Causes of World War I Term Paper

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Causes of World War I

The causes of war are not always easy to determine. While one person might feel that something specific caused a war, asking another individual what caused the war might produce a different opinion entirely. This can depend on how much knowledge a particular individual has about war in general, how much that person knows about politics and, of course, what side of the war that person is on. It is very similar to how individuals view the issue when they see a crime. Several witnesses will give very different accounts of what actually took place, right down to what the criminal was wearing, the color of his/her hair, etc. This is only human nature, and to be expected, but it can still be very frustrating at times. Police officers have difficulty with this, and historians have the same problem with the war issue.

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For purposes of this paper, four documents will be used to discuss World War I, and they will be compared and contrasted in the following section. After that, the next section will critique the material that is used for sources, so that the opinions that are seen within them can be examined and it can be determined whether they are generally accurate, or whether they have ideas and beliefs in them that are not generally accepted among historians. There are often conflicting opinions, even where historians and trained individuals are concerned. This is important to understand, because even subtle differences can affect the way that people examine an event and the understanding and belief that they pass on to others. What caused World War I, therefore, all depends on who is asked about the causes and what that person has been told regarding history up to that point.

Comparison and Contrast of Source Material

TOPIC: Term Paper on Causes of World War I Assignment

Woodrow Wilson was President from 1913 to 1921. He was a political scientist and a historian, and was very serious about ruling the country. He created a large amount of legislation, including the Federal Reserve System, during his first term as President. When he was reelected in 1916, he focused on WWI and the Treaty of Versailles. While it was ultimately rejected by the United States Senate, Wilson felt that it was very important as something that would work to end the First World War (Marston, 1981). The Treaty is significant and important when it comes to talking about WWI.

President Wilson's desire was for the League of Nations at all costs. At one point, Wilson even stated that it was much better to create a bad treaty and then allow the league to fix it than to create a good treaty but have no league. After the Great War took place, Wilson involved himself with negotiations in a desire to assure statehood for nations that were formerly oppressed and to achieve a sense of peace that was equitable for all. On the 8th of January in 1918, Wilson gave an address that is now famous - his Fourteen Points address - which introduced to all listening the idea of "creating a League of Nations" (Marston, 1981). This organization would have the specific and stated goal of helping the preservation of the territorial integrity and the political independence of all nations, whether they were large or small (Marston, 1981).

The intent of the Fourteen Points address was to end the war and achieve peace for all nations. For six months in 1919, Wilson remained in Versailles. At that time, he was the first and only United States President that had ever traveled over to Europe while he was in office. Tirelessly, Wilson worked to promote the plan that he felt was so very important. The Treaty of Versailles was created at that time, and the charter that proposed the creation of the League of Nations was incorporated into it (Marston, 1981).

Also in 1919, Wilson was given the Nobel Peace Prize for the effort that he put into the making of peace. However, the Senate would not support the Treaty and did not ratify it. The United States, therefore, never joined up with the proposed League of Nations. The Senate was controlled at that time by Republicans under the direction of Henry Cabot Lodge, but Wilson would not give these Republicans a voice over in Paris and would not agree to the proposed changes that Lodge offered. The main point of disagreement had to do with the League of Nations and whether the creation of it would lower the power that Congress already had when it came to declaring war. In 2006, several historians stated that Wilson's failure to create the League of Nations and get the Treaty of Versailles ratified was that 4th worst mistake ever made by a President in United States history (Marston, 1981).

Wilson also faced a great deal of political pressure, because other nations were very unhappy with many issues related to the end of the war. There was also the issue of the punishment of Germany, because most of the nations that were involved in the war believed that Germany had really been the country that started the war. This meant that Germany had to defend itself against the blame and work to avoid punishment by other nations that would not buy into the idea that Germany did not start the War. While Germany was dealing with this problem, other nations were still holding onto the desire to punish Germany, not only for starting the war but also for many of the difficulties that Germany had shown in the past when it came to working with other nations. Because of this, there was strong political pressure to see that Germany was punished in some degree, not just for Wilson but for the leaders of many other countries as well.

France was one of the allies that was involved in the war, fighting along with Great Britain, Japan, Italy, and other countries. While France involved itself in the War, the country had ideas about what it wanted from the war and the furthering of position so that it could become a stronger nation. France has traditionally struggled with being seen as a weak nation, both politically and militarily, and the lack of punishment of Germany by France would continue to make the nation appear weak. However, the need for retaliation had to be weighed against the possibility of retaliating against Germany and then being blamed for "re-starting the war" or causing further problems (Barnes, 1970).

The French had a lot of resentment toward Germany, and they wanted to punish them for this. This was the main desire that the country had as it moved into the war and even as the war was drawing toward its close. Germany was a strong nation from a military standpoint and France was not, which created problems between the two nations. They also disagreed on many issues that involved politics, trade, and other concerns. This disagreement created problems for both nations, and were part of the problems that led to the beginning of the war. However, France still felt that the war was not enough, and that Germany had not been punished thoroughly for problems - either real or perceived - that it had caused for France and other nations in the past (Barnes, 1970).

France faced many hardships. It was often not taken seriously, especially when it came to fighting, as a nation, and there were problems with politics and trade agreements as well. The country was struggling at the time the war was started, and it also struggled during the war. This brought other nations into the problem, and eventually created WWI. Even after the war ended, the nation of France was seen as weak. Because it was viewed in this way, France was not seen as being that important of an ally, and this caused it further problems, keeping it from strengthening its position (Barnes, 1970).

The country of Great Britain was also involved in WWI. It joined forces with other allied nations in the desire to force Germany to give in and allow for the other countries to return to normal. Originally, it was Russia and Germany that were fighting over an incident in the Balkans, but this soon escalated with the attack on France. When Great Britain threw its hat into the ring, it was not because of the conflict among other nations, but because Germany invaded Belgium.

When Great Britain entered the war, it was due to the Belgium issue. The country of Great Britain therefore worked to protect Belgium and remove German troops from that country. This was important to Great Britain, but more important than Belgium was the desire to ensure that Germany was not allowed to simply take over and cause further problems for all of the nations that had banned together and belonged to the allied forces (Marston, 1981).

Like France, Great Britain also faced many hardships during and after the war. The most serious one for… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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