First World War: Rise of Germany

We have seen in our last post how the new ideologies were growing in the world. The west had been facing many revolutions since seventeenth (Glorious Revolution of 1688), eighteenth (American Revolutionary War, 1776; French Revolution, 1789) and nineteenth (The year of revolutions in Europe 1830s and 1848, American Civil Warcentury.

There was a rise in the nationalistic feeling among the masses. This led to the birth of new nations like Italy, Germany, Greece etc. Many leaders came in front of the world politics like Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon Bonaparte, the trio of Mazzini-Garibaldi-Cavour, Otto Von Bismarck etc.

We have discussed that the new order (Rise of Germany, Birth of Italy, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina etc.) was emerging and the old order (Britain, France, Austria, Russia, Ottoman Empire etc.) was not happy with this. This unhappy relationship between these two different orders finally culminated in First World War.

First World War: Reasons

We have seen that there were lots of events taking place simultaneously on the global forum. Science, industry, politics, economics, abundance, poverty, capitalism, nationalism, socialism, imperialism, battles and treaties- they all had their place in the strange fabric. They each acted and reacted on the other.

World War-I Pretext: Europe 1914-15
World War-I Pretext: Europe 1914-15

Exploitive Capitalism led to the Rise of Nationalism

The growth of the capitalistic industry by large-scale power production went blindly forward. Many industrialised nations went for imperialism. So, there was cut-throat competition among the industrialised powers. Every master was exploiting subjects irrespective of knowing their pain.

The most remarkable thing about this was that it produced extreme contrasts. The more it grew the greater were the contrasts: extreme poverty and extreme wealth; Slum and skyscraper; empire state and dependent exploited colony. Europe was the dominant continent and Asia and Africa the exploited ones.

Colonialism of Africa
Colonialism of Africa

The capitalistic industry created a ground for the socialistic and communistic ideas. Finally, Nationalism grew in the exploited areas as a challenge to the imperialism of the west. So, with the growth of nationalism the idea of “my country right or wrong” developed. So, the national rivalry was really an unavoidable result of the growth of the capitalistic industry.

A recent author has written:

Civilisation has become a device for delegating the vices of individuals to larger and larger communities.

Economic Causes: Rise of Germany

In the 1750s, Industrial Revolution took place with its hypocentre at Britain. Till 1850 Britain occupied a large share of the world’s economy. So, Britain was ruling over the one-fourth of the total population of the world in Africa, Indian Subcontinent, Australia etc.

Over the rest of the population of the world, France, Spain, Portugal were the dominating powers. In the 1870s after the battle of Sedan, Germany came into existence. So, under the leadership of Bismarck, Germany became a military power. Eventually, this vast progress in the field of science, education and industry led to the Rise of Germany. 

Rise of Germany as industrial, economic and military power

The world was largely occupied by the other imperialist powers. So when Germany came on the scene the destinations of exploitation were limited. By the hard work and self-discipline, Germany became the strongest and most efficient power of the age of industrial capitalism.

Rise of Germany
Rise of Germany

Till the end of the 20th century, Germany turned into an industrial, economic and military power. Example:

  • German merchant ships were to be seen in every port, its own ports Hamburg and Bremen were among the greatest of the world ports.
  • Karl Benz and Nicholas Otto invented four-stroke combustion engine. Germany became a pioneer in the automobile industry. In the beginning of the 20th century, Germany was producing approximately 1000 cars per year.
  • Germany had a good reservoir of iron and coal. So, this gave promotion to iron and steel industry. 
  • Germans also led the chemical industry. One of the important contributions of this chemical industry was the artificial dye, which hurt the indigo business of the British East India Company. (Champaran Satyagraha, 1917)

Rise of Germany became the tension for other European Powers

An ever-growing demand for markets and raw materials made the capitalist powers race around the world for Empire. Although Britain was ruling over a one-fourth of the population of the world still Britain was not satisfied. For the more one has the more one wants. So, various methods came to expand the British Empire from the brains of “Empire-Builders”.

Britain was having an Empire whose Sun never sets. But the rise of Germany was a cause of concern for the Britain. So, at this time, Germany was making manufactured goods cheaper than the Britain. Thus Germany was stealing Britain’s markets. Because of this rise of Germany’s economy, led to the economic rivalry between the newly industrialised countries and old masters.

Political Causes

The economic rivalry led to the new political developments. Germany moved from cautious continentalism to aggressive imperialism.

Rise of Germany: Policy of Cautious Continentalism

With the birth of Germany in 1871, Bismarck was clear that the infant Germany requires peace and stability for its growth and development. So, he designed a policy of cautious continentalism. In which, the objective was to maintain a friendly relationship with most of the powers in Europe. So, according to it the important developments were,

  1. Dual alliance treaty (7th October 1879)- Between Germany and Austro-Hungarian Empire, to protect each other if any attack took place on Austro-Hungarian Empire.
  2. Triple alliance (1882)- Germany, Austria and Italy.
  3. Friendly relations with Russia. Germany would not interfere in the affairs of eastern Europe.
  4. Good relations with Britain. On the grounds of matrimonial alliance and balance of power. According to Bismarck Britain was a naval power and Germany was a land power.
Rise of Germany: Political Alliances
Rise of Germany: Political Alliances

Alliance among other European powers

Other European Alliances
Other European Alliances
  1. Treaty of London, 1839- Britain, to protect the neutrality of the Belgium.
  2. Franco-Russian military convention, 1892- Military assistance between France and Russia because of the common fear of Germany.
  3. Entente Cordial, 1904- Between Britain and France.
  4. Triple Entente, 1907- Britain, France and Russia.
  5. Anglo-Russian convention, 1907- Between Russia and Britain.

Role of Kaiser Wilhelm-II

Germans were aggressive and very pride race. With the arrival of Kaiser Wilhelm-II on the throne of Germany in 1888, the spirit of Germans was at its peak. Although the Kaiser Wilhelm-II was young, dynamic ruler but he was of low temperament and impatient. So, he proclaimed that Germany was going to be the leader of the world.

Once the Kaiser said for Germany what many Britishers had claimed for Britain. So Kaiser’s bombastic utterances greatly irritated the British. In 1890, Kaiser Wilhelm-II removed Bismarck on very superficial grounds. Kaiser Wilhelm-II came out with his policy of aggressive imperialism. In which he emphasised on Welt Politik i.e. World Politics.

We will read about Kaiser Wilhelm-II and his imperialistic expeditions in our next coming post. Till then, have a good day. 🙂

Thank you so much. 🙂 Stay Connected. 🙂

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