army from East to West. On 1st August 1914, when Germany declared free passage from Belgium, then it applied its Schlieffen plan over the dual alliance of France and Russia[12]. The plan was set as such Germany would anticipate the declaration of war to the Russian’s closest ally which was France by bringing the Schlieffen plan into action. France was a country with very poor defense. Therefore, Germany was very confident in bringing the country on its knees. Then Germany would encircle the region of Paris and force France to surrender. It would help Germany to pay full attention towards the Eastern front. However, when Britain sent an ultimatum to Germany to take back their forces from Belgium to protect the neutrality of Belgium but Germany refused to it straightforward[13]. These reason led to the final declaration of war between the groups led by Britain and Germany respectively.

Germany aimed to have a massive empire with more substantial power including army and navy. Germany took a risk which if not made would have given out some other consequence of the Great War. The other countries did not have an idea about the plans of Germany, and its strategies of waging a war in both the eastern and western fronts. Therefore, this made the process of comprehension of the other countries about the war slow. The alliance which was against Germany did not know much about the strengths of Germany either. Germany was at war with French and British in the Western Front, and fighting with Russians on the Eastern Front. The German had an idea to overrun Belgium and then attack Paris. However, one of the critical factors that can be considered is the invasion of Luxemburg and Belgium. France and Germany were in the odds since the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. By invading Belgium, Germany could have bypassed one of its threats of being encircled by its rivals. Germany’s Schlieffen plan was initiated and a strategy to conquer France and Russia, but it became a failure at one certain point where with the same plan to fight with two front war against major powers was impossible. Germany further made improvements in the plan with the help of Von Moltke.


However, the outbreak of the world war would not have succeeded if Germany would have resisted from testing its power against of France, Russia and Britain. Germany was aware that it is prepared for the upcoming war as compared to other powers. It sourced and headed towards the Great War expecting that if Germany violated Belgium’s international treaty, it would lead Britain to declare war. Germany wanted a war knowing the risk, but it wished to acquire larger European war.

The period of World War I became the final significant and affecting moment of time for the Germany people. After the world war or while in the middle of the war it was an inevitable change for Germany. The German people had shown a complex reaction to the World War outbreak. Many German people out of over enthusiasm had been over supportive about the war. The German Government had a perception that the War was a way to establish German supremacy over Britain, Russia, and other German enemies. Therefore, it was very much interested in making this war a reality. They were very much confident about their preparedness of military might. The war was presented as the chance for Germany to secure "our place under the sun," as Foreign Minister Bernhard von Bülow presented it. Apart from that the political situation within Germany was creating this perception among the monarchy that the war and success in the war was necessary to unite the German public behind the monarchy, otherwise if the rise of the Social Democratic Party of Germany had been left unabated. This party was one of the most audible opposition of the German Monarchy and the Keiser in the Reichstag. As the war was inevitable the Social Democratic Party of Germany had ended its stark opposition to the German Monarchy and had offered its support to the war efforts by the establishment. Therefore, Germany intentionally became a cause for the first world war. To establish its supremacy in Europe, and to establish the supremacy of German monarchy within the country. However, the fact was, Germany authorities who had designed the strategy for the war did not put enough attention to the intricate details. After the starting of the war as British Royal Navy blockaded the supply of food to Germany there was a scarcity of food that started throughout the country.

Conclusion

Germany had been the primary factors which played a crucial role in shaping the World War 1 or the Great War. It had its own ambitions and objectives to make this war happen, which have been discussed in the above paragraphs. The death of the Austria-Hungarian royal was just the immediate cause of the War. The background was being prepared since long, and Germany had the most important role to play to make sure the war takes place. The Blank Check that was provided by the Germans to Austria-Hungary to support them even if Russia declares war was one of the incidents which if would not have happened, the war may not have taken place. In the pursuit of expanding its own territory, and establishing its supremacy all over Europe, Germany became the prime cause of such a drastic war. The war had an immense impact over the political, economic and social environment all over the world. However, it can be justified to say that not only Germany but all the countries had their own roles to play in causing the war and it could have been averted if all the countries would have been responsible on their parts.

References:

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Bucholtz, Matthew N. "Kamerad or Genosse? The Contested Frontkämpfer Identity in Weimar Revolutionary Politics." In Political Violence and Democracy in Western Europe, 1918–1940, pp. 48-61. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2015.

Harrison, Mark. "Myths of the Great War." In Economic History of Warfare and State Formation, pp. 135-158. Springer, Singapore, 2016.

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Mulligan, William. The Origins of the First World War. Vol. 52. Cambridge University Press, 2017.

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Vogt, Roland. "Belgium: A Nation-State without a National Identity?." In European National Identities, pp. 25-42. Routledge, 2017.

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