Sometime in end of March 2009, I casually brought up the issue of World Wars with one of my friends. That made me realised that although I had read about World War I when I was younger, I did not quite understand the causes behind it. As such, the urge to satisfy my curiosity got me to pick up a few books on the subject when I was at the library last weekend.
One of the books that I had borrowed and read was Stewart Ross' The Causes of World War I. While I realised that the causes of World War I were actually pretty complex, the book did help give me a better appreciation of the causes of the World War.
The book gave a quick summary of the causes of World War I in its eighth chapter. Two long-term causes contributed to the building up of tension between the various countries, and formed the background to the war. They were:
1) The great European powers were at rivalry with each other for the domination of Europe.
2) The mistrust and suspicion between the great powers led the various countries to set up networks of alliances. "This make a limited war almost impossible".
The immediate trigger to the World War I was identified to be the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June 1914, Sunday. This trigged a crisis between Austria and Russia. Eventually, it set off a chain reaction of events which eventually lead to World War I.
My learning points from the book were as follow:
1) Resentment and mistrust, if not dealt with properly and early enough, can eventually lead to greater conflicts.
2) I personally felt that it is important that power needs to lie in the hands of the right people who are wise and compassionate to make effective choices that will benefit the people, or at least not endanger the people.
There is much that we can learn from history.
This book is actually intended for high-school students. Then again, it fit well with my reading needs and enabled me to appreciate the causes of World War I in a nutshell with its fairly accessible presentation and language. I finished reading the book within three days despite a very busy schedule where I generally only had the time to read while travelling on the MRT train.