Q2. “World War I was a result of Imperialist Rivalries” Comment. OR How far were imperialist rivalries the basic cause of the First World War?
along with secret alliances, militarism, and nationalism, Imperialism was one of the four contributing factors to the cause of World War I. It was the most important cause of WW1, because it created a build-up of tension in Europe & outside Europe, and through imperialism, the three other causes were able to affect the beginnings of the war.
As European countries were discovering more about the sciences and mass production benefits via industrialization, a demand and competition for more land and products was developing, and this created the tension needed to begin the First World War.
Imperialism led to the three other contributors to the war because without the tension induced by imperialism, secret alliances were not necessary. Alliances such as the Triple Alliance, which consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy that lasted until the start of the war, and the Three Emperors League, which involved Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Germany and created tension prior to the war, were created in case of war, which would not be an issue had there not been minor conflicts occurring all over the world.
The imperialist conquest of Asia and Africa was accompanied with conflicts between the imperialist countries. By the end of the nineteenth century most of Asia and Africa had already been divided up and further conquests could take place only by dispossessing some imperialist country of its colonies.
After the unification of Germany had been achieved, it made tremendous economic progress. By 1914, it had left Britain and France far behind in the production of iron and steel and in many manufactures. It had entered the shipping trade in a big way. Germany entered the scramble for colonies late hence could not grab many colonies. Since most of Asia and Africa had already been occupied by the older imperialist powers, German imperialists dreamt of expanding in the east to control the economy of the declining Ottoman empire. For this purpose, they had planned the construction of a railway from Berlin to Baghdad. This plan created a fear in Britain, France and Russia as the completion of the Berlin-Baghdad railway would endanger their imperialist ambitions in the Ottoman empire.
Slav are members of the most numerous ethnic and linguistic body of peoples in Europe, residing chiefly in eastern and southeastern Europe but extending also across northern Asia to the Pacific Ocean.
Slavs are subdivided into East Slavs (chiefly Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians), West Slavs (chiefly Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, and Wends, or Sorbs), and South Slavs (chiefly Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Slovenes, Macedonians, and Montenegrins).
Like all the major powers in Europe, and Japan also had their imperialist ambitions. Italy, which after its unification had become almost an equal of France in power, coveted Tripoli in North Africa which was under the Ottoman empire. It had already occupied Eritrea and Somaliland. France wanted to add Morocco to its conquests in Africa. Russia had its ambitions in Iran, the territories of the Ottoman empire including Constantinople, the Far East and elsewhere. The Russian plans clashed with the interests and ambitions of Britain, Germany and Austria. Japan which had also become an imperialist power had ambitions in the Far East and was on way to fulfilling them. It defeated Russia in 1904-05 after having signed an agreement with Britain and was able to extend her influence in the Far East.
Britain was involved in a conflict with all other imperialist countries because it had already acquired a vast empire which was to be defended. The rise of any other country was considered a danger to the British empire. It also had her vast international trade to defend against the competition from other countries, and to maintain her control over what it considered the lifeline of her empire. Austria had its ambitions in the Ottoman Empire. The United States of America had emerged as a powerful nation by the end of the nineteenth century. It had annexed the Philippines. Its main interest was to preserve the independence of trade as its trade was expanding at a tremendous rate. The expansion of other major powers’ influence was considered a threat to American interests.
Hence it can be concluded that Imperialism played a major role in accentuating the rivalry between the nations which ultimately led to First World War.