German diplomatic miscalculations were hugely responsible for WWI. Comment. (250 W/ 15 M)

Mentor’s Note:

The question is quite straightforward as well as factual. You have to remember the events prior to WW1 to answer this question. The first chapter of MODERN WORLD HISTORY by NORMAN LOWE deals with the topic and you will have in depth coverage of the issue.

In the intro, discuss the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in the capital of Bosnia, which was the trigger moment of the first WW. Then mention how past events shaped the assassination and various calculations and miscalculations turned all these events into a great war.

In the main body, you have to discuss those events where German erred on their part; How it was a miscalculations on German side especially in international affairs and diplomacy; how they were over read certain events while underestimated other events.

Model Answer

On 28 june 1914 Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary , was assassinated at Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia. This triggered the First World War but it was not unexpected. Diplomatic tensions between the Entente powers and the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary) had been increasing for a number of years. German leadership undertook a policy of ‘calculated risks’ in the hope of strengthening Germany’s domestic and diplomatic situation. But these turned out to be miscalculations.

Some of the major events which showed the diplomatic maneuvers by Germany:

  • Germany made many diplomatic mistakes, in 1905 the Kaisers main aims were to demand an international conference to discuss the future of morocco in the hope of driving a wedge between Britain and France and to prise France away from Russia.
  • However, they failed to disrupt the relationships of the Entente powers and instead succeeded in isolating themselves.
  • In the Alzeriras Assembly of 1906, the European Powers were agreed to make Morocco a sovereign state.
  • In 1911 Germany opposed the French intervention in the internal affairs of Morocco, but England took the part of France. This created bitterness among France and Germany.
  • It could be said that the events of the Moroccan Crisis demonstrate how Germany miscalculated the other Entente powers.
  • Similarly taking the advantage of the ‘Young Torch Movement’, Austria annexed the two provinces of Bosnia and Herizegovina in the Austrian Empire.
  • In 1911 Germany sent a Gun boat named Panther to the Agadi Port. Italy occupied Tripoli in 1911. It also paved the way for the outbreak First World War.
  • Germany ‘simply miscalculated, for example in their estimates of the British intentions’.
  • Britain could not allow the balance of power in Europe to go to Germany and so in a meeting with the German ambassador the British War Minister warned that Britain would stand by France unconditionally in the event of war.
  • As a result of this Germany called a meeting of Navy Chiefs and the German Army in 1912, known as the war council meeting.
  • The meeting itself amounted to almost nothing and demonstrated a hasty response by German leadership and shows how they miscalculated the intentions of other powers.
  • In 1914, following the Balkan Wars (1912-13), the Russian Tsar promised to help the Serbs in the event of an attack by Austria-Hungary
  • At the same time Russia signed a naval agreement with Britain and hoped it would help safeguard Russian access to the Mediterranean if the Germans and Turks should ever try to block the Dardanelles.
  • These two new policies had a devastating impact on German foreign policy and brought about an important shift in German thinking about the international system which led to various miscalculations.
  • Bethmann choice of policy that involved taking calculated risks’ – such risks are that of deciding to attack and ‘deliberately’ worsen diplomatic relations in order to cause war at a time most suitable to the German military.
  • Germany chose to ‘deliberately’ worsen the crisis of July 1914 and chose a policy that would ‘divisively weaken the Entente’
  • Germany made a crucial mistake by promising to support Austria against Serbia with no conditions attached.
  • German politicians miscalculated by assuming that mobilisation of army would not necessarily mean war.
  • Germany believed if they were to attack in 1914 it would ‘in the view of the generals’ lead to a German victory. However, Germany miscalculated how long it would take the Russians to mobilise their troops.
  • The Schlifflen plan had not been updated since 1905 and was based on the assumption that Russia would take 6 weeks to mobilise.
  • However, Bethmann believed that the failure of diplomacy would ‘lead to a war with the entente powers’ and this suggests that he believed Germany’s aggressive actions would lead to a local war, not a European war.

All of the sources suggest that Germany had adopted a policy that meant deliberately trying to worsen relations within the Entente and provoking a war between the powers. However, they also suggest that Germany could perhaps see a war on the horizon and wanted to fight in the ‘most favourable circumstances’ so provoked the outbreak of war. Germany did miscalculate the actions and relationships between the other Entente powers however it was their ‘bellicose behaviour’ that caused the outbreak of war at first.