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Kaiser William II – Cause Of World War I Essay, Research Paper

Kaiser William II

“Kaiser William II of Germany, 1888-1918, by his personality

and actions, contributed to the outbreak of World War I,”


William II came to power prematurely, on the death of his father, at

the age of 29. He lacked discipline, was arrogant and bad-tempered.

He lacked political experience and maturity and was influenced in his

youth by Hinzpeter who instilled in him the idea that a monarch should

be independent and follow orders from none.

It was obvious to all who were politically aware in Germany in 1890

that a clash would occur between the Chancellor Bismarck, and the

Kaiser. When this clash did occur it was over the issue of German

policy towards Russia. William favoured outright hostility towards

Russia and when he expressed this belief to Bismarck he was met

with disillusionment and disbelief. Bismarck realised that twenty years

of his work was about to be undone by this impetuous imbicile. William

has begun on his road to distruction for Europe.

After the collapse of the renewed Dreikaiserbund in 1884, Bismarck

recognised that there was a possibility that the isolated Russia would

join with France who was in a similar situation. He recognised that this

would be disaster for Germany as it would pose the constant threat of

a two-front war. However, Bismarck convinced Russia to sign the

Reinsurance Treaty and once again managed to insure Germany was

safe. However, in 1890 when the treaty was due for renewal William,

maintaining that his position “having been imposed on me from

heaven.” Allowed him to let this treaty lapse. He worsened the

situation by refusing to let German bankers makes loans to Russian

banks. French bankers took their place and in 1894 the Franco-Russian

alliance fused the two together. For Bismarck, this was the ultimate

blunder and Germany was faced with a nightmare war.

William then adopted a policy of “Weltpolitik”, that is now that

Germany was a European power he wanted to make it a World power

also. He hoped to do this by expanding Germany’s number of colonies

and by getting involved in international crises between other powers.

However, this policy was to bring Germany into conflict with Britain

and hence alienate a potential French ally. This began when he

announced the construction of the Berlin-Baghdad railway. Baghdad

was contained within a British Sphere of influence and was suspicious

of the Kaiser?s actions.

The second and more serious incident which turned the British against

the Germans was the Kaiser’s interference in South Africa. After the

defeat of Cecil Rhodes in the Jameson Raid in 1895 by the Boers,

William sent a telegram to Paul Kringer, the Boer leader,

congradulating them on their achievement. The British saw this as a

blatent interfernce in what they considered was a internal affair. For

them, this proved that the Kaiser was a dangerous figure mwho posed

a serious threat to the balance and stability which they wanted to

maintain in Europe. Thus, when the Kaiser decided to build up military

armaments, they felt they could not allow him to surpass their army


Admiral von Tirpitz, a powerful military figure, felt that if Germany

were to become a world power she needed a strong Navy. William

was easily persuaded of this because of his love of pomp and parades

and set about buiding up a Navy. The British sawm this as a war

threat and pointed out that “the Royal Navy is a dire necessity- the

German fleet a luxury” The bringing into operation of the dreadnought

made all other ships obsolite because of its power and this a Naval

Rce began between the two powers. Huge bitterness and suspicion

lingered between the two and by 1914 the two were bitter enemies and

Britain used the meek excuse of Germany marching on Belgium as an

excuse to declare war on Germany.

William’s wanting to get involved in international eruses was also a

cause of World War I, because of how hje failed to achieve anything

at these conferences but to alienate other powers. He demanded an

internationa; meeting on the question of French influence in Morocco

thinking that opther countries would stand with him. However, France

and Britain together crushed him and his first diplomatic defeat was

one not easily forgotten. This 1906 confernece also brought France

and Britain together and after the Entente Cordiate was signedthey

began drawing up military plans. The Morrocan Crisis rose again in

1911 and once again the Kaiser was diplomatically humiliated. By his

alienation of other powers he was lining up the sides for World War I.

William?s humiliating defeats were beginning to be critisized at home.

The necessity of a war became apparent. Count von Schlieffen drew

up a plan as to how Germany was to cope with the two front war. The

plan was to annilulate France and then turn all forces to Russia who it

was thought would take longer to mobilise. The army numbers were

increased and improved weaponary was developed. 90% of the

German budget went on military and naval build up. William?s

impetuous personality had now made it necessary for Germany to go

to war if he was to survive and she was to prosper.

Between William’s years of power, a great number of alliances build

up around his own Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria and

Italy. The Triple Entente between Russia, Britain and France

markedthe bringing together of the Anglo-French Entente, 1904, the

Anglo-Russian alliance, 1907, and the Franco- Russian alliance, 1894.

In his twenty four years in power he had managed to make true the

ultimate nightmare of the ‘iron chancellor’ Bismarck. When Austria

asked Germany if she would support her if she were to attack Serbia,

and the Kaiser gave his full support, war was imminent.