The Arms Race

The Arms Race

Another very important cause of the War was the arms race that developed as a result of these nationalist rivalries.

There’s no better way of scaring your enemies than by demonstrating that you have bigger and better weapons in larger quantity than them, and so it’s unsurprising that the key powers, and in particular Britain and Germany, tried to outdo one another’s armed forces. Each time one country built a new battleship the other responded by building even more ships.

German Naval Laws

Arms Race In line with the imperial and military ambitions of the Kaiser, Germany passed several laws between the 1890s and the 1910s which were designed to make Germany’s navy larger than Britain’s through the construction of the largest and most modern warships.

The Dreadnought Crisis, 1909

In response to Germany’s naval expansion, the British government announced plans in 1909 to build four more dreadnoughts. When it did, the public were outraged. Why? Because four was not enough in their view. A campaign was launched for the number to be doubled.


Arms Race Germany also went to special efforts to build up its land army, and by 1914 had 8.5 million men available for military service. Spooked by the growing stature of the German army, France and Russia also made efforts to increase their troop levels.

With each new battleship or regiment made that a power, its enemies both expanded their own armed forces and also became more hostile towards them. As a result, we must see the atmosphere of hostility it created and the military resources it created as being another key cause of the war.