World War I

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 What factors contributed to World War I?

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The primary cause of World War I was the rise of Germany as a new world power and the concomitant decline of Great Britain. Periods of change in world power structures are always fraught with danger, as lesser states seek to exploit the vulnerabilities of fading world powers.

After the end of the Napoleonic War in 1815, Great Britain was the great winner, establishing itself far and wide as the world's feared superpower, with a vast empire and full control of the seas through its powerful navy. For a long time, nobody dared challenge it.

In 1870, however, the German states unified into one country, and Germany began almost immediately to flex its muscles. By the 1890s, crippled by the vastly expensive Boer War, Britain was beginning its decline (however, it would not pass the superpower baton to the US until 1945) and Germany was increasingly aching to make its move. Germany, particularly after the turn of the century, agitated the British with its aggressive naval buildup. No way were the...

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