This essay aims to examine the rather controversial view the Great War, was a result of Germanys aggressive and warlike foreign policies. The period under examination is 1899-1914, and this time period is crucial for understanding the origins of the First World War. A main area focused on, and will thoroughly discussed, using relevant sources from that particular time period, is how Germanys warlike and aggressive policy created and unstable environment, which it could be argued had led to war.
But what this essay will try and determine, is whether or not world war one was the collective responsibility of all the European powers, or whether the war was solely the accountability of Germanys attitudes to other European powers in the years leading up to the war. Germany was built, one may argue, from war and hostility between France and Prussia. Before it was formed as a country with united states, it was once a large state (Prussia), which had smaller disunited states littered around Prussia.
Later, due to the direct influence of Otto Von Bismarck (German chancellor forced to resign by Kaiser Wilhelm in the year 1890), Prussia then joined with the smaller states to form one nation; Germany. Germany clearly felt vulnerable, because France had grown immensely hostile towards them after the Franco-Prussian war in the years 1870-1871. Due to the fact that France had lost a significantly large and valuable peace of land; Alsasche Lorraine (which was rich in raw materials, and had an immediate impact on France).
The amount of hatred that France had towards Germany, is evident in source two, which states ‘Germany is in a dangerous situation in Europe… peoples who dislike or at all events do not like her’. This source is a secret memorandum of Francis Bertie (who is a senior politician whom had great influence in foreign issues); it clearly shows how ‘encircled’ Germany felt, and how worried Germany was about Frances intentions.
This is a secret memorandum so it is not for public consumption, but for private viewing. Which means the facts is not distorted, because people tend to tend the truth when they no one else will read a secret piece of information. Francis clearly states that the other European powers (Francis seems to be implying France) who do not like Germany, or in other words hate them as a nation. One may argue that Germany did have an excuse to ‘warlike and aggressive’ in their relations with other countries.
France was a direct threat to Germany, and Germany knew that France would be seeking their revenge ‘she has beaten and taken money and territory from France’, this quote from source two clearly shows how even Britain are aware of Frances loss of land and their victory. Some may argue that Germany was only ‘warlike and aggressive’, because they felt other powers were jealous of them trying to gain imperialism. Most German politicians followed the Weltpolitik policy; and the main aim was to gain a worldwide empire even better than British.
Germany felt vulnerable to this envy from other great imperial powers (in other words Britain). The other powers had possible grown angered at the high expectations of the Germans. As stated in source one, a speech from Prince von Bulow talking to the Reichstag, ‘good fortune and a growing prosperity… awaken envy… in the life of nations’. This clearly shows how Germany did feel a victim of envy, so they did to some degree have a reason to be gregarious to other European powers. Germany was a powerful nation, and it did have great potential to one of the greatest powers in the world.
This quote from source one ties in with source four, which is a secret memorandum of Kaiser Wilhelm’s from 1914, when there was an outbreak of war. In source four it also implies that Germany does feel circled by all other powers in Europe. ‘The celebrated encirclement of Germany has finally become an accomplished fact, in spite of all the efforts by our politicians to prevent it’. There is a certain sense of paranoia and tension, in the tone of Wilhelm’s voice in this memorandum. This clearly conveys how German politicians were to a certain extent, basing their foreign policy on the prevention of Germany feeling ‘surrounded’.
So the German politicians did appear to be aggressive and warlike in its policies towards neighbouring European countries. The feeling is that Germany could have been V in defensive terms rather than threatening terms. However, some may argue that Germany was very threatening and was so abrasive in its foreign policies because they wanted to become all-powerful (even more so than any other of the powers). Another argument could be that Germany constantly wanted to go to war. A good example (some may argue) that Germany wanted to go to war was the vast amount of money that was going on building German armies and navies.
Germany was gearing all of its strength on the investment and building of arms, in a desperate attempt to win the arms race. However, Britain was winning, because although Germany had the best raw materials to produce good quality arms. Germany did not have a good as manufacturing process as the British. The building up of arms, armies and navies are clearly evident in sources one and six, which both show that Germany was putting capital into building up arms. Source six is a table of army and Naval money investment (as an estimate), which were possibly published in a school textbook).
Source six shows how German money spent on the army and navy had doubled in the years 1910-1914. Germanys investment on army and navy had possibly intensified because of the Von schleiffen plan, which intensified relations between, Germany, France and Russia. Germany thought that without a strong army and strong navy; Germany would be a weak power. This ties in with a statement said in source one, by Prince Von Bulow, ‘without a strong army and a strong navy, there can be no welfare for us’.
This sounds, to a vague level, that Germany was very ‘warlike and aggressive’, and they did seem to be getting ready for a full-scale war. Indeed, the statement ‘the German nation will either be the hammer or the anvil’, shows us how clear Germanys intentions were to be a powerful, dominant and superior country. But on the other hand, the word ‘anvil’ said in source one, could only mean that Germany is constantly feeling persecuted by other countries, so therefore feeling the need to be aggressive towards them.
Source one and two; seem to indicate how Germany was aggressive and warlike in its policies to fulfil its ambitions and imperial aims. For example in source one, Prince von Bulow says ‘fighting the battle for existence in this world’, which means that Germany could not go on without fighting Also von Bulow says they will be the ‘hammer’ (the one who executes forces). This sounds quite aggressive, and shows how Germany might have attacked, before anyone attacked them. Source two also shows how Germany achieved its aims with its warlike ‘she is constantly in a state of tariff war with Russia… he has designs on the Belgian Congo’.
However this source is from the point of view of a member of the British foreign office. Francis Bertie (the person speaking in the source) seems to be suggesting that Germany only furthers its ambitions by being warlike and aggressive. But one has to keep in mind that Britain felt threatened by Germany building up arms, and it would have affected their viewpoints. Source three which seems to take the same view (also from the British office; Lord Sanderson), says how Germany has ‘intense sensitivity’ about themselves, but do not seem to care about the ‘sensitivities’ of others.
So other countries are very wary of Germany in the lead up to the Great War. But some may argue that source one and three only suggest that Germany were merely competing against other European powers to become superior and successful. Finally, some could argue that Germany always wanted to go to war, and this war hunger had a clear impact on art and popular culture. The ‘war hunger’ and anticipation for war is evident in source four, this source has the same attitude as the other German origin sources, one and four.
The poem, which is source four, creates the feeling of war, and it seems to create the mental image of German soldiers chanting it when charging an enemy. ‘Battalion, batteries, squadrons all forward! ‘ phrases like these seem to create the idea that Germany were in fact keen on war. The phrases used in this source promote the idea of violence and slaughter. The, poem, rather like a song, seems to encourage German to go to war. But this source cannot be entirely reliable piece of information, in relation to studying the origins of the First World War.
Due to the fact that artisans are usually very melodramatic, and this piece was designed for public consumption, so it would have been used as a form of entertainment. But it could be argued that the poem, which is source four, holds a very propagandistic trade. After analysing all of the relevant sources for the study of the origins of the First World War, the conclusion drawn, would be that Germany was certainly warlike and aggressive in its foreign policies. However, the feeling is that Germany was not the only European nation who was warlike and aggressive.
After reading the available sources, it would appear that the First World War was not solely the responsibility of Germany, but a collective responsibility of all the European powers. Each nation was as wary of the other. If one nation made a slight advance, then the other nation would feel threatened or suspicious. The main issue is that, Germany was only warlike and aggressive because they felt vulnerable as a newly formed successful nation, and that they were as paranoid as the other powers were. The paranoia and vulnerability is noticeably evident in the studied sources (one and three).
The suspicion and threat felt by the other powers (mainly Britain) at Germanys power are plainly apparent in the sources considered (two and three). The powers were only suspicious of Germany because Germany had immense supremacy to other throw other nations, and they were to some extent frightening as a fighting force. Germany was only warlike and aggressive as a means of self-defence and retaliation, not as a means to beat and gain a larger empire. But as the other nations grew more suspicious, an even more unstable nature was created which lead to war.