On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip shot the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his wife dead in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia. Princip was a Serbian terrorist and member of Black Hand Secret Society. This event led to Declaration of war on Serbia by Austria-Hungary which soon developed into the First World War. Although, this was the immediate reason but this worldly crisis was taking shape from several years.
First, the France’s signing of treaty with Russia and then the Anglo-French entente cordiale was quite suffocating for the Germany. She felt like as the triple Entente were trying to encircle her. Moreover, the introduction of ‘dreadnoughts’ battleships to the already world class navy of Britain created tensions among Germans. Some of the historians argue that it was economic rivalry and Germans were feeling left behind, so they declared war, a preventive war. This argument is totally flawed in itself because Germany was doing great and even better than Britain in terms of economic development. Germany was producing more pig iron and steel than Britain. Marxists and communist historians support this argument because they are always itching to blame Capitalism for everything. It would not be wise to say that Germany declared war because of economic rivalry.
One of most valuable argument that historians put while blaming Germany is that She declared war and supported Austria-Hungary without conditions because she was sensing that Russia was becoming too strong. Russia after Bosnia Crisis was determined not get humiliated again and started building up army and modernizing it. Russia was also wary of Germany because if German influenced Austria were to control Balkans, they would lose outlet to the Black sea. This was the major route from where Russian trade was done. Russia felt threatened. We should not forget that it was not the Germany but the Russians which mobilized the troops first.
If Russians were feeling threatened, so were Germans. Germany felt being encircled by the entente. There was powerful British navy and superior Russian army. German army was being hampered because of continuous tax reductions by Reichstag. Yes, they felt threatened and to proclaim that they declared a war and gave blank cheque to Austria because of this would be wrong. It was not a preventive war in my opinion. We must not forget that at the last minute Kaiser and Bethmann tried to convince Austria-Hungary to make peace negotiations with Serbia.
Then who was to blame for War?
The one country that shares blame for sure is Austria-Hungary. Serbia accepted nearly all the demands in the harsh ultimatum sent to them. But Austrians wanted war no matter the cost. They used the Assassination as an excuse to declare the war. They felt threatened too like the Russia and Germany. They felt that if Serbian ambitions to form Yugoslavia got accomplished, it would lead to the breakdown of Austria-Hungarian empire. They wanted to destroy the Serbia at all cost. They became fearless once Germany declared her support. If Austrians and Hungarians were determined, so were Serbian Nationalists and they too were fearless backed by the Russia, which was viewed as the savior of Slavs.
Some historians argue that it was the alliance system that was responsible for the escalation. Yes, countries were bounded together by treaties and military alliances. Russia came to help Serbia. Germany helped Austria-Hungary. Belgium was neutral but was binded to the Britain by treaty. So, when Germany tried to reach France through Belgium, Britain declared war on Germany. France had signed treaty with Russia and so on. But this argument can too be countered.
Where was France, when Russia lost war to Japan?
Where were Britain and France when Russia was humiliated for protesting against the Austrian annexation of Bosnia?
Where was Austria when Germany was struggling during Moroccan crisis?
Why Germany didn’t support Austria during second Balkan war?
Why didn’t Russia helped Serbia to get Albania when Turkish territories were being distributed?
Why did Italy entered war against Germany being a member of triple alliance?
The Germany and Russia may use alliance system as an excuse but it cannot be held responsible for Western Europe entering the war.
Maybe the world war was the tragedy of miscalculation.
German Miscalculation I:Maybe the Germany declared her help to Austria-Hungary thinking that it would frighten the Russians and thus Russia would not support Serbia. This could be supported by the fact that the Britain and Germany were developing good relations from past few years and Germany even restrained Austria-Hungary from attacking Serbia. So, by declaring support, her intention was to frighten Russia and they in fact, wanted the war not to escalate.
Russian Miscalculation: Maybe Russians thought that the Germany’s declaration of support means war. The Russians mobilized the army in order to protect themselves in case War escalated to them.
German Miscalculation II: They took Russia’s mobilization of troops as threat to them.
Austria’s Miscalculation: Austria behaved fearlessly backed by Germans and thought that Russians will not declare war.
German Miscalculation III: Germans miscalculated that France will declare war as the Russia and France were binded by treaty. So they declared war on France.
German Miscalculation IV: Germans miscalculated that Britain would support them and not France give their bettering relations.
There were a lot of miscalculations and errors made by the politicians. There was fear of enemies getting stronger. The was fear among Germans, Russians, Serbs, Austrians, British. These miscalculations along with fear gave birth to the friction between the European powers. There were several events that happened in last decade that could have led to this but all the problems were sorted out. It would be wrong to blame one country for the whole tragedy. Most of the Historians like to blame Germany for world war I but Equally responsible were Russia and Austria-Hungary. Britain also played some part as it never cleared the situation and support for Germany.