Causes of World War 1

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Last updated: November 9, 2019

The Kruger Telegram (1896) In 1896 Cecil Rhodes in an armed attack, using British South African police tried to start an uprising in Johannesburg against the Boers.

This was an illegal act against the Transvaal state because thousands of Germans were active in the commercial life of the country. This meant that the Germans were very concerned about the fate of the Boer republic. They went about showing their concern in a very clumsy way. After Berlin had been told that the raid had not been approved by the British government, the matter had should have been closed.However the German foreign minister invited Russian and French co-operation against Britain. By doing this he hoped that this pressure would provoke Britain to join the triple alliance. However France and Russia refused. The Kaiser then took policy into his own hands and sent a telegram to Kruger, the Boer president, supporting the independence of the Transvaal state.

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This message caused outrage in Britain because the Transvaal state was not a fully independent state. The Transvaal state had also accepted British control over its external relations in 1884.The British press as a result treated the Kaiser’s action as a massive interference in British’s imperial affairs.

To summarise the Germans hoped they could be able to unite with France and Germany against Britain and claim some more land in Africa. They used the excuse that their people working there were in jeopardy because of the illegal uprising in Johannesburg by Cecil Rhodes. The Germans thought they could pressurise Britain into joining the triple alliance by interfering in their affairs this only made Britain even more irate with the Germans.This event could be to blame for bad relations between Germany and Britain in the run up to the war and the big division between the two alliances. It also could be used to see why Britain leapt into the war even thought they didn’t need to defend Belgium. The Fashoda Crisis (1898) the 1890s saw a new intensity of Anglo French rivalries, especially in west Africa and the Nile valley. In 1898 the British general Kitchener advanced southwards after reclaiming some land north. A French force lead by captain Marchand had reached Fashoda 400 miles further south.

The aim of this expedition was to reinforce France’s demand for an international conference on Egypt and the Sudan, which they believed would require Britain to leave the area. This was a dangerous game to play. Britain responded by demanding the withdrawal of Marchand and the French force. France didn’t want to agree to this because they didn’t want to dent their pride and wanted to protect its French honour. Frances refusal to co-operate made war very possible. The French were conscious of Britain’s naval supremacy so they back down.

So in November Marchand was ordered to with draw from Fashoda. This is not such an important incident as a background cause to World War 1. The Dogger Bank Incident (1904) Germany were glad when Britain made an alliance with Japan because they thought that this would mean the likelihood of war between Russia and Britain and Germany could benefit from that. After the war between Japan and Russia began Germany was almost certain that Britain would go to war against Russia. This would also mean the Anglo French alliance would be weak while Britain was at war with Russia.In October Russian warships accidentally fired on British fishing ships. Germany saw their chance to exploit the incident by offering their assistance to Russia in the form of a defensive alliance against Britain.

The Germans hoped that this would compel France to come to terms with Germany or at least disrupt the Anglo French alliance. These high hope were soon dashed. The Dogger bank incident passed without war Britain and Russia had no wish to fight one another so they let the Hague court settle the dispute.

This is an important incident as a background cause to World War 1.The first Moroccan crisis (1905) After Russia’s defeat by Japan in the Far East and the outbreak of revolution at home Germany saw an opportunity to free itself from the encirclement the Franco Russian alliance and the Anglo-French Entente had created around her. In the summer of 1905 Germany provoked a crisis over Morocco. Germany’s main objective was to inflict a diplomatic defeat on France.

The Germans didn’t want France to make Morocco part of their sphere of influence because German commercial interests would suffer.The Kaiser personally went to morocco claiming that his intention was to uphold the independence of morocco. He claimed that Germany should have been consulted on such matters. Then in mid April the Germans held an international conference to review the question of morocco. Germany based this demand on an international agreement signed in 1880, guaranteeing full commercial freedom in morocco.

The French foreign minister had also not tried to negotiate with Germany, as he had with other countries.The Germans thought that if they let themselves be walked all over now by France then it would give of the impression that Germany was weak. If Germany had just wanted compensation then it could have just gone through normal diplomatic channels. It was its brusque unorthodox methods that caused unease. The French and British governments were confused by Germany’s behaviour. This is understandable because Germany provoked the crisis without knowing what they wanted to gain form it.

Germany’s hidden aim was to weaken the Anglo-French entente.They tried to do this by proving Britain was not a worthwhile ally. To summarise the Germans were frightened to hear that France could gain another nation to it’s sphere of influence and didn’t want their commercial interests to suffer. So they pretended to care about the rights of the people living in morocco when really their hidden agenda was to weaken, if not destroy the Anglo-French entente. This is not such an important incident as a background cause to World War 1. it did however make relations between Britain and Germany bad and relations between France and Germany bad.

The Bosnian Crisis (1908-9)The Russians wanted the Straits so that their warships could pass from the Black sea to the Mediterranean. To achieve this, the rule of the straits would have to be changed and the Russian foreign minister was willing to give a lot in return for an international agreement that the rule should be changed. The Austro-Hungarian foreign minister was interested in the idea of a deal because he was considering the seizure of Bosnia.

The two became linked causing the Bosnian crisis. By seizing Bosnia Austria would be violating the agreement of 1897, which agreed to put Bosnia on ice for the moment and for Austria and Russia to cooperate.However the Austro-Hungarian foreign minister decided the ambiguous state of Bosnia should be ended.

Austria’s rights in the area were at risk at the time. A new regime in turkey dedicated to the revival of the Ottoman Empire wanted to restore Bosnia to full Turkish rule. To prevent this Austria decided to formally annex Bosnia. By doing this they hoped to show the Turks what was theirs and where the border fell.

The Turks saw it differently, to them it looked liked seizure of a Turkish province. They demanded some compensation for their loss.The annexation also angered Serbia, they felt that the Bosnian Serbs belonged to a future greater Serbia. The Serbians looked to the Russians for help. But after the Russians got the straits they accepted the annexation of Bosnia by Austria. By doing so they betrayed the Serbs.

To summarise the Russians wanted the straits and had to give out a lot in return because of the Russians taking the straits Austria believed that it would be a good time to annex Bosnia. However when they did they enraged the Turks and the Serbians. The Turks were paid off but the Serbs looked to Russia for help.Russia did not help because they owed Austria something after they had taken the straits. This is an important incident as a background cause to World War 1.

The Second Moroccan crisis (1911) The second Moroccan crisis started when a German gunboat the Panther arrived at the Moroccan port of Agadir. The Germans wanted to intimidate the French into giving them territorial compensation for France taking over morocco. French troops had occupied the capital Fez by the sultan’s request after a revolt broke out in May. The Germans were not in the wrong they argued that French officials were obstructing German economic activities in Morocco.German foreign minister grossly mishandled the situation.

He attempted to impress the German public by gaining a lot of land at the same time he also tried to get French goodwill by accepting a protectorate over morocco. But the amount of land he demanded was too much. He demanded the whole of the French Congo. After he demanded too much the German foreign minister made it impossible for a quick and easy settlement to be made. In July Lloyd George made a statement saying that Britain had no intention of being ignored in any agreement over Morocco.The crisis now became a huge Anglo German confrontation. Britain over reacted by putting its fleet on alert.

In the end the crisis was ended and Germany got only two meagre strips of territory on the French Congo. To conclude France and Germany got into a confrontation after France took over morocco. Germany asked for too much in compensation as a result Britain intervened turning the crisis into a confrontation between Britain and Germany the Germans got a small amount of territory in the French Congo and the crisis was over. This is a very important incident as a background cause to World War 1.

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