World War 1 was the first war in history that had most of the world dragged into conflict against one another. There were many causes of WW1 the main one that actually started it was a short term cause, the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austria-Hungary Empire. But there were a lot of long term causes that were building up to war like the arms race with military sections such as navy being built up especially between Britain and Germany.
Also Imperialism was a great cause because Germany had only just unified in comparison to the rest of the world they wanted to get themselves on the map in regards to some colies but there wasn’t much free space rest in the world, also there was the alliance systems that actually pulled everyone into the war. Nationalism also played a role, basically its patriotism so it cone sides with the alliance system especially to do with Britain and all its colonies such as Australia and Canada, they join the war because of the alliance but also because Britain is basically there mother so even though they were independent they still were going to help out their oldest and greatest ally at that time.
The only short term cause was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28 1914, this act committed by Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo; Bosnia was the match that started the fuse that led to war. The reason for this assassination was mainly because he and his group wanted to break free of the Austria-Hungary Empire and have an independent Yugoslavia. This caused the spark of the war because Austria-Hungary found out that Serbia helped to provide some equipment and weapons. So they decided to teach Serbia a lesson by going to war with them and were planning on crushing them but they couldn’t because Serbia was allied with Russia but they did anyway pulling there ally, Germany, in and causing the whole conflict to kick off. The death of one royal family member and the actions of one man to commit that murder ended up getting approximately 16 million people killed in the process.
The arms race then ensued when Germany started to build its navy in compaction with Britain use 4,532,000 tonnes of iron and other materials and had 63 separate Dreadnoughts built. Those figures were just for the dreadnoughts that does not include other ships like destroyers and torpedo boats. That shows the pure magnitude of the want that Germany had to out-class and over power the amazing and massive British Navy that had been dominate in the oceans of the world for hundreds of years. There is a reason for the saying “Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves.” The whole arms race was because Germany wanted to become the world power over Britain and to do that they needed a navy but they couldn’t really build massive ships in secret so the British found out and started to up there navy power as well, to stay ahead.
One of the main ways they did that was by introducing the HMS Dreadnought; it was a new design that was faster and stronger than any other ship that had been built to date. It was launched on the 10th of February 1906 starting a new class of ships, the Dreadnought class. The whole naval arms race was a product of Germany’s imperialism and want to become a major world power but because they had only unified in 1871 they didn’t have much of a chance to get many colonies but they got a few and needed a navy to defend them but they had other plans on what to do next.
There was also an arms race on land/ sky but it was no were near as large or cost as much because ships are a lot bigger and more expensive. But ever since wright brothers flew their first plane the military was interested in using them as weapons and they did, Biplanes made their combat debut during WW1 and it was the first time battles had taken to the skies and there was more than just ground forces to consider when planning out tactics. Also it was during but there was also the invention of the Tank or as it were first called Land ships.
Imperialism was a major stir between the European powers as they were all trying to get more colonies and more land, but during this time Germany still wasn’t Germany it was Prussia and because they unified late they didn’t have a chance to colonies the world but they did do it in time to participate in the scramble for Africa and its resources. The reason for it being a part of the build up to WW1 was that Germany was envious of the rest
of the European powers and how many colonies they possessed, especially Britain.
This might not seem that important but to be a world power you needed influence around the world or a lot of land (like Russia) but Germany had neither but the wanted to be conceded a world power but they couldn’t really because there was not much land left that the Germans could Colonise. Germany was also involved in the Morocco crisis because they wanted equal economic benefits from Morocco including Morocco’s natural resources. This whole situation was a big problem between the European power and who would control Morocco.
Nationalism is just patriotism on an extreme level, during the early 1900s’ all powers in Europe had their populations tricked because they all thought their ideologies were the best and their army could crush any opponent. Basically the major powers thought they were the biggest and the best. This was especially important between Russia and Germany the main reason Germany agree to support Austria-Hungary is because the tension between Russia and Germany was building. But because of nationalism was so strong in Germany they thought, well war is inevitable so we may as well crush them now. But Russian people had the same idea.
On the outbreak of war Germanys mobilised with the strength of 3.8 million in there general army compared to Russia’s 5.25 million. You can see that Russia’s military was a lot bigger but Germany had it going through their minds that they could win anyway, even though on the outbreak they sent most of their troops towards France to destroy them quickly, that was the plan anyway. The whole reason most empires/ countries got involved was because they thought their armies were so amazing that their contribution would end the war in under a year, which was not true because of the stalemate that old tactics with new equipment caused, because as soon as machine guns were introduced trench warfare was outdated.
The alliances were the main long term cause of WW1 they are what brought everyone into the war making it a world war, because it involved most of the world. The first treaty that was called upon was Serbia calling on Russia because of the treat from Austria-Hungary and Serbia could definitely not stand up on its own to such a large empire such as Austria-Hungary. There was no signed treaty but Russia wanted to keep the peace in the Buckland’s area and to do that they need to mobilise their military. And the mobilising of Russia’s military marked the start of many chain reactions of treaties/ alliances that would be called upon that cause one assassination to turn into the First World War. The Duel Alliance was the defence agreement between Austria-Hungary and Germany it was brought in, in case Russia attacked which was most likely at the point when the treaty was signed in 1879. Also ironically it was signed to limit war but it did the exacted opposite.
But even though it was called upon for an offensive movement it was still defensive from Russia because Austria-Hungary invaded Serbia cause the Russian’s to move there army towards Austria-Hungary so they called for support from Germany and they got it. These were the first two alliances call upon and they started the First World War. The Franco-Russian Alliance was between Russia and France it was mainly to contain the threat of Germany because if Germany decaled war on either of them they would have to fight on two fronts because France and Russia were right next to Germany but on opposite geographical sides. It was signed in 1836 and its purpose was to dissuade Germany it worked for a while but ultimately it failed and Germany declared war on both of them. The Treaty of London was signed 1839 and its point was to recognise and guarantee Belgium’s independence and Neutrality.
Because it was so old Germany called it The Scrape of Paper and when Germany planned to disregard Belgium’s neutrality by going through Belgium’s boarders to invade France they expected no one to care or act upon it. Not only was this seen as war mongering but Britain stayed true to their word to Belgium and got involved in the war because of that. And with the entry of Britain brought all her allies from her colonies; Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa. With that most of the world was involved and it truly had become a World War.
Then finally there was America. America was not obliged to join the war at any point by a military alliance but as soon as Germany announced unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917 trying to restrict shipping to Britain and force them to surrender by starving them American shipping was in danger because America shipped food and other goods to help them in the war effort indirectly. But with their shipping naval personnel in danger they didn’t have much of a choice to declare war on Germany thus America entered the war.
In conclusion there were many reasons for WW1 to start but most of them had been building up for years behind the scenes it just took the match of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand to light the fuse and the world exploded into chaos and destruction with roughly 16 million people dead, 20 million wounded, and 8 million missing it was one of the biggest wars in the worlds history.
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The First World War, Robin Lobban, Oxford University Press
Text book from school, page 91 (white)
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