CAUSES OF WORLD WAR I
ALLIANCE SYSTEM / SYSTEM OF ALLIANCES
The alliance system was started by Bismarck, the German Chancellor from 1871 to 1890. After the Franco-Prussian War,
Bismarck held that Germany was a "satiated state" which should give up ideas of further conquest. Thus Bismarck organized a
system of alliances designed to maintain Germany's hegemony on the European continent. France was determined to challenge
the hegemony of Germany because France had been defeated by Germany in 1871 and had been forced to cede two provinces
(Alsace-Lorraine) to Germany. Bismarck tried to befriend Austria, Russia, Italy and Britain in order to isolate France.
DREIKAISERBUND 1872 – Also known as the League of the Three Emperors (1872). Bismarck's aim for forming this League
was to isolate France by making friends with Austria and Russia. The partners were Kaiser William I of Germany, Czar Alexander
II of Russia and Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria. These three rulers agreed: (i) to maintain the existing territorial arrangements
in Europe; (ii) to resist the spread of revolutionary (e.g. socialist) movements; and (iii) to consult one another if any international
France was being diplomatically isolated. But the underlying weakness of this personal understanding between the three
emperors was the rivalry between Austria and Russia over the Balkan Peninsula. Both sought to dominate the Balkans. It was
difficult for Bismarck to keep them in the same camp.
DUAL ALLIANCE 1879
The Congress of Berlin 1878: Rivalry between Austria and Russia in the Balkans came to a head in 1877-78. In 1875, five
Balkan states revolted against the Turkish rule. Russia supported the Balkan states and defeated Turkey. On March 8, 1878,
Turkey was forced to sign the Treaty of San Stefano, in which an independent, Big Bulgaria was created. Seeing that this Bulgaria
would be a Russian puppet, Austria intervened, backed up by Britain, the traditional rival of Russia in the eastern
Mediterranean. Bismarck volunteered to act as an "honest broker" and called the Congress of Berlin to settle the Balkan
problems. At this Congress, Germany sided with Austria and Britain. Russia had to give up the Treaty of San Stefano and sign the
Treaty of Berlin. The Treaty split Bulgaria into three parts (Bulgarian Proper was to be independent, Eastern Rumelia and
Macedonia were to be ruled under Turkish sovereignty.) and brought Bosnia and Herzegovina under Austrian military
occupation (but not annexation). Russia felt diplomatically humiliated. The anger of Russia turned against Bismarck because he
chaired the Congress.
Germany sided with Austria: Unable to maintain friendly relations with both Austria and Russia, Bismarck chose Austria to
be his ally because firstly, Germany preferred a weaker partner which could be more easily controlled; secondly, alliance with
Austria would throw open the Danube valley to German trade; thirdly, Austria had racial ties with Germany; fourthly, such an
alliance would enable Germany to exercise influence in the Balkans; and fifthly, alliance with Russia would antagonize Britain as
Britain did not like her colonial rival to be supported by a strong power.
The terms of the Dual Alliance: On October 7, 1879 Bismarck made the Dual Alliance with Austria-Hungary. The terms
were: (i) each would support the other militarily until the end of the war if attacked by Russia or by Russia and another power;
and (ii) each agreed to remain neutral if her ally was attacked by a power other than Russia.
Consequence: The Dual Alliance gave Germany a firm military ally but committed her more to the support of Austrian
interests in the Balkans. In the meantime, however, Bismarck still wanted to keep the friendship of Russia for fear that Russia
would turn to the side of France, in which case Germany would face an enemy on both east and west.
SECOND DREIKAISERBUND 1881 -Also known as The Second Three Emperors' League (1881).Bismarck still wanted to
keep Russian friendship after the signing of Dual Alliance (1879) with Austria. The year 1881 was particularly favourable for the
restoration of the League of the three conservative Emperors. In that year, Czar Alexander III ascended the Russian throne after
the assassination of Alexander II. The fate of his father made Alexander III ready for a renewal of the Three Emperors' League of
1872 which promised to suppress the revolutionary movements.
The terms of the League were: ( i ) the Balkans was to be divided into two spheres of influence--the western Balkans (Bosnia and
Herzegovina) belonged to Austria and the eastern Balkans (Bulgaria) belonged to Russia; (ii) the three Emperors agreed to
consult one another if there was another Balkan crisis, and (iii) the three Emperors agreed to preserve benevolent neutrality if
any one of them found himself at war with a fourth power. The League could not last long because Austria and Russia would
soon rival over the Balkan Peninsula again.
TRIPLE ALLIANCE 1882
Franco-Italian rivalry in Tunis: Bismarck had tactfully encouraged France to expand overseas in the hope of diverting her
attention away from Alsace-Lorraine. French annexation of Tunis in northern Africa in 1881 alienated Italy, which was ambitious
to build up an Italian empire in Africa. Italy was thus driven into Bismarck's camp in anger.
The terms of the alliance
(i) if Italy or Germany was attacked by France, each would aid the other; (ii) if Austria was attacked by Russia, Italy would remain
neutral, although Austria would aid Italy if she was attacked by France; (iii) if one of the parties was attacked by two or more
powers, the other signatories were to come to her aid; and (iv) at Italy's request, both Austria and Germany agreed that in no
case would the Treaty operate against Britain.
Note: Italy and the Triple Alliance: The position of Italy in the Triple Alliance seemed to be rather dubious. It was because the
reasons which had impelled Italy to join the Triple Alliance were no longer important. By 1900, the Italians had resigned
themselves to the loss of Tunis. They wanted to conquer Tripoli with French support. Moreover, by 1900, Italy needed not fear
any attempt by the French monarchist-clericals to intervene in her domestic politics on behalf of the Pope as the republicans had
secured power in France. Thus, in 1900, a secret arrangement was concluded between France and Italy: France was given a free
hand in Morocco, Italy in Tripoli. In 1902, another secret agreement was made between France and Italy: each promised to be
neutral if either was provoked into declaring war on a third power. This ran contrary to the terms of the Triple Alliance, by which
Italy promised to aid Germany in case of a Franco-German war. By 1909 Italy made her Racconigi Agreement with Russia. By this
Italy would remain neutral in any Russian attempt to regain the control of the Straits and Constantinople in return for Russian
diplomatic support for the Italian conquest of Tripoli. These Italian agreements made the Triple Alliance almost null and void.
Consequence: the emergence of the first alliance camp - By this time, a powerful bloc had been formed in central
Europe. Germany was now guaranteed against Russia by Austria, and against France by Italy. Bismarck had successfully kept the
friendship of both Russia, Austria and Italy and kept France completely isolated. He was indeed a skilful diplomat who was able
to handle the European powers for Germany's advantage. Yet Italy's commitment to the Triple Alliance was doubtful because
the arch-enemy of Italian unity had been Austria which still kept Italia Irredenta; on the other hand, France was the friend of
Italian unity. Once Italy's anger over Tunis cooled off, she would prefer an alliance with France to that with Austria.
Reinsurance Treaty 1887: Austro-Russian rivalry over Bulgaria (see below) led to the collapse of the Second Three
Emperors' League again. Bismarck secretly made a treaty with Russia without informing Austria. Russia and Germany would
observe neutrality towards each other if either became involved in war with a third power, except if Germany attacked France
or if Russia attacked Austria-Hungary. By making this treaty, Bismarck had been able to prevent his nightmare -- a two front war-from being realized.
Austro-Russian rivalry over Bulgaria: According to the terms of the Second Three Emperors' League, Bulgaria was
recognized as a Russian sphere of influence The Bulgarians were experiencing an awakening of national self consciousness and
did not want to be dominated by the Russians. In 1885, in defiance of the Treaty of Berlin, the Bulgarians united Bulgaria with
Eastern Rumelia. Russia objected to the emergence of a large anti-Russian state but Austria and Britain gave their recognition to
the union of Bulgaria with Eastern Rumelia. Russia hated the Austrians for breaking the terms of the Second Three Emperors
League and allowed the League to lapse in 1887.
Change of German Policy after 1890 : Bismarck made no formal alliance with Britain but remained on friendly terms
with her. He did his best to avoid colonial conflicts with Britain and always declared that "Britain was Germany's old and
traditional ally" and "there were no differences between England and Germany."
Kaiser William II - His ambition: Bismarck was a skillful diplomat. For twenty years, he made Germany the centre of the
diplomatic stage. France was kept isolated, but Austria, Russia, Italy and Britain were on friendly terms with Germany.
Bismarck's alliances were non-aggressive and kept Europe at peace. Yet after 1890, Bismarck fell from power and the new Kaiser
took matters into his own hands. Kaiser William II was ambitious, rash and aggressive by nature. Rejecting the idea that
Germany was a "satiated state", he wanted to make Germany not only a European power but a world power. He advocated
Drang nach Osten (the drive eastwards into the Balkans and Middle East), colonial expansion and naval expansion. He was also
influenced by Pan-German feelings to support Austria's expansionist policy in the Balkans. To pursue his ambitions, he often
adopted blackmailing, threats and other unpopular methods. From 1890 to 1907, he succeeded in alienating Britain, France and
Russia, and thus helped to create a rival bloc of anti-German alliances.
FRANCO-RUSSIAN ALLIANCE 1893
Russo-German friendship ended: When William II came to hold absolute power in Germany, he thought that sooner or
later Germany would clash with Russia; so he allowed the Reinsurance Treaty to lapse. He stressed Germany's political and
military ties with Austria instead. Such a policy, together with the growing Pan-Germanism, aroused strong Russian suspicion.
Russia naturally turned to the side of France, which was the irreconcilable enemy of Germany.
Russia turned to France: Although at first there seemed little possibility for Czarist Russia to ally with Republican France,
two factors made such an alliance possible: firstly, both felt necessary to form a military pact to offset the military threat of
Germany; and secondly, France had floated several huge loans to help Russia to industrialise.
Alliance formed: The terms of the alliance were as follows: (i) if France was attacked by Germany or Germany and her ally
(Italy), Russia would aid France; in return, if Russia was attacked by Germany or Germany and her ally (Austria), France would aid
Russia; (ii) if one or more members of the Triple Alliance mobilized -- they would mobilize to help one another automatically;
and (iii) this agreement would continue as long as the Triple Alliance was in force.
Consequence: The Dual Alliance ended the isolation of France, created a rival alliance to the Triple Alliance, and, most serious
of all, faced Germany with the threat of a two front war. But William II failed to sense the danger at the time. He was contented
to have Austria as an ally and continued his drive for power and prestige.
END OF BRITISH ISOLATION
Frantic British Efforts to Win Allies (1893-1902): After the formation of the Franco-Russian Alliance, Britain found
herself diplomatically isolated. Throughout the 19th century, she had followed the policy of 'splendid isolation', i.e. to avoid
involvement in European affairs. But by the late 19th century, she felt that this policy was no longer a practical policy, for she
could no longer command respect in world politics. This was illustrated by the following three incidents:
(i) In 1895, the Continental Group forced Japan to hand back Liaotung Peninsula to China. Britain was excluded. (The Continental
Group made up of France, Germany and Russia. Even though these three powers did not cooperate in Europe, they sometimes
cooperated in the Ear East.)
(ii) In 1896, Dr. Jameson, encouraged and supported by the British Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, organized a raid into the
Dutch Republic of Transvaal in South Africa. (Britain had long desired to obtain more colonies in Africa. Jameson Raid was one
example of the British colonizing efforts.) The raid failed and Dr. Jameson and his raiders were all captured by the Dutch (Boers).
Public opinion in most of the European countries was strongly anti-British. Kaiser William II congratulated on the Dutch efforts
by sending the famous 'Kruger Telegram' to President Kruger of Transvaal. The European reactions to the Jameson Raid
suggested that Britain had no diplomatic support in Europe.
(iii) Between 1893 and 1898, in Armenia, the Turkish Sultan slaughtered 200,000 of his Christian subjects. Britain's suggestion of
sending a navy to the Armenian shore to rescue the Christians went unheeded.
British-German alliance failed: Britain at first sought to make some sort of alliance with Germany, but she failed because:
(i) Germany wanted Britain to join the Triple Alliance, but Britain refused for fear that it would involve her in European conflicts
of no direct concern to Britain, (ii) Germany's naval expansion after 1898 threatened Britain's naval supremacy, and (iii)
Germany's colonial interests clashed with those of Britain in China and the Balkans.
Note: Germany wanted to divide China into spheres of influence but Britain wanted to keep an open door for trade for all nations
in every part of China. In the Balkans, Germany wanted to bring Turkey under the economic and political control of Germany. But
Britain tried to maintain the integrity of the Turkish Empire for fear that if Germany controlled Turkey, she would threaten the
British naval and economic interests in the Mediterranean.
Anglo-Japanese Alliance 1902: Consequently Britain concluded an alliance with Japan in 1902. The Alliance was important
in European diplomatic relations in two ways: (i) Britain had abandoned her policy of isolation, and (ii) since Britain could make
use of Japan to check Russian aggression in the Far East, her fear of Russian colonial expansion lessened and this helped to pave
the way for their future cooperation.
ENTENTE CORDIALE 1904
Britain and France needed mutual support: After concluding the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, Britain was still looking for a
European ally. She naturally turned to France, the irreconcilable enemy of Germany. France also wanted Britain as her ally.
France did not want to support Russia in a war in the Far East because it would mean a war with both Britain and Japan (Britain's
ally in the Anglo-Japanese alliance). Alliance with Britain might absolve France from supporting Russia. In Africa, France wanted
to settle many of her colonial disputes with Britain peacefully and gained the help of the latter in acquiring Morocco. (Morocco
was rich in mineral and agricultural wealth, so France wanted to take over it as her colony.)
Note: There were many conflicts between Britain and France in Africa. In 1898, the conflict at Fashoda in North Africa nearly
brought them into a war. But France realized that her greatest foe was Germany. Thus she wanted to settle her conflicts with
Britain and concentrate her efforts against Germany.
Edward VII favoured French co-operation
The last obstacle to the formation of the British and French Entente was removed in 1901. In that year Queen Victoria died and
was succeeded by her son Edward VII. Kaiser William II was Victoria's grandson, his mother having been the Queen's daughter.
Thus Queen Victoria preferred an alliance of Germany to that of France. But Edward VII did not share his mother's sentiment
towards Germany. His gay, pleasure loving way of life attracted him to France rather than to Germany. In a visit to Paris in 1903
he made himself highly popular among the French people. To improve the relations between France and Britain, the French
President Loubet and Foreign Minister, Delcasse paid an official visit to London by the end of 1903.
Terms of the Entente: Consequently Britain reached a series of agreements with France in 1904. These agreements settled
their old colonial disputes in Siam, West Africa, Madagascar, the remote New Hebrides and fishing rights in Newfoundland. The
most important agreement was the one by which France recognized Egypt and the Sudan as British sphere of influence and
Britain recognised Morocco as French sphere of influence; in addition, both would support each other if their respective spheres
of influence were challenged by a third power.
German reaction: The Entente Cordiale (friendly agreement) was not an alliance in name, but it rapidly became something
like it in fact. Kaiser William II was furious at it, both because it seemed to shut Germany out of Morocco and because it
indicated that British influence would be used in the interests of France, rather than those of Germany.
ANGLO-RUSSIAN ENTENTE 1907
France had a military alliance with Russia and a friendly agreement with Britain. It now became her concern to draw her two
partners together. She finally succeeded in inducing Britain to settle her disputes with Russia in 1907.
Anglo-Russian rivalry ended: Britain and Russia had been long-timed rivals in colonial and trade questions in the Middle
and Far East. But several factors made possible their agreement. Firstly, both felt greatly threatened by Germany. The rapid
buildup of the German navy challenged Britain's position as the greatest naval power in the world. The construction of the
Berlin-Baghdad railway meant an extension of German influence into the Balkans and the Turkish Empire, an area which Russia
considered as her sphere of influence. Secondly, both Britain and Russia resented the aggressive nature of William II’s
diplomacy, as shown in the First Moroccan Crisis 1905-06 . Thirdly, Britain considered that now Germany was a more dangerous
rival than Russia to her commercial interests in the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean. Fourthly, the growth of the Balkan
states greatly reduced the Russian threat in the Balkans. This lessened Britain's fear of Russia. Fifthly, in the Far East Britain did
not worry about Russian ambition any more as Russia was defeated by Japan in 1905.
Terms of the Entente: Therefore, in 1907, Britain and Russia agreed to settle their colonial disputes in the following
manner. Firstly, Persia was divided into three parts: the north kept by Russia as her sphere of influence, the south kept by
Britain, and the central was to remain under Persian control as a buffer zone. Secondly, Russia renounced her interests in
Afghanistan. Russia and Britain were to enjoy equal trading rights in the country. Britain gained control of the foreign policy in
Afghanistan. (This agreement safeguarded the security of India, relieving one of the major concerns of Great Britain.) Thirdly,
both Russia and Britain recognized China's suzerainty over Tibet. They treated Tibet as a neutral state between themselves.
Emergence of the second alliance camp: Thus England was bound to France and Russia by Entente and France and
Russia were held together by a firm alliance. This group of three great powers was usually called the Triple Entente. The
European powers had now aligned themselves into two rival camps--the Triple Entente versus the Triple Alliance.
ALLIANCE SYSTEM AS A CAUSE OF THE WAR
The alliance systems were a cause of the First World War. Firstly, the alliances were made in secret and so produced much
distrust and suspicion among the European powers. Their general suspicion prevented their diplomats to devise a suitable
solution to many of the crises preceding the war. Secondly, the alliances were always made on a war-footing and so heightened
the war tension and led to an arms race among the European powers. For example, within four years after the formation of the
Triple Entente in 1907, Germany built nine dreadnoughts (battleships) and consequently Britain built eighteen. Thus all the
European powers were ready for war in 1914. Thirdly, since the European powers had made alliances with one another, a small
dispute concerning one power might lead to a war involving all powers. Fourthly, the alliances were originally strictly defensive
but by 1910, many alliances had changed their character. The Austro-German alliance of 1879 was so modified that it had
become an aggressive alliance after the Bosnian crisis in 1909, the German government promised to give military aid to AustriaHungary, if Austria invaded Serbia and Russia intervened on behalf of the latter. As alliances had become instruments of national
aggression, the chances of war doubled. Fifthly, after the formation of the Triple Entente, Germany began to feel the threat to
her security. The German press loudly talked about "encirclement", i.e. being surrounded by enemies on all sides. This induced
the aggressive William II to pursue a more vigorous foreign policy in an attempt to break the unity of the Entente powers. This
resulted in a series of international crises from 1905 to 1914.
There were economic conflicts between Germany and Britain from 1890 onwards. Since 1871 Germany had been experiencing a
period of rapid industrialization, and by 1890 the products of her industry were competing with British manufactures
everywhere in the globe and German merchant ships threatened Britain's carrying trade.
There were also economic struggles between Germany and France. In 1870 France had already lost two of her coal producing
provinces--Alsace and Lorraine to Germany. From 1871 onwards, France had to import coal from other countries. Thus France
had to compete with Germany in Morocco because the place was rich in mineral resources.
Germany and Austria also rivalled with Russia in the Balkans for commercial privileges. As early as 1888 Germany began to build
a railway in the area. Austria regarded the area as a field for profitable investment and as a big market for her manufactured
goods. Russia also hoped to control the area because half of her exports passed through this area.
A Minor Cause
Undoubtedly economic rivalries played a considerable part in creating international tensions in the 43 years before the First
World War. As a matter of fact, the economic rivalries have been much exaggerated. The commercial rivalry between Germany
and Russia in the Balkans was not keen, for Russia was not yet a fully industrialized nation with a surplus of products to be sold
abroad. The trade rivalry between Britain and Germany had also eased off in the ten years before the war because they
developed their markets in different parts of the world -- Britain within her own Empire, and Germany on the continent of
Europe. Thus economic rivalries played a minor part in causing the First World War.
Militarism denoted a rise in military expenditure, an increase in military and naval forces, more influence of the military men
upon the policies of the civilian government, and a preference for force as a solution to problems. Militarism was one of the
main causes of the First World War.
Increase in military control of the civilian government : After 1907, there was an increase in military influence on
policy making. This could be reflected particularly in Germany and Russia. The German Army at this period was called a "State
within the State". The parliament and the politicians had to follow the General Staff. They had no say in the army's design to
preserve the Fatherland. Even though the Schlieffen Plan would incur the anger of Great Britain and bring the latter into a war, it
was accepted by the German civilian government as the war plan. In 1914, the Russian generals were also able to force the Czar
to accept full mobilization. They threatened him with the danger of defeat if he acted contrarily.
After 1871, the war atmosphere engendered by the secret alliances led to an armaments race among the powers. The race was
particularly serious between 1900 and 1914, as the international situation became much worse than before. There was a
significant rise in the army and naval estimates of the European powers in these years.
Rise in Military Expenditure: The Total Defence Expenditure of the Powers (in million £) (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy,
Britain, France and Russia)
It is also important to take notice of the fact that from 1910 to 1914, while France increased her defence expenditure by 10%,
Britain by 13%, Russia by 39%, and Germany was the most militaristic as she increased by 73%. Increased war expenditure
enabled all the powers to raise more armies and improve their battleships.
Army conscription: All the Continental European powers had adopted the conscription system since 1870. France had
conscription since the Revolutionary Wars, Austria-Hungary since 1868, Germany since 1870, Italy since 1873 and Russia since
1874. Only Britain did not have conscription. After 1890, the deteriorating diplomatic relations among the powers accelerated
their military expansion programme.
From 1913 to July 1914, Germany increased her standing forces by 170,000 men. France lengthened her period of military
service from two to three years. Russia lengthened her term of service from three to three and a half years. Britain did not
introduce conscription but had prepared her armed forces for both European expedition and for home defence. In general, all
the powers increased their stocks of arms, produced more modern weapons of war and built more strategic railways.
Naval Race Between Germany and Britain: Britain and Germany were the chief rivals at sea. Under Admiral Tirpitz,
State Secretary of the Imperial Naval Office from 1897, a long-term shipbuilding programme began. The German Navy Law of
1898 increased the German battleships from nine cruisers to twelve. In 1900 Germany passed a Navy Law which doubled the
German battle fleet. In the meantime, Britain produced her first Dreadnought (literally, the word means fear nothing).
Dreadnoughts were large, fast and heavily armed battleships with 12inch guns. They set a new standard in naval armaments and
rendered all previous battleships obsolete. The naval race became intense. Between 1909 and 1911 Germany built nine
Dreadnoughts while Britain completed 18 Dreadnoughts. In 1913, Germany widened the Kiel Canal to allow the easy passage of
her Dreadnoughts from the Baltic to the North Sea while Britain built new naval bases for the Dreadnoughts in northern
Increased military and naval rivalry led not only to the belief that war was coming (The German ruling group felt that only
through a war could Germany become a world power. Military preparations strengthened this belief.) and increase in military
control of the civilian government (particularly in Germany and Russia) also increased cooperation among the military staff of
the countries of the same camp. For example, all the three Entente powers held secret military talks. The British and the French
naval authorities agreed that the French navy should be concentrated in the Mediterranean and the British in the North Sea.
Germany and Austria also had military agreements. When the First World War was fought, it was to be fought by all powers
because they had made the military plan cooperatively. As a result of the armaments race, all the European powers were
prepared for a war by 1914.
INTERNATIONAL CRISES (1905-1913): Early in the twentieth century, the European powers had formed themselves into
two rival groups: the TRIPLE ENTENTE versus the TRIPLE ALLIANCE. The policies of these groups began to clash in many parts of
the world. Altogether there were four important clashes from 1905 to 1913: two arising out of the Moroccan question, and two
concerning disputes in the Balkans. Whenever a clash arose, the two groups seemed to be on the point of war.
1. FIRST MOROCCAN CRISIS 1905-06
Franco-German rivalry: Morocco on the northern coast of Africa was rich in mineral and agricultural wealth. Both Germany
and France coveted the place. By her entente with Britain in 1904, France was given a free hand in Morocco. Kaiser William II,
angry at France's influence and at Germany’s exclusion, decided to intervene. In March 1905, the Kaiser landed at Tangier where
he made a speech greeting the Sultan of Morocco as an independent sovereign and promising him German protection if France
attempted to colonize his state. The German government followed this up by demanding an international conference to clarify
the status of Morocco. Germany's aim of calling a conference was to humiliate France and to split the Entente because from the
point of view of international law, Morocco was an independent state and the French claim to Morocco was illegal. France was
prepared to fight but at last she agreed to settle her conflict with Germany at a conference.
The Algeciras Conference: At the conference at Algeciras in 1906, Germany was supported by Austria while France was
supported by Britain, Russia and the United States. In name Morocco was preserved as an independent state whose trade was
to be open to all nations; but in fact France was given two special privileges: (i) she, in conjunction with Spain, was given control
over the Moroccan police and (ii) she was to control the customs and arms supply of Morocco. Thus the Entente powers scored
a diplomatic victory over the Dual Alliance of Germany and Austria.
Consequence: The Algerciras Conference could only offer a temporary solution to the Franco-German conflict. Germany was
dissatisfied with the resolutions of the Conference because they would benefit France more. France also bore ill feeling towards
Germany. She remembered that Germany had tried to browbeat France to give up Morocco by a threat of war. To prepare for
the eventuality of a Franco-German war, France began to hold secret military conversations with Britain, which finally led to the
sending of British army to fight alongside the French army during the First World War.
2. BOSNIAN CRISIS 1908-09: Each succeeding international crisis from 1905 to 1913 threatened the security of all the
powers and thus increased the hostility between the rival camps. If a war broke out in Europe, it would naturally become an
international war involving all the powers.
National struggles: The Balkan area was a trouble spot in Europe. It was ruled by the despotic Turks. By the late nineteenth
century, many of the subject races of the Turks had gained independence and formed their national states--Greece, Serbia,
Montenegro, Romania and Bulgaria; but these national states were small and many of their fellow nationals still lived in the
Turkish Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Thus the Balkan states were prepared to carry on a series of struggles against
Turkey and Austria-Hungary in order to win back those territories that were still lived by their fellow nationals. For example,
Serbia wanted Austria to give up Bosnia which had many Serbs.
Intervention of the Great Powers: The national struggles of the Balkan peoples were complicated by the rivalry between
the powers in the area. Of the five great powers, Russia, Austria and Germany were particularly interested in the area. Russia's
interest in the area was based on economic and cultural reasons. Economically speaking, Russia wanted to find a warm water
port in the south because half of Russian total exports (including nearly all her exports of grains) passed through this area. Many
historians have also pointed out that Russia might need a warm water port for the construction of naval base.
Russian support and Austrian suppression: Culturally speaking, Russia always regarded herself as a member of the Slav
race. As Russia was the powerful Slavic state, she took it as her duty to support her Slav brothers (e.g. Serbia) in their national
struggles against Turkey and Austria. Pan Slavism (the union of all Slavs) was always espoused as the policy of the Russian
government in the Balkans. Austria's interest in the Balkans was based on political reason. Austria wanted to suppress the
nationalist movements in the Balkans, particularly that in Serbia. By the early twentieth century, Austria wanted to extend her
rule over Serbia. This brought her into conflicts with both Serbia and Russia.
German interest: Germany's interest in the area was based on both economic and cultural reasons. Economically speaking,
the control of the Balkans would provide industrial Germany with abundant supply of cheap raw materials, a populous market
and a large field for profitable investment. From 1888 onwards, Germany began her economic penetration in the area by
building the Baghdad railway, which was ultimately to connect Berlin with the Persian Gulf. Culturally speaking, the German
government believed that the Germans were spiritually and culturally a superior race and so had a 'historic mission' to dominate
the Balkans, the Middle East, central Europe and Asia. The inferior races should be forced to accept the German culture.
Because of the complicated nationalistic movements and the conflicting interests of the powers in the Balkans, the area was
prolific of crises from 1908 to 1914.
Events leading to the Crisis: Count von Aehrenthal, the Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, always wanted to extend
Austrian political control over the Serbs in the Balkans. In 1908, three events caused him to take action at once. First, a new king
had ascended the throne in Serbia. The new king, Peter, was strongly anti-Austrian and he wanted to unite with his fellow
nationals in Bosnia, which had been under Austrian administration since the Congress of Berlin in 1878. Second, in 1908 a
revolution, known as the 'Young Turk Revolution', broke out in the Ottoman Empire. The Young Turks were liberal reformers and
young officers. They demanded the Sultan to grant a parliament and a modern constitution and to liberalize his despotic rule. In
July 1908, they rose in rebellion and threatened to march to Constantinople. The Sultan Abdul Hamid II gave way at once and
agreed to restore a constitution. Taking advantage of the chaos at Constantinople, Ferdinand of Bulgaria threw off his last shreds
of allegiance to the Sultan and proclaimed himself King of Bulgaria. Crete proclaimed herself united with Greece. Austria also
wanted to take advantage of this chaotic situation. Third, Russia's defeats in the Far East had turned her attention back to the
Balkans again. In September 1908, the Russian Foreign Minister, Alexander Izvolski made a political bargain with Count von
Aehrenthal: Russia agreed not to oppose Austrian annexation of Bosnia Herzegovina if Austria agreed to raise no objections
against the opening of the Dardanelles to Russian warships.
Austrain annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina: While Izvolski was trying to gain approval from the other powers about
the opening of the straits, Austria suddenly annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina on October 6. Thus Austria had strengthened her
position in the Balkans without giving the Russians any compensation. Russia was indignant. The country which was as indignant
as Russia over the Austrian action was Serbia. The inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina were primarily South Slavs; Serbia had
long cherished the dream of creating a Greater Serbia which should include Serbia proper and all the neighbouring kindred
people. The Austrian annexation dashed this dream to the ground. Serbia was ready for war and asked for support from Russia.
War seemed imminent but Russia was obliged to back down because England and France were unwilling to become involved in
this issue and because Germany promised to give military support to Austria (The Kaiser said, "a knight in shining armour will be
found by her [Austrian side.").
Greater Serbia Movement: All the Serbs in the Turkish Empire, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and in Serbia and in fact in
southern Europe were to be united together to form an independent country. That was the dream of the Serbs.
Bosnian Crisis – Consequences: The Bosnian crisis had harmful consequences for the peace of Europe.
Firstly, Russia felt humiliated and was determined that this must not come again. Immediately after the crisis, the Russian
government intensified her armaments programme and sent Izvolski as ambassador in Paris in order to get more support from
Secondly, the annexation of Bosnia Herzegovina made Serbia the irreconcilable enemy of Austria. Without Bosnia Herzegovina,
Serbia could never become a united state and could not have an outlet to the sea. The Serbian nationalists foamed a secret
society, the Black Hand, in 1911. The society aimed to provoke revolt in Bosnia and war with Austria. Young Bosnians were
trained to assassinate Austrian officials in Bosnia.
Thirdly, as a result of the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria had more Serbs than the Kingdom of Serbia itself .
Three fifths of the South Slavs were now under Austrian rule.
The Slavs were opposed to the annexation, so Austria had great difficulties in ruling these two provinces. Troubled by the
restlessness of the Slavs and encouraged by the German promises of support (Moltke, the German Chief of Staff, wrote to
Conrad, the Austrian Chief of Staff, "the moment Russia mobilizes, Germany will also mobilize", and "his deepest regret is that a
chance has been let slip which will not soon offer itself again in favourable conditions!"), Austria wanted to crush Serbia if a new
3. SECOND MOROCCAN CRISIS 1911
Continued rivalry between France and Germany: The French were not satisfied with their partial control of Morocco
since 1906. France wanted to have complete control of the country. After 1906 France steadily increased her influence in the
country. In 1908, the French installed a pro-French Sultan on the throne. In May 1911, the French forces occupied Fez, the
capital of Morocco, in order to suppress a rising against the pro-French Sultan.
The Germans responded by sending a gunboat Panther to Agadir, a strategic port on the Atlantic coast. The British feared that
Germany would make Agadir as a German naval base on the British naval route (the Cape Route). So Britain protested against
Germany and backed up France to fight against Germany. War seemed to be inevitable.
Because of British support of France, Germany gave in. In a negotiated settlement, France (together with Spain) gained most of
Morocco, leaving a small portion opposite Gibraltar to Spain. Germany was compensated with a strip of the French Congo. (This
was a consolation price to Germany.)
Consequence: The Agadir crisis also had harmful consequences for the peace of Europe.
On the one hand, as Germany had suffered a diplomatic defeat, she was unwilling to suffer another diplomatic defeat again.
On the other hand, the British, French and Russian governments were alarmed by the aggressive attitude of the Germans. They
remembered that Germany had tried to dictate the world by force for three times since 1905, firstly in the first Moroccan crisis
of 19056, secondly, in the Bosnian crisis of 1909 and finally in the second Moroccan Crisis of 1911. After the crisis, the Entente
powers exchanged information about the conditions of their army and navy. In 1912, Britain and France made a naval
agreement that in the event of a war, the British fleet should guard the North Sea and the English channel, while the French fleet
was to be deployed in the Mediterranean.
4. BALKAN WARS 1912-13
After the Young Turk Revolution, the Turkish government remained weak and inefficient. In 1911 Italy attacked Tripoli. In 1912,
by the Treaty of Lausanne, Italy received Tripoli from Turkey.
First Balkan War 1912: Exploiting the chaotic political situation following the Turkish defeat in 1912, the Balkan states -Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro--formed the Balkan League and declared war on Turkey in October 1912. They aimed
to partition the Turkish Empire. From October 1912 to May 1913, the League won series of battles and Turkey could only retain
the areas around Constantinople. The powers watched the victory of the League with great anxiety. Austria wanted to stop
Serbia from becoming too powerful and was determined not to allow Serbia to get a seaport on the Adriatic. The powers
intervened and imposed their own settlement, the Treaty of London. The most important provision of the Treaty was that, on
Austria's insistence, a new state, Albania, was created to prevent Serbia from getting a coastline on the Adriatic. To compensate
for this, Serbia was given a large part of Macedonia.
Second Balkan War 1913: Bulgaria had long regarded Macedonia as her possession. Her quarrels with Serbia soon
developed into a war. In the second Balkan War, Bulgaria alone fought against Serbia, Montenegro, Rumania, Greece and
Turkey. The war was soon over. Bulgaria was soundly defeated. The territorial settlement made after the First Balkan War was
largely preserved except that Turkey and Rumania gained some valuable territory.
Balkan Wars – Consequence: The consequences of the Balkan Wars directly led to the outbreak of the First World War.
Firstly, Serbia was twice victorious in the Balkan wars and was larger than ever--her area doubled as she got a large part of
Macedonia. The desire to make herself larger by including all fellow nationals in a united Slav state was intensified. This brought
her more sharply into collision with Austria which ruled eight million Serbs and Croats and which prevented Serbia from getting
Secondly, Austria found that the Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina grew increasingly troublesome. She was determined to attack
Serbia before it was too late.
Thirdly, the Kaiser knew that Austria was her only dependable ally in Europe. He assured the Austrian Foreign Minister that ‘You
can be certain I stand behind you and am ready to draw the sword whenever your action makes it necessary.’
Fourthly, the Russian Czar felt that Russia had suffered a diplomatic defeat because she could not obtain Albania for Serbia due
to Austrian insistence. In order to recover her lost prestige in the Balkans, the Czar declared in February 1914, "For Serbia, we
shall do everything."