What caused WWI? Was it the international system of "entangling alliances?" Or an international arms race that created a powder keg scenario? Domestic political concerns in Imperial Germany? Competition between rival European Colonial Empires?
All these explanations and more can be found by students researching this topic. The following summary posits a more traditional view of how German decision-makers planned to unleash a war of conquest to change the European balance of power in their favor in the autumn of 1914.
Caution: No discussion of this topic is complete without reference to historiographical disputes raging over these issues. The following text makes no reference to the ongoing scholarly debate and the various "schools of thought." Instead it gives a one-sided account and places some obscure international crises of the pre-WWI era into a "blame Germany" perspective.
The following is a summary of an essay I wrote at the London School of Economics that argued that Germany bears the primary burden of guilt for the outbreak of the First World War. It should be used for research only.
German decision-makers deliberately launched a premeditated war in 1914. German FP prior to and during the July Crisis led to the war, and German war aims reflected the national aspirations of pre-war German foreign policy.
Kaiser Wilhelm II clearly desired an overseas colonial empire and hegemonic European status to match the growing economic/industrial clout of Imperial Germany. With the dismissal of Otto von Bismarck (saturated state), Germany embarked on a belligerent foreign policy that included a drastic arms buildup, particularly concerning the construction of a navy to challenge Great Britain dominance of the seas. The years leading up to World War I were punctuated by a series of international crises provoked by Germany in order to gain colonial concessions and prestige and to undermine the cohesion of the Triple Entente.
1905 - First Moroccan Crisis French colonial expansion conflicts with treaty obligations and Germany demands compensation at international conference under threat of war in an effort to humiliate France. At the Algeciras Conference, England supported France while Austria balked at threat of war over Morocco and Germany was dealt a diplomatic defeat. Although the German General Staff had been willing to risk war, the Kaiser and his Foreign Minister Von Bulow ...