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Did the Alliance System cause WWI?
World War I
,also known as The Great war, was a war fought by primarily by the great European nations which included Britain, France, Russia , Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary, as
well as some smaller empires in the region like the
. The United states soon became involved in the war as well as some countries in Asia like japan, thus making this war a world war. The alliance system can be said to have helped start off the war due to the mobilization agreements in each country. There were many alliances being signed, renewed or broken in the years before the war broke out. The alliances were all done in secrecy causing tension and pressure in each of the six Great Powers
. The alliance system that started the Great War was developed by Bismarck as the search for Germany's "place in the sun" (Grenville, 19). The leaders of the other Great Powers were mostly worried about their armies, navies and colonies in the surrounding continents because Germany was looking to expand its empire. The alliance system's development would end up dragging all the powers into war in 1914 whether they were ready to fight or stand aside and watched as the European continent changed.
Leaders of Europe in the years leading up to war
, Kaiser of Germany.
, The emperor of Austria and King of Hungary.
Nicholas II, Tsar of Russia.
Victor Emmanuel III
, king of Italy.
Raymond Poincare, President of France from 1860 to 1934.
, Chancellor of Germany.
A watercolor image on the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878.
The Three Emperors League of 1873
The alliances started with the Three Emperor's League of 1873 between the countries of Germany, Russia, and Austria. According to this League these countries were to consult with each other about their interest and they would remain friendly neutral in any instance of war (Remak, 6). These three countries also agreed to aide each other in war if another country were to attack one of them. For Germany the league prevented it from a two- front war with France and Russia until the league ended in the Congress of Berlin of 1878 (Remak,6). This league was later renewed in 1881 due to the need of support between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia. The difference from the old League was that now they would remain neutral if one of the three went into war with 4th Great Power. The only exception was if this war was with Turkey (Remak, 14-15).
This league is the start of the tension buildup of the Great Nations of Europe. From this point on all the Great Nations started to develop Friendships which led to alliances and agreements that would "aide" in war. And the patterns that most of the alliances and ententes have are seen in this document.
Otto Von Bismarck, The Chancellor of Germany from1871 to 1890
The Dual Alliance of 1879
The dual alliance was between the Great powers of Austria-Hungary and Germany. Bismarck Germany's Chancellor replaced the dead Three Emperor's League with the Dual Alliance in order to maintain the balance of power in Europe, but more importantly to preserve the German empire. Bismarck also created this alliance to prevent a conflict between Russia and Austria. This was a defensive alliance against Russia, as stated in Article 1 of the treaty if either empire was to be attacked by Russia the other would aide in war concluding in mutual agreement (Remak,14-15). This alliance was set to last only five years unless it was renewed, which it was renewed up until the November of 1918 when both the German and the Austro-Hungarian empires were destroyed in the war (Kagan, 107-108). Germany chose Austria because it was weaker and easier to control over Russia. Bismarck had a goal behind this alliance, and it was to have Russia back on his side, soon his goal was accomplished. Russia feeling the need to avoid isolation renewed the Three emperors league with Austria and Germany (Kagan, 108). This was the start of Bismarck's alliances to keep Germany out of being encircled by the other countries. This was also the treaty that made France feel alienated and so started the search for allies to have peace within the countries of Europe. This as many of the other alliance was to be kept in secret so that the other countries would be suspicious and afraid.
The Triple Alliance of 1882
Signed May 20, 1882
Formed between the countries of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and joined by an offended Italy, the Triple alliance was a defensive alliance against France (Remak,15).
article 1 the countries agree to stay out of any alliances or other form of agreement with a country that could threaten any of them, especially an agreement with France (
). This alliance would keep the French out of any alliances for the purpose of alienating the country and to keep Germany and its followers in the rise to power. In Article 2 it states that if Italy gets attacked by France then her two
allies would come to help and the same applied to Italy if France decided to attack Germany. Also in article 6 the three new allies agree to keep this agreement a secret from the other countries(
new friendship would make Italy and Austria forget about their problems for a couple of years, because Bismarck wanted his allies to be close for the sake of their alliance (Remak, 16). This also meant that the Austrians would get to keep Italian land in order for there to be an alliance. Bismarck wanted peace and so he called this new alliance "our League of Peace".
The Franco-Russian Alliance Military Convention
Signed on August 18, 1892
This was a defensive alliance between the Great powers of France and Russia
against their common enemy, Germany. France wanted to get out of the isolation that Germany had put her in, and Russia was upset about Germany's attempts to replace their alliance with an agreement with Britain. France knew that no one would support her if she was only after her lost territories of Alsace- Lorraine more reason to find an ally for protection. France decided to look for an ally and looked towards Tsarist Russia, but at first Russia refused to join France in 1890 in hopes of reuniting with Germany. France was giving huge loans to Russia so they would see that France meant business (Grenville, 58). They finally came to an agreement in August and a year later the generals had the military convention. In the articles of the military convention if, Germany attacked or supported one of her allies in an attack against the French or Russians, France would aid Russia and vice versa (Grenville, 28). Article 2 was important too, it was about mobilization which in would lead to war. It stated that if any of the Triple alliance members mobilized then so would they, leading them all into war (Grenville, 28). This alliance was formally endorsed in 1894 by both Great Powers. This alliance was unexpected since France and Russia have very little in common in their ways of government, but that didn't matter they both wanted to stop Germany's rise to power. They were also interested in different parts of the region like The Balkans for Russia and Africa for France (Grenville, 28). This alliance made Germany feel encircled because now it had to face a two front war which was its nightmare. This alliance would later worry France because Russia might not be able to mobilize all the way in war.
The Entente Cordiale
Signed April 8, 1904.
The Entente Cordiale or "Cordial Understanding" was and agreement between England and France over colonial issues. England, at the time had a perfect balance of power between the two alliances. Britain had no allies but she worried about all of her enemies would come together in a war against her. The look for an ally started and she considered Germany and Russia but in the end France seemed a more reasonable ally, according to the foreign secretary, Lansdowne. France's Delcasse took advantage of this opportunity and in 1904 the Entente was signed (Remak,37-40). In this Entente the two countries settled their colonial issues especially those in Egypt and Morocco as well as some other smaller issues. France agrees to Britain's occupation of Egypt, and Britain gave their consent to France's ruling over Morocco making Germany angry since they too had treaty rights in Morocco (Grenville,29). This agreement was no alliance because it only dealt with colonial affairs and it didn't mention anything about aiding in a war (
). This agreement was later tested by the Russo-Japanese war, and Germany in the Moroccan Crisis of 1905 and 1911 because of the encirclement, but the Entente Cordiale didn't fall. In 1911 the Kaiser failed only making Britain and France closer in their agreement.
Germany's plan to avoid a two/three front war. The Plan would violate Belgian neutrality in order to defeat and neutralize France on the west and to defeat Russia on the east.
Signed in 1907
The triple Entente or the Anglo-Russian Entente was signed on August 30 1907. After the Moroccan conference at Algeciras, the French persuaded both its allies to reach an agreement so that she wouldn't be caught in the middle if there was a war between the two (
). This agreement came to be because Russia and Britain opposed Germany's Berlin Baghdad Railway which would lead to German influence over the Balkans. Russia feared that England would somehow form an Alliance with Germany. She wanted to be in good terms with Britain and Germany both, but chose Britain in the end because Germany was a threat to France (Taylor, 442). This entente was similar to the Anglo-Franco entente in that it dealt with solving their colonial issues in Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet (Remak, 45-46). In the articles of the Entente Russia and Britain agree to leave Tibet as a neutral buffer-state, Russia would Stay out of Afghanistan leaving it in the hands of the British, and Persia was divided the north went to Russia and the south to the British, the area in the middle would also be neutral in order to keep the peace. As a result Russia had no power over the Straits and the Black sea (Taylor 442-443). This entente made Germany even more worried about being encircled because now France and Britain had escaped isolation and the allies united against the central powers.
The alliances and ententes that developed over the years into two main rival camps which were the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria- Hungary, and Italy, as well as the Triple Entente of Russia, France, and Britai.
Most of the alliances made were based on mobilizations so they were always preparing for war and by 1914 when war broke out most were ready. These two were also tied to other smaller countries Like Russia with Serbia. Other smaller countries like the Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, Spain, Denmark and Sweden got the choice to join the war or to remain neutral and watch as the European continent changed (Grenville, 99). The alliance systems were meant to keep peace and a balance of power within Europe and the 6 Great Powers but instead it brought rivalry, between all of them. It all started with Germany's idea of having a navy as big or bigger than Britain's to have her "place in the sun" (Grenville, 19). Since the alliances were all kept in secret as agreed it caused tension for the countries unaware of the alliance and they also became suspicious never knowing if a tiny movement would cause a war (
The unexpected assassination of , heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, on the 28 of June, 1914, started the war. His assassination led Austria-Hungary to Declare war on Serbia on July 28, 1914. Russia being the Protector of Serbia declared a general mobilization after the Tsar and the Kaiser exchanged telegrams on holding back. After Russia's mobilization Germany declared war on the 1st of August and on France on the 3rd. As Germany violated Belgian neutrality Britain joined the war to defend Belgium and its allies (Grenville, 76). The declarations of war followed the pattern of the alliance system proving that the alliance systems of the Great Powers led everyone into a total war. The war Became a World War when the United States led by president
entered the war in 1917. Japan also joined the war against the Central powers of Austria-Hungary and Germany, Italy becoming neutral in 1915 later joining the allies (Grenville). Its results, countries with enormous casualties, economic problems, countries without a stable government and with out leaders, and some countries that were involved received more territory. The war devastated the entire world leaving a short period of unstable peace that would lead into WWII.
1.“The Alliance System in Europe.”
History at Freeston
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2.Conybeare, John A.C. “The Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance 1880-1914: a collective Goods Approach.”
Political Science Publications
. University of Iowa, Dec. 1990. Web. 14 Dec. 2010. <
3.Duffy, Michael. “The Cause of World War I.”
. N.p., 22 Aug. 2009. Web. 12 Dec. 2010. <
4.“The First World War (1914-18).”
The Corner of the Wolrd
.org, 2000-2007. Web. 6 Dec. 2010. <
5.Grenville, John A.S.
A History of the World in the 20th Century
. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press , 2000. Print.
The World War I Document Archive
. Brigham Young University, 23 Aug. 22007. Web. 7 Dec. 2010. <
On the Origins of War- and the Preservation of Peace
. New York: Anchor Books, 1996. Print.
The Origins of World War I 1871-1914
. Belmont, California : Wadsworth/?Thompson learning , 2001. Print.
9.Taylor, A. J.P.
The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848-1918
. London: Oxford University Press, 1954. Print.
(NOTE: THESE ARE LINKS TO USED IMAGES AND TO OTHER INFORMATION ON WWI)
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