Imperialism a major factor in the First World War:
(1) Desire to Expand Empires– The underlying causes of the First World War were the rivalries and conflicts among the imperialist countries. Before 1870, the imperialist conquest of Asia and Africa was accompanied by conflicts between the imperialist countries. Sometimes the imperialists were able to come to ‘peaceful settlements’ and agree to divide a part of Aisa or Africa among themselves without resorting to the use of force against each other. At other times their rivalries created situations of war. Wars were generally avoided at the time because the possibilities of further conquest were still there. If an imperialist country was excluded from a certain area, it could find some other area to conquer. Sometimes wars did break out between imperialist countries as it happened, for instance, between Japan and Russia. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, the situation had changed. Most of Asia and Africa had already been divided up and further conquests could take place only by dispossessing some imperialist country of its colonies. Almost all the European nations had a keen longing for expanding their empires. Germany was particularly interested in the same. This aroused a conflict among them.
(2) Imperialistic Designs of Germany- Germany had made striding progress in industry, trade and commerce as a result of the industrial revolution. She needed new colonies to provide her with raw materials and to serve her as a market for the sale of her large scale and varied products. Most of Africa and Asia had already been divided among England, France, Russia and Holland etc. when Germany rose to power. It was not possible for Germany to set up her colonies without controlling the colonies of other imperial powers. It was possible only through the war.
(3) Cash in Imperialistic Interests- Like Germany, Italy had ambition in Tripoli in Africa, France longed for Morocco, Austria had her ambition in the Ottoman Empire, Russia had her eyes on Iran and Japan desired to control Tripoli in Africa. There was a bitter clash between their interests and ambitions. Hence a war or conflict among the imperialist countries was unavoidable.