IMPERIALISM AS A CAUSE OF WORLD WAR I
Imperialism was one of the main causes of World War I, which began in July of 1914, following the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. In fact, historians consider it to be one of four main long-term causes of the war, along with: militarism, alliance systems and nationalism. Imperialism was a particularly important cause of World War I. For instance, it caused European nations to compete for territory around the world, which increased tensions. These tensions caused the European nations to build up their armies and set the stage for war.
EUROPEAN IMPERIALISM BEOFRE WORLD WAR I
Imperialism is a term that relates to when one country extends its political, economic or cultural authority over another country or region. This process involves the dominant country taking over the other through direct invasion and political control or by gaining authority over the economy of the other country. Imperialism, in history, was a foreign policy practiced by many different nations but is most often associated with European countries, especially during the Age of Imperialism.
Imperialism was carried out by the powerful European nations against the rest of world in the decades before World War I began. For example, in the 19th century European nations carried out massive campaigns of imperialism against the regions of Africa in an event known as the Scramble for Africa. The Scramble of Africa led to the start of World War I because it increased the rivalry between the European nations as they fought against each other for territory in Africa and control over different regions.
In general, European imperialism of Africa created tensions in that Germany felt left out of territory in the region. For example, in 1884, German leader Otto von Bismarck called the Berlin Conference which had the European powers meet to discuss the division of Africa into regions controlled by the European nations. The purpose of the meeting was to avoid starting a major European conflict and to lessen tensions because the Scramble for Africa was leading to an intense rivalry and distrust between the Europeans powers. The peace created at the Berlin Conference did not last as the rivalry between the European powers increased as they approached 1914. For instance, Britain and France were the two Europeans nations that had control over the largest regions of Africa during the Scramble for Africa and this caused tension with Germany. Germany was angry that it lacked the colonies in Africa (as well as Asia) that both Britain and France had and resented their general role in Africa. For example, in 1914, Britain had 56 total colonies around the world; France had 29 colonies and Germany was limited to just 10 colonies. This anger by Germany led to two significant crises. These included the First Moroccan Crisis and the Second Moroccan Crisis.
FIRST MOROCCAN CRISIS
The event that sparked the First Moroccan Crisis was a visit to Morocco by the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, on March 31st in 1905. Also known as the ‘Tangier Crisis’ it took place from March 1905 until May of 1906 and led to increased tensions between the European powers of France and Germany. In fact, the two European nations disagreed over the status of the African nation of Morocco and who should have influence over the region.
Morocco is a nation located in northwestern Africa. In the early 20th century, this region of Africa was under the influence of French imperialism. As such, France considered Morocco to be within its ‘sphere of influence’. As such, when the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, arrived in Tangier, Morocco in 1905 it caused anger to erupt from France. This situation continued until the Algeciras Conference, which was called to settle the disagreement.
SECOND MOROCCAN CRISIS
The Second Moroccan Crisis (or the ‘Agadir Crisis’) began in April of 1911 in the midst of a rebellion against the Moroccan Sultan Abdelhafid. The people of Morocco had begun to rebel against the Sultan following accusations of torture and other terrible acts carried out by his government. In fact, the rebels were so successful that they were able to surround Abdelhafid in his palace in the northern Moroccan city of Fez. Since France considered Morocco to fall under their imperialistic influence, they sent in troops in to regain control of the situation. This act by France angered Germany, as they resented French success in Africa.
Germany responded to France’s military involvement in Morocco by sending the SMS Panther gunboat to the Moroccan coastal city of Agadir during the rebellion. Similar to the First Moroccan Crisis, German actions in Morocco led to heightened tensions between the European nations. More specifically, France and Britain were allied with each other as part of the Entente Cordiale.
By July of 1911, both France and Germany began seeking an end to the crisis. As such, Germany presented France with a set of terms that would end the Second Moroccan Crisis. In the agreement, France would take over control of Morocco as a protectorate but would be required to turn over some its territory in the French Congo as compensation to Germany. A protectorate is a term used during the Age of European Imperialism to describe a nation that maintains control over its own affairs but is ultimately dependent on a European power for some economic, political, and militaristic assistance.
France and Germany eventually held a convention on November 4th of 1911 called the Franco-German Accord. In general, France agreed to turn over some of its territory in the Congo in exchange for German recognition of France’s status in Morocco.
HOW DID IMERIALISM CAUSE WORLD WAR I?
European imperialism how a profound impact on the outbreak of World War I. As stated above, imperialism was carried out by the powerful European nations against the rest of world in the decades before World War I began. For example, in the 19th century European nations carried out massive campaigns of imperialism against the regions of Africa in an event known as the Scramble for Africa. The Scramble of Africa led to the start of World War I because it increased rivalry between the European nations as they fought against each other for territory in Africa and control over different regions.
For instance, Britain and France were the two Europeans nations that had control over the largest regions of Africa during the Scramble for Africa and this caused tension with Germany. Germany was angry that it lacked the colonies in Africa that both Britain and France had and resented their general role in Africa. This anger by Germany would lead to the two Moroccan Crises that occurred before World War I. Ultimately, these tensions led to a sense of anger and distrust among the European powers that helped to set the stage for war in 1914.
Furthermore, imperialism combined with the other main causes of World War I, to set the war into motion. As stated previously, these causes included: militarism, alliances, imperialism and nationalism.
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