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The Causes of World War

Introduction. World War 1 started in 1914 and ended in 1918. In this essay, I am going to explain the short and long-term causes and how they led to the start of World War 1. The war was mainly between The Triple Entente, which was Britain, France and Russia, and The Triple Alliance, which was Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. All of the cases fall under 5 main categories: Nationalism, Alliances, Militarism, Imperialism and Ideology.

Alliances. In 1839, Britain signed an agreement with Belgium promising to help them out if they were ever to be attacked by Germany. This falls under alliances because Britain was promising to stick by Belgium if Germany invaded- so this is a friendship group amongst two different countries. I think this was one of the most important causes of World War 1. It led to the start of the war because, in 1905, Germany created the Schlieffen Plan, which contained their strategy for fighting Russia and France because, in the event of a war, Germany would be surrounded by these enemy countries. So Germany wanted to invade France so they could then focus entirely on fighting Russia, but in order to invade France they had to go through Belgium, and because Britain had promised to help Belgium if they were attacked, Britain then went and attacked Germany.

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Germany wasn’t happy about this and this was one of the first sparks of war. In 1882, Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary formed a military alliance called The Triple Alliance. They promised that if either one of them was attacked, they would help each other. This meant that they were preparing for war and that they were forming a bigger empire. This then, in 1907, lead Britain, France and Russia to sign The Triple Entente, which again meant if either of them were attacked, they would help each other. So they were almost competing for a bigger empire. This falls under alliances because the countries are joining together and helping each other. I think this was quite an important cause of World War 1 because the countries were starting to split up and take sides. This meant that they were getting ready for a war.

Militarism. Ever since the 1880s there had been growing rivalry between the Germans and the British for territories in Africa. Towards the end of the century, Germany was openly challenging Britain’s once superior navy. Both countries competed with each other in trying to build bigger and better battleships. In 1906, Britain launched the first Dreadnought, which was a modern, effective warship that could carry bigger guns than any other ship of that time and with a speed of 22 knots, it was a lot quicker and it dominated the worlds navies for 40 years. This wasn’t a good sign to the other countries because as it seemed that Britain was preparing itself for a war and that they were a step further.

So, in 1907, Germany launched their own version of the Dreadnought, called, The Nassau Class. This was a sign that Germany was already trying to compete with Britain and Britain wasn’t happy about this. Although I don’t think this was one of the most important causes of World War 1, I think it leads to war because Germany and Britain were already competing to get the best military. Militarism was when people believed that having the best military made your country the best, therefore, in the event of a war whoever had the biggest military would have the bigger advantage. This led to more arguing between the two countries.

Imperialism. In 1871, Germany took the Border region of Alsace-Lorraine from the French control. France wanted revenge for this because it had been part of Eastern France since 921, during the reign of King Louis the German and later became part of the Roman Empire. This, therefore, played an important part in World War 1 because Alsace-Lorraine became a geopolitical prize between the French and German powers- with harsh and rash actions taken by both parties. France was eager to regain this territory and finally did in 1919 at the end of World War 1, at the treaty of Versailles.

Russia wanted a bigger empire. It was an enemy of Austria-Hungary and wanted to help countries in the Austro-Hungarian Empire to become more independent. It hoped to gain more land from this. This hostility had begun in 1914 when Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated by a Serb student. Austria declared war on Serbia and Russia, a Slav nation, went to Serbia’s aid. Germany supported its ally, Austria. In doing so it was also hoping to increase the size of its empire so it could provide more raw materials for its industry and to therefore increase its power.

Russia had the same idea. It also wanted a bigger empire and thought if it helped countries in the Austro-Hungarian Empire to become more independent it might be able to gain more land. So both Germany and Russia had alternative motives. Britain had hoped to stay out of this war but when the Germans invaded Belgium- the British recalled their Treats of London (1839) by which they had agreed to protect Bulgarian independence and so what started by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand led to the most important chain of events that led to World War 1.

Nationalism. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was weak and the different nationalities within it wanted independence. Austria wanted to stop its empire from falling apart because the Austro-Hungarian Empire was built up from different nationalities who all wanted their independence. It was easy for a country like Russia to gather momentum- they had a lot of support from within and Austria was left with no choice but to fight if it wanted to keep its empire from falling apart. Germany also saw a weak country whom it thought would be easy to obtain in coming to its ally against the Russians. It slowly engulfed Austria and many true Austrians resented this. Nationalism may be the only reason Austria needed to fight but Austria itself seemed to be a key factor in the build-up to World War 1 as both Germany and Russia saw a good opportunity to obtain more land.

Ideology. Serbia wanted to unite all the Slav people in Austria, in doing so they hoped to accumulate some of Austria’s land and so when a Serb student assassinated Archduke Ferdinand and Austria declared war on Serbia, Russia had the perfect alibi to help their fellow Slav nation and declare war on Austria and in doing so cover up their real intention- grabbing a piece or all of Austria. This was quite important as it was the second link in the chain of events that led to the start of World War 1. Conclusion. The war was caused by lots of small links combining together to create a chain reaction. These links i.e. both Germany and Russia wanting more land, past resentments (Germany taking Alsace-Lorraine), the Germans wanting to prove they were as powerful as other countries (Militarism), Austria trying to keep its empire together (Nationalism), the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and past treaties being honoured (Treaty of London, 1839).

When we actually study the beginning of the chain- the first link was set in place by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, by a Serb student in Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914. When Austria declared war on Serbia, Russia, a fellow Slav nation, went to Serbia’s side and Germany supported its ally, Austria and France were allied with Russia. When the Germans invaded Belgium, Britain joined the war because of the Treaty of London- therefore Britain declared war on Germany. World War 1 had begun. So in my conclusion, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was the most important factor of World War 1.

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