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World War I

War is one of the most devastating occurrences in the world. It involves fighting between two or more countries or groups using weapons and soldiers among other means to win. War, just like other phenomena, does not occur by chance. The main cause of war is summarised as a struggle for control of resources to build and sustain formidable social, economic and political power. World War I, one of the deadliest on the globe, was primarily caused by rivalry over control of resources. This war caused an enormous destruction of the environment and death of many people, who participated directly or indirectly. According to Wanyande, about 13 million people lost their lives during the First World War (121). The immense size of this war has attracted the attention of many scholars; mainly the historians. This paper explores World War I; its root causes and repercussions.

War is one of the most devastating occurrences in the world. It involves fighting between two or more countries or groups using weapons and soldiers among other means to win. War, just like other phenomena, does not occur by chance. The main cause of war is summarised as a struggle for control of resources to build and sustain formidable social, economic and political power. World War I, one of the deadliest on the globe, was primarily caused by rivalry over control of resources. This war caused an enormous destruction of the environment and death of many people, who participated directly or indirectly. According to Wanyande, about 13 million people lost their lives during the First World War (121). The immense size of this war has attracted the attention of many scholars; mainly the historians. This paper explores World War I; its root causes and repercussions.

The First World War was fought from 1914 to 1918 and almost every country participated. It involved soldiers and civilians, who provided the needs of the soldiers. It exploded when Gavrilo Princip, a member of a terrorist group in Serbia that was known as the Black Hand, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, and his wife, Sophie, in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia (Duffy). The assassinations presented to Austria-Hungary a long-awaited opportunity and she declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914 after Serbia failed to punish the assassin. These countries had alliances with world's great powers of the time and this war declaration culminated to a world war with Germany and her allies like Austria- Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria on one side, and Britain and her allies like Serbia, Russia, France, United States of America and Japan being their opponents. European colonies in Africa, Latin America and Asia also joined the war to support their colonial masters.

Having given an overview of the war, it is proper to discuss its root causes. One of the causes of World War I was the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and 1871. It occurred because Napoleon III of France dreaded the success of Prussia in the wars against Denmark in 1864 and Austria in 1866. Further, Bismarck the then leader of Prussia intended to support unification of Germany. These reasons, coupled with others, led to this war. France lost to Prussia and signed the Frankfurt peace treaty in 1871, where she lost her provinces of Alsace-Lorraine and paid a fine of 200 million pounds. In addition, it resulted to the unification of Germany on 18 January 1871, collapse of Napoleon III and formation of the French Republic. This caused Franco-German rivalry, since France was furious with the peace treaty imposed on her, especially losing Alsace-Lorraine provinces. According to Waugh, Walsh & Birks, this was a long-term cause of the First World War (13). Another cause of this battle was the scramble for Africa by European countries due to economic motives, where Africa was the source of raw materials for their industries and the market for their manufactured goods. Prestige also aggravated the scramble, since countries earned status by the number of their colonies. Finally, there was a need to 'civilise' Africans, and to spread Christianity. During this time, the colonising powers clashed, for instance, French got enraged when British settled in Egypt in 1882, Britain and Germany developed conflict over the control of South West and East Africa, and Italians and British became rivals over the control of Sudan and Abyssinia. As rivalry developed, countries were keen on being powerful and defending themselves. As a result, there was widespread formation of alliances and members were to support one another during war. The alliance system was between 1873 and 1907, when rivalry and suspicion grew among the world's great powers. By 1907, Europe had been divided into two armed camps or rival gangs ((Waugh, Walsh & Birks 18). There were many alliances formed but the most outstanding alliances were the Triple Alliance, of 1882, whose members were Austria- Hungary, Germany and Italy, and the Triple Entente that saw Russia, France and Britain coming together in 1907. These alliances placed the world in a precarious situation during war. "The alliance system has often been seen as one of the major reasons for the outbreak of the First World War" (Waugh, Walsh & Birks 19).

As tension, suspicion and rivalry increased among the world's great countries, it was important that they prepare themselves adequately for the anticipated battle. Countries increased the number of their military personnel and upgraded their training. In addition, they developed, improved and acquired weapons to fight and defend themselves. During this period, the European powers increased their spending on armies. This phenomenon, the arms race, occurred between 1900 and 1914, and formed the basis for preparation and increased tension among great powers. According to Waugh, Walsh & Birks, it had a rolling snowball effect as countries competed to increase their armies (20). Furthermore, countries became certain of winning and anxious to test their weapons, and this bred the lethal war that erupted in 1914.

War involves destruction of property and environment, and death of human beings and other organisms. It is not appropriate to say that one party is victorious, since they all experience loss of lives and destruction of property. However, on the basis of comparison, it is possible to draw a distinction. In the case of World War I, all the countries involved suffered loss, for instance, in February 1915, in the battle of Mazurian Lakes in East Russia; Russia suffered a great loss in the hands of Germany. According to Wanyande, about a quarter of a million Russian soldiers died (120). When America joined the war in April 1917 on the side of Britain and her allies, Germany and her allies lost. Wanyande observes that, "Germany emerged from the war a very humiliated country" (121). She signed the last peace treaty, the Versailles Peace Treaty, on 28 June 1919. This treaty declared that Germany had instigated the war, and as such, suffered the most as she lost all her colonies and entire air force. In addition, she lost her arms, apart from a force of 100,000, and was also barred from having submarines. This paper has discussed some of the root causes of the First World War. From the causes discussed, it is clear that they revolved around control of resources for social, economic and political supremacy. The desire for political supremacy caused Franco-Prussian war. The scramble for Africa, alliance system and arms race revolved around control of resources. Wanyande observes that "First World War was one of the most destructive wars the world had ever experienced" (121). He estimates that 13 million people died and ten million were widowed. Destruction of property, starvation, insecurity and disruption of economic activities were also some of the consequences (121). Conflicts are inevitable; therefore, it is imperative that governments deal with their root causes through peace building and timely conflict resolution.

Works Cited

Duffy, Michael. The Causes of World War One. Feature Articles, 22 Aug. 2009. Web. 11 Oct. 2011. Wanyande, Peter. Themes in world History Book Two. Nairobi: Longhorn, 1990. Print. Waugh, Steve, Walsh Ben, and Wayne Birks. Revision for Edexcel: GCSE Modern European and World History. London: Hodder Education, 2002. Print.