To What Extent Was Imperialism a Cause of the First World War?

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To what extent was imperialism a cause of the First World War? The First World War, was one of the most violent wars ever fought. Numerous historians worldwide have tried to understand what where the causes of this gruesome war. Marxist historians believed that the Great War was the result of the competition of capitalist businessmen. They argued that Imperialism played a major role in the war. Lenin stated that “Imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism”, this thesis was further supported by Emil Ludwig which stated that war was caused due to incapable leaders. On the other hand, many revisionist historians argue that the war was caused by nationalism, imperialism, militarism and the system of alliances. In Britain, the historian A.J.P. Taylor wrote a book called “The Struggle for Mastery in Europe”, in this book A.J.P. Taylor claimed that German ambitions were the cause of the war. All of these views have merit; however, while imperialism was one of the causes of World War 1, the Alliance system and militarism in the pre-war period were definitely the major causes of the war. The Marxist historian, Eric Hobsbawn, came up with a theory, the "zero-sum game" theory. This theory was applicable to World War One because it was an "age of total war", therefore the war was "zero-sum game". Zero-sum game means that any gains can only happen if someone loses. One of the reasons that he states that this war had no limits was because of the fact that these countries were "fighting for complete power." He argued that the war in 1914 was not an ideological war and in that moment “Politics and economics had fused”. He claimed that the war was fought as battle for supremacy. This statement goes back to the idea of being the number one, Germany wanted to be number one economically and at that time England was the most powerful country in Europe. Germany being a growing
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