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World War 1 - Thematic Essay

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Abel Abraham                                Thematic Essay

        By the early 1900s, many efforts were underway to end war and encouraged understanding between nations. People joined anti-war groups. The first Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896. Its founder hoped the games would promote “love of peace and respect for life.” Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite, set up the annual Nobel Peace Prize to reward people who worked for peace. Women joined the peace movement and in 1899 world leader attended the First Universal Peace Conference in the Netherlands. They set up the Hague Tribunal, a world court to settle disputes between nations.  By 1914, Europe had enjoyed a century of relative peace. Many idealists hoped for a permanent end to the curse of war. Others were less hopeful.  Otto von Bismarck said, “I shall not live to see the Great War, but you will see it, and it will start in the east.” It was his predictions that came true. Nationalism, militarism, economic conflicts, and alliances were all motives that forced the world into war.

        Powerful forces were pushing Europe to the brink of war. Aggressive nationalism was one primary cause of international tension. Nationalism is the strong loyalty to a nation and culture. Pride of country and fierce religious and ethnic bonds divided much of Europe. Nationalism was strong in both Germany and France. Germans proud of their new empire’s military power and industrial advancements. France desired to regain its position as Europe’s leading power. The French were irate from their 1871 defeat in the Franco-Prussian war and German occupation of the border provinces Alsace and Lorraine. French citizens sought revenge against Germany and recover the “lost provinces.”  In Eastern Europe, Russia supported a powerful form of nationalism called Pan-Slavism. It held all Slavic peoples shared a common nationality. Russia felt entitled to lead and defend all Slavs. In 1914 Slavs stood ready to support Serbia, a proud young nation that dreamed of creating a South Slav state. Two old empires in particularly feared rising nationalism. Austria-Hungry worried that nationalism would bring rebellions among many minority populations within their empires. Ottoman Turkey felt threatened by new nations on its border, such as Serbia and Greece. Several Balkan states attacked Turkey in 1912. The next year, the new Balkan states fought among themselves over the spoils of war. By 1914, the Balkans were the “powder keg of Europe that might exploded.

        Economic rivalries further poisoned the international atmosphere. Britain had been a leader of industry. Then later felt threatened by Germany’s rapid economic growth. By 1900, Germany’s new factories were out producing Britain’s older ones. Britain had strong economic reasons to oppose Germany in any conflict. Germanys thought the other great powers did not give them enough respect. Imperial rivalries also divided European nations. In 1905 and 1911, competition for colonies brought France and Germany to the edge of war. Germany didn’t wants France imposing a protectorate on Morocco. Diplomats did keep peace between the two nations at the time and Germany did gain some land in central Asia. Britain and France began to form closer ties against Germany after the Moroccan crisis.

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