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Amanda Helms

Mr. Lindop

SL History

12 September 2014

The World War I Burden

The great questions of the day will not be settled by means of speeches and majority

decisions but by iron and blood, exclaims Otto van Bismarck, the man who united the

country blamed for the First World War: Germany. Otto van Bismarck was imperative in

uniting Germany; he also had a determination to make the German empire the most

dominating country in Europe, through iron and blood (Otto Von Bismarck (1815-1898)").

However, due to the overpowering nationalism and expansionism, Germany meticulously

prepared for their anticipated world war, and meanwhile, threatened other European countries

with ultimatums. Because of Germanys active participation in pre World War I, Germany

was blamed for the war and was forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles (1919) that required

them to lose territory, money, and military men (The Treaty of Versailles). However, other

countries not blamed were Austria-Hungary and Russia, who also dilated a territorial war, to

a world war. Therefore, although Germany plays a large role in causing the First World War

with its impeding nationalism, Austria-Hungary and Russia are also to blame as they
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contributed with their nationalism and war actions that clashed and catalyzed the First World


Germanys conscientious preparations for war with the Schlieffen plan, ultimatums,

and blank cheque, played a large role in causing the First World War. One of the reasons

Germany is held responsible for stirring up a war was Count Alfred von Schlieffens

Schlieffen Plan in December 1905, which involved Germany invading and conquering France

within six weeks through Belgium, and defeating Russia. Although the Schlieffen plan failed

because of Belgiums unforeseen defense, it showed Germanys willpower to go to war and

expand by starting a war with France and Russia to defeat them and gain the most power over

Europe (The Schlieffen Plan). Furthermore, on July 5th, 1914, Germany gave a blank

cheque to Austria-Hungary by giving support if they declared war on Serbia. Because of this

blank cheque, Germany was encouraging war on Serbia with their reassurance, which caused

the vital territorial war that stimulated the world war (Class Handout 126). Lastly, the

extremely demanding ultimatums, such as the one towards Russia on the 31 st July 1914 and

the one towards Belgium on August 2nd, 1914, both started a war. Russias refusal lead to

Germany declaring war on Russia, and Belgiums refusal lead to Germany declaring war on

Belgium, and meanwhile, involving Britain because of their alliance ("World War One and

the Destruction of the Old Order"). Therefore, because of the Schlieffen plan, blank cheque,
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and ultimatums, Germany managed to involve numerous European powers in a war that

eventually turned into a world war.

Germanys plans and actions werent the only actions that stirred the First World War,

as Austria-Hungary and Russia also had ultimatums and unreasonable military actions that

preceded a territorial war into a world war. On July 23 rd, 1914, Austria-Hungary sent an

uncooperative ultimatum to Serbia (Duffy 1). Although Germany gave the blank cheque,

Austria-Hungary had a choice not to start a war, but they decided to declare war on Serbia

even so. Sir Richard J. Evans, a professor at University of Cambridge, believes that Serbia

was to blame because of their nationalism and expansionism; he also believes that the

terrorist group responsible for the death of Archduke Ferdinand, the Black Hand, was

extraordinarily irresponsible (10 Interpretations of Who Started WW1). However, Franz

Joseph, the leader of Austria-Hungary, seized provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina that

belonged to Serbia for his empire because of his nationalism and avarice for more territory;

therefore, the Serbians felt it was necessary to kill the Archduke because Austria-Hungary

stole their land and separated them from the Slavs (Brooman 24). Meanwhile, Russia

mobilized troops to prepare for the Serbian war because they feared that Austria-Hungary

would expand territory, consequently, Russia meddled in a war because of their nationalism

and pride. Moreover, Russia received an ultimatum from Germany that warned them to

refrain from the Serbian war; regardless, Russia joined the Serbian war and made the Serbian
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war larger than a territorial war. As a result of Austria-Hungary and Russias avarice and

patriotism, they sparked the Serbian war.

All the European countries irresponsibility in military planning and conquering other

countries was because of their nationalism. All the countries wanted to have the greatest

power in Europe, and therefore, invaded countries to expand their empires. John Rohl, a

History professor at the University of Sussex believes it was the Germans militarism (10

Interpretations of Who Started WW1). However, in truth, nationalism is the foundation for

militarism, alliance systems, and reckless politicians, and Germany was not the only country

with these features. Germany had nationalistic leaders such as Otto von Bismarck and Kaiser

Wilhelm II, who all wanted Germany to be the most powerful country in Europe; thus, they

created alliance systems to be stronger and had a huge army to defend and conquer with.

Furthermore, Austria-Hungary was also nationalistic, as they wanted to expand by taking

over provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina and declaring war on Serbia to expand. Lastly,

Russia feared the expansions of other countries, so they allied with France and meddled in the

Serbian war. Therefore, nationalism was the catalyst and foundation to militarism, alliance

systems, and reckless leaders in all of the European powers.

Germany was not entirely responsible for causing the First World War because

countries like Austria-Hungary and Russia also had poor military actions and intentions for

expanding that was contributed by all the countries nationalism. Germany actively prepared
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for an anticipating war with the Schlieffen Plan, and involved other countries in the war with

the ultimatums to Russia and Belgium, and blank cheque to Austria-Hungary. Meanwhile,

Austria-Hungary and Russia had their own pride by attempting to expand and gain more

power by escalating as simple war, like the Serbian war, to the world war. As Otto von

Bismarck mentioned, decisions will be settled by iron and blood, because this was, not only

Germanys way to gain power, but the other European powers as well. Hence, Germany

should not have gotten full responsibility for the war in Article 231, but should have shared

the debts with the other European powers, which may have potentially prevented the outbreak

of World War II.

Word count: 997 (not including citations)


"10 Interpretations of Who Started WW1." BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2014.

Brooman, Josh. The Causes of the First World War, 1914-18. New York: Longman, 1985.

Class Handout. Origins of the First World War Chpt 5 - Debate. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Duffy, Michael. "Primary Documents - Austrian Ultimatum to Serbia, 23 July 1914." N.p., 22 Aug. 2009. Web. 11 Sept. 2014.

"Otto Von Bismarck (1815-1898)." BBC. BBC, n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2014.

"The Schlieffen Plan". 2011. Web.
"The Treaty of Versailles". 2006. Web.

"World War One and the Destruction of the Old Order." History 20. Saskatoon Public

Division, n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2014.