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The causes for World War One and World War Two were not entirely similar there were also differences present. There are various reasons, which led to start of WWI and WWII. For example, the First World War started as a result of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. Franz Ferdinand was shot by a member of a Serbian group, which had been created to fight for South Slav territories, to be unified. These territories had been captured by Austria-Hungary. The assassination forced Austria-Hungary to declare War against Serbia some two months after the shooting. This is what set off a chain of events that brought about the system of alliance. Russia began to mobilize due to the alliance it had with Serbia. However, the Russian invasion forced Germany to declare war against it if they did not demobilize due to the alliance they had with Austria-Hungary (Hillgruber 1981). The war escalated and involved several nations since they had promised to help each other whenever a war broke out. It was referred to as The Great War or The War to End all Wars.
The Germans attacked the Soviet Union since Hitler believed that the Soviets could be defeated in an assault, which capitalized on the ill-preparedness of Soviet Union. He hoped that a success would force Britain to negotiate, thus ending the war. More over, Hitler wanted to preempt an attack by the Soviet army, and hence catch them off-guard.
On the other hand, World War Two started during the time Germany when once more began expanding into Europe. This did not go down well with the other European powers, and so, another huge war came into being. The other countries wanted to stop the Germans from gaining more control of Europe. In addition, the Japanese declared war on the U.S. as they expected them to be occupied in the war, in Europe. They also considered America to be a threat to its Asia-Pacific hegemony.
First and foremost, in World War One, the fighting was mostly done in trenches as technology was primitive. For the first time, poisonous gases were put into use. On the other hand, tanks were the main war machines used in the Second World War. There were an improvement in the use of planes as bombers and fighters were used in abundance. More over, submarines were also put to use as encryption codes for secrecy became more complicated.
Both World War I and World War Two had underlying causes of Nationalism as well as Militarism. The causes of World War One also included economic rivalries as well as Imperialism, while World War Two was as a result of Mussolini's desire to gain French territories and the rise of Facism. Imperialism is the state where a country would want to increase its wealth and power by adding territories which are under its control. Examples of countries which were busy with expanding included; Germany, Austria Hungary as well as Japan. The increase in desire and competition for greater empires caused an increase in a confrontation which helped push countries into the First World War.
Nationalism as an issue led to the First World War in that, Slavic peoples in Herzegovina and Bosnia wanted to be part of Serbia and not Austria-Hungary. This was a direct cause of the War between the two countries which quickly spread to others. However, the nationalism that existed in different countries, in Europe, led to the start as well as the extension of the war in Europe. It is essential to note that each nation wanted to prove their power and dominance. Strong nationalistic feelings added up to the start of hatred in the pre-war Europe. For example, it turned the French against German and Russians against Austrians. Nationalistic writings and speeches, in countries like Germany, caused the war by portraying it as the best test for proof of national superiority. The First World War was mainly caused by Germany's urge in proving that she was better than the UK. However, the Second World War was as a result of a different kind of nationalism; a nationalism of re-assertion. In that, Germany wanted revenge as well as to show that she could emerge from nothing.
Germany felt that Britain was in the way of their gaining power. This is because the British were supreme on the sea. This prevented the Germans from gaining colonies overseas. The colonies were supposed to supply Germany with resources for maintaining her army in addition to giving them the prestige they badly wanted. However, the British did not want the Germans to increase their power through acquiring colonies.
This led to the development of a strong rivalry between the two powerful nations. This translated to a long term cause of the First World War. More over, Nationalism also became a long term origin of World War Two in that, both Italy and Germany were angered with the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty led to the growth of nationalism in the two countries under fascism.
Mussolini rose to power in Italy on the idea that Italy could be the best in the whole of Europe. Most Italians believed that Mussolini could come up with a very great nation. On the other hand, the Germans, considered themselves to be superior both mentally and physically. This led to both Germany and Italy becoming strong European powers due to nationalistic feelings.
Another cause of World War One was the Arms Race. The issue of the unpleasant division led to an arms race. The great powers of Europe acknowledged that Germany was powerful in military organization as well as efficiency (Hillgruber 1981). They also copied the large reserves, universal conscription, in addition to detailed planning of, the Prussian system. There was a rise of intelligent and powerful army commanders who had formed details of invasion in case a war erupted. They were just waiting for a trigger so that they could implement their war plans and military prowess.
Militarism was also another cause of the two great wars. Before the war broke out, Germany had a powerful and efficient army, which was successful in battle against France and Austria-Hungary before. Germany had been highly industrialized, and it is because of this reason that she was able to maintain a strong army supported by war machines that rivaled everything in Britain. The Kaiser used it to plan to expand his control on more colonies. Militarism caused the Second World War in that, Japan wanted more land and natural resources in order to supply its war factories. It wanted to control all the lands in the Pacific region. They raided the US Naval headquarters at Pearl Harbor. It was a disaster because it was the day that the U.S declared war on Japan.
The Imperial Japanese Navy had hoped to destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet at anchor. The Japanese knew that the Americans could build more ships, but, they hoped to defeat them in detail. However, within days afterwards, the Germans declared war on the U. S., which brought to an end the U.S. isolationist sentiment which had prevented it from going into war.
The First World War was caused partly by the two opposing alliances that had been developed by Bismarckian diplomacy just after the Franco-Prussian War. For the purpose of isolating France diplomatically, Bismarck created an alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia. Bismarck took advantage when Italy resented the French for occupying Tunisia. He came up with the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. This was in exchange for Italy's agreement to remain neutral whenever there was a war between Russia and Austria-Hungary, Germany as well as Austria-Hungary would protect Italy from invasion by France.
On the other hand, the Second World War came into being the instance France and Britain declared war on Germany after the German's invaded Poland (Henig 2001). However, the United States decided to join the war after Pearl Harbor was attacked. Looking at the Japanese scenario, they had started a program of expansionism by first occupying Manchuria and then invading other Chinese territories. Their aggression led to their being condemned by the European powers as well as the United States. Britain and the United States then imposed oil and iron embargo on Japan. This is the time that the Japanese entered the Second World War.
A similarity in the cause of the two great wars is imperialism. In the case of World War One, many countries had acquired colonies. For example, the French had large occupied northern Africa as well as Indochina, the Portuguese, on the other hand, had land in the East Indies, and Belgium held diamond interests in Africa. However, Germany had few in Africa. When Japan invaded Manchuria, China sought help from the League, but the nothing was forthcoming. This is because member countries were experiencing the Great Depression and so were busy with their own economy. So, there was no stopping Japanese imperialism.
Another major cause of the Second World War was the controversial Hitler's aims. Hitler had wanted to unite all the German speaking people (Hillgruber 1981). He aimed at dominating Europe and the World as well as creating more living space so as to attain self-sufficiency. However, by achieving this, there had to be the breaking of the Treaty of Versailles which could lead to war. The World War Two was also caused by various Fascist aggressions, in addition to the failure of, democratic powers in stopping this aggression.
A difference in the causes of the two wars comes in alliance. European nations realized that they were vulnerable on their own. Before the First World War, England, Russia and France signed an alliance in fear of Germany rising. However, in response to the alliance, the Germans formed an alliance with Italy and Austria-Hungary. It should be noted that, the alliances was purposed to avoid war. There is no country which would dare attack one member of an alliance since the other nations would come to their rescue. However, after the First World War, the U.S. returned to isolation. This attitude of isolationism was employed by many countries and hence became a major cause of the Second World War.
Though the system of alliance was used in both wars, none of the participating countries had permanent loyalties as some of them surrendered and changed loyalties. The alliances system was created at first so as to help in keeping or maintaining the peace in Europe. However, it is now seen as a chief cause of the war. This is because two small countries with a dispute on their territory would set of a chain of aggression in the alliances, which brought the greatest powers in Europe to wage war on each other.
The alliance system split the continent into two unfriendly sides. Many different powers had involved themselves in mutual defense agreements. So, when the war broke out, it involved almost every country in Europe. Some powers were forced to bear with policies picked up by their partners, which they didn't really support, due to the alliances they had. In addition, the secret alliances led to countries being suspicious and believe that more secret agreements were in existence.
There was another difference in the wars. In the Second World War, the policy of appeasement was mostly employed so as to gain more power as well as territory and, but the appeasement was not employed in the first war. Many of the causes of World War One can be pointed to the results as well as consequences of the Franco-Prussian war. This conflict brought about the establishment Germany, which was powerful and dynamic. Germany was so prosperous that it had the industrial as well as the military capacity to threaten Europe. Its nationalism, natural resources, economy strengths and ambitions brought about military rivalries with other countries, especially, the Anglo-German naval arms race.
The First World War was propagated by two main alliances (Carley 1999). Initially, The Entente Powers had France, the U. K., Russia, as well as their associated empires. Many other states joined them, for example, Italy and the U. S. on the other hand, the Central Powers, initially was made up of Germany, Austria-Hungary as well as their associated empires. The Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria joined them later.
There had existed tensions between Germany and Poland for some time regarding a number of issues. Germany's Hitler used the status city issue to attack Poland. However, his real intentions were obtaining Lebensraum for the Germans. After the attack, Britain and France issued an ultimatum to Germany to withdraw or face the consequences. Germany decided to decline, and what the World War Two was declared by the French and British and French. More over, the Soviet Army also invaded Poland from the east.
In conclusion, there were many similar as well as different causes of World War One and World War II, though there seem to be more differences than similarities. From a socio-political view, it seems apparent that many of the cause of World War One were the same which set the foundation for the Second World War. For example, the passionate nationalism experienced in separate countries, the complicated system of alliances, Social Darwinism that led to racism, in addition to the rigidity of, planning by governments planning all played an essential role in both wars. The Versailles Treaty, limited military expansion and land acquisition of Germany, which with no doubt led the two wars into a political and psychological aspect (Hillgruber 1981). It is important to note in the Second World War, the Allies emerged victorious; hence, the U.S. and the Soviet Union came out as the world's leading superpowers. This brought about the Cold War, lasting about 45 years. The U. N. was formed so as to prevent another conflict. In the First World War, it ended with a number of treaties, for example, the Treaty of Versailles. The war resulted in Europe redrawing of its map. All the Central Powers lost their territory, and many new nations were born.