During the turn of the century Germany was Europe’s strongest power, which based its success on industrial strength and army excellence. France had made arapid recovery after its defeat in the Franco-Prussian war. By 1890 it had a similar army as Germany and a navy second only to Britain. They on the other hand had focused on expansion and dominatedover 20 percent of the world’s land surface. Russia’s population was twice that of Germany and its army was the largest in Europe, however industrially, they were weak. Austria-Hungary had no greateconomic strength and was the only European power without an overseas empire. Finally, the weakest of all European powers was Italy; they however did have ambitions in Africa and the Mediterranean. Inthis essay I intend to show how the relation between the European powers eventually lead to the ignition of the First World War.
For much of the 19th century, European powers had relatively littleinterest in colonies. European countries states extended their control over huge areas in Africa and Asia. Almost any territory was considered worthy of annexation. “Expansion is everything,” saidBritish imperialist Cecil Rhodes. This suggested extensive competitions amongst the great powers in order get hold of these territories.
After 1871, Germany dominated Europe. Having created the GermanEmpire, Bismarck’s main objective was now its security. He thought the best guarantee was peace. The possibility of a French war of revenge posed an obvious threat was one of his great fears andchallenges. This is why Bismarck decided to maintain good relations with Russia and Austria-Hungary, which also helped reduce tension in the Balkans. Similarly, Wilhelm II also pleaded for Germany’sdominium and decided to implement the Weltpolitik, which consisted in expansionist movements in order to gain a strong overseas empire.
As to European foreign policy concerns, German ministers were...