Causes Of World War 1
Table of Contents
In 1914, World War I started. History has classified the causes of this war into long-term and short-term. The long-term causes included imperialism, alliances, nationalism and militarism. The short-term reason that sparked the Great War was the murder of Franz Ferdinand. All the long-term factors of the conflict were relevant, but probably the most influential one was militarism, i.e. the growth of enormous and massive armed forces.
Long-term factors of World War I
At the beginning of the 20th century, Germany possessed the most substantial and extensive army worldwide. Britain prevailed on the oceans, and both countries were frantically striving to surpass each other in both respects. Competition between countries with prime armed forces created conflict and tension, instilling suspicion and hatred between nations and alliances. This conflict was the most significant, and both sides had no qualms about engaging in war against each other. Other leading European countries aimed to enhance their military power through conscription, as well as through new methods of warfare. This led to the whole of Europe being tense and prepared to launch a war at any moment. This rush to expand armed power was fuelled by nationalism and the cultivation of patriotism.
Nationalism originated in Europe in the 1800s and contributed to the establishment of alliances between states that retained common cultures and shared the same languages. Nationalism sparked many significant upheavals between countries that could have been resolved peacefully. For instance, Germany felt threatened by the size and strength of the British navy, and they didn’t deal with it diplomatically, they expanded the strength of their own navy, and in return Britain obviously felt pressured and developed more. The British distrust of the Germans grew into hatred and made the British believe even more that their own country was superior to Germany or any of its allies. Mistrust and competition were also exacerbated by imperialism, the expansion of authority and impact through great empires.
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In the 19th century, the British Empire was the empire where “the sun never set”. The British Empire controlled the colonies of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, as well as many colonies in Asia and other regions around the world. This extensive empire disturbed other states, particularly Germany. As Germany began to colonize regions worldwide, Britain and its allies started to feel threatened by the new enemy, which caused even more pressure on the international scene. This extensive empire disturbed other states, particularly Germany. Nationalism established alliances that, together with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, served as the pretext for the outbreak of the Great War.
The primary military alliances of that period were the Triple Alliance and the Entente. The members of the first alliance were Germany, Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the second were France, Russia and Great Britain accordingly. The Triple Alliance was founded in 1882 and in return in 1907 the Entente was established as a protection against any enmity from the Triple Alliance. There was deep intensity and mistrust between these two alliances, which was one of the principal causes of World War I. The treaty between the alliances implied that if another country mobilized against or invaded one of their allies, the others would assist them in the fight. These arrangements, as well as the murder of Franz Ferdinand, were the impetus for the Triple Alliance and the Entente to start a war against each other.
The pretext for the outbreak of the World War I
Franz Ferdinand was murdered on June 28, 1914. He was the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. He was slaughtered by a representative of the Serbian terrorist group Gavrilo Princip. Austria-Hungary accused Serbia of the death of the heir and proclaimed war against Serbia. It was then that alliances entered the game. Germany allied with Austria-Hungary and Russia with Serbia. When Russia rallied against Austria-Hungary, Germany issued an ultimatum to Russia. When Russia refused to stop, Germany announced war on Russia and shifted all its forces to Belgium to invade France (Russia’s ally) from the north, destroy the French troops, and then switch all its focus to Russia. This was recognized as the Schlieffen Plan. The incomplete part of this scheme was the fact that Germany did not consider Great Britain to help Belgium and proclaim war on them. And so it happened, the whole British Empire was at war with Germany and its allies. This marked the onset of World War I.
The four long-term causes of World War I — imperialism, nationalism, alliances, and militarism — served to bring all of Europe to the brink, and all countries harbored intense animosity toward each other. They fostered hatred, disputes and suspicion between countries and alliances. The slightest disturbance in any international relations could provoke war. The murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was that threshold, and his death set in motion an extended but swift series of events that led to the outbreak of World War I.