World War I was unlike World War II where a single country’s actions against its neighbors caused the war to break out. The causes of World War I are attributed to many significant events. Some of the causes of World War I were political alliances and changes in the balance of powers in the world, especially in Europe. However, the very initial event that triggered World War I was when the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated. The causes of World War I can be summed up in the acronym MAIN: Militarism, Alliances, Imperialism, and Nationalism.
Militarism, Alliances, Imperialism, and Nationalism
In the late 1800’s, Europe witnessed one of the biggest military competitions in history. Each European country wanted to have a stronger military force than its neighbors. This resulted in an environment that lacked trust in Europe. One country would make an alliance with another and then have another secret alliance with a third country.
All of these alliances and militarism were driven by a concept that the world believed at the time which was “war is good to make nations rise above others.” The philosophy is that one country will grow its wealth and power through invading and controlling other countries. Seeing that this concept helped Britain and France build huge empires, both Russia and Germany wanted to do the same. This started many big conflicts as well as alliances between European countries.
Alliances before World War I
In 1881, Germany made an agreement with Austria-Hungary and Italy to protect each other against any attack that may come from France. At the same time, Italy went to make a secret alliance with France not to protect Germany if the French were to attack it. On the other hand, in 1892, France made an alliance with Russia and another one with Great Britain in 1904. Of course, this triple alliance represented a threat to the Germans.
The assassination of the Archduke
All of these alliances and secret alliances left Europe boiling. Finally, everything exploded when the Archduke of Austria-Hungary was killed in Sarajevo. Believing that the Serbs were behind this assassination, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in July 1914.
Wars breaking out everywhere!
Once Austria-Hungary started attacking Serbia, Russia, as a powerful ally of Serbia, declared war on Austria-Hungary. In turn, Germany, Austria-Hungary’s ally, declared war on Russia. In the process, Germany decided to invade Belgium and declare war on France. At this point, France’s ally, Great Britain, declared war on Germany. The First World War was officially underway.
The responsibility of World War I
Despite the fact that it was the third country to join the war, historians blame Germany for World War I as it had the most to gain from starting the war. Germany was very threatened by the Alliance between France and Russia. The Germans believed that if they started the war very quick and unexpectedly, they would be able to take over France and win the war. Unfortunately for them, Germany was defeated in World War I and had to endure very severe consequences.
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