As a result of German unity and increasing German nationalism, as well as various other causes, Germany began on what Kaiser Wilhelm II called a “new course” to earn its “place in the sun.” After 1871, Germany’s trade & industry increased vigorously, challenging & in some areas, even exceeding that of Great Britain, until then the premier industrial nation of Europe. A many-sided rivalry developed between Germany & Britain, intensifying when the sometimes-bellicose Wilhelm II assumed power and began building a strong, ocean-going navy.
Seeking to balance the rise of German power, Britain & France began to draw closer together diplomatically as the 20th century began. Germany, meanwhile, had allowed an implicit alliance with Tsarist Russia to lapse and faced ongoing French resentment over the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine which Germany had annexed in 1871. The perceived danger of “encirclement” by hostile nations began to loom in the minds of German leaders. These factors together formed some of the tinder which would ignite the outbreak of war in 1914. It is interesting to note, however, that all the ruling families of Europe were related to each other in some form or fashion. This led to many Europeans feeling that it was a family affair that they had been dragged into & forced to endure.
World War One is one of the most hotly contested issues in history; the complexity & number of theorized causes can be a major cause of confusion. One of the main reasons for this complexity is the long period over which this war’s tension built, beginning with the unification of Germany by Bismarck & escalating from there on. There is no doubt that Germany’s misguided foreign policy contributed to the outbreak of war, however, the extent to which it contributed is the contended issue.