How did the actions and personality of Kaiser Wilhelm II help bring about World War I?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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One aspect of Kaiser Wilhelm's personality that contributed to the outbreak of World War One was his intense militarism. The Kaiser was particularly obsessed with naval power, and devoted a great deal of German resources to developing a navy that could eclipse that of Great Britain. Many historians claim that the spirit of militarism that pervaded Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was a major factor in the onset of the war. Along these same lines, the Kaiser was obsessed with appearing strong and brave, characteristics that he and many of his contemporaries associated with masculine honor. When the crisis broke out in the Balkans in the summer of 1914, he was especially receptive to his more warlike advisers, and urged Austria-Hungary to take a hard line against Serbia. He also adopted a bellicose stance toward Russia which did little to defuse the conflict. Of course, there were larger forces at work, but the personality of Wilhelm II (and, for that matter, many of the leaders of the other nations involved) helped bring about the outbreak of WWI.

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