To What Extent Was the Nature of the Schlieffen Plan Responsible for the Outbreak of a General European War in August 1914?

840 WordsMay 1, 20154 Pages
To what extent was the nature of the Schlieffen Plan responsible for the outbreak of a general European war in August 1914? The Schlieffen plan, completed in 1905 was a vital piece of evidence that helps to explain the true cause of the First World War. However it can become unclear how it affected the European powers involved in the conflict when the nature of the plan is considered. There are arguments both for the plan being utilised, as an offensive manoeuvre, suggested by events such as the intention to invade both Belgium and France. There are also arguments for the plan as a means of defence, suggested by Russian mobilisation and fear of encirclement. In source one, A.J.P. Taylor explains, ‘One essential part of the Schlieffen plan was to go through Belgium’. When this part of the plan is highlighted it suggests that the nature of the plan was highly aggressive and caused reaction from the rest of Europe. The invasion of Belgium broke the treaty of London, meaning the European powers who had signed the treaty were immediately forced in to action. The invasion of Belgium also nullifies the argument that the plan was deployed for defensive purposes as it was the French who posed a threat while Belgium remained neutral. This point can be furthered as Taylor explains ‘the moment that the Germans decided on mobilisation, they decided for war’ which suggests that the Germans knew their deliberately aggressive actions, such as invading the protected Belgium, had the potential to initiate wide scale war amongst European powers but still invaded. Taylor also stresses ‘that there could be no delay between mobilisation and war’ and in general emphasises the rush that the Germans had to take to ensure they were not trapped in a two-front war with France and Russia that they could not afford over an extended period of time. Taylor’s argument, which heavily uses war by
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