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Causes That Lead to World War I

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  • Category: War

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On August 4th 1914, Britain declared war on Germany and the war lasted until November 11th 1918. There were a number of complicated reasons why the war broke out. This essay will explain that some causes were due to long term factors dating back many years.

One long term cause that lead to the outbreak of WWI was the rapidly increasing sense of nationalism that was spreading throughout Europe. You could see this by the growing number of rebellions and gangs that were forming around the continent, and most if not all of them were in places that were governed by a foreign or neighbouring power. One example of this was the arrival of the nationalist Black Hand gang which was formed in Bosnia. This country was ruled by the Austria-Hungarians and the people weren’t happy at that. They wanted freedom to do what they wanted, and this sense of pride even went to cause the trigger of WWI, assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Black Hand member Gavrilo Princip. Nationalism led to war because people were prepared to do anything for independence.

However, on the other side, the vast empires of Europe felt a growing sense of imperialism. This meant that they wanted to increase their land areas overseas to create bigger and better empires. Great powers like Germany and Austria had a lot of land, yet they wanted to conquer more and more. The countries wanted to expand their dominance over Europe. Both nationalism and imperialism were completely opposite, yet together they combined to be completely lethal. The result of this clash lead to the contact and combat of the nationalist peoples and the imperialist empires of Europe, WWI.

Another long-term cause of WWI was the arrival of war plans. The Germans made the Schlieffen Plan, and the French made Plan 17. Both these plans were supposedly infallible, but they both required a lot of work and luck. For example, the Schlieffen Plan was to invade France via the Belgium rails. Belgium was neutral in the war and was also the fastest way to France. Germany was also counting on the fact that the German troops themselves would get assembled quickly so that they could immediately make their way onto France. They planned to take over France in less than six weeks, just enough time they thought it would take the Russian troops assemble, due to their poor railways and the weather. They would go to Russia via the Belgium rails again and back through Germany to the border between Russia.

On the other hand, France’s Plan 17 was quite a lot simpler, but none the less it was difficult. The plan was that in the possible outbreak of war, France would make an all-out capture attempt on Alsace and Lorraine; French territories lost to Germany many years back. After the recapture, the French would cross the River Rhine and enter Germany. This plan, and also the Schlieffen Plan, required a lot of work and luck if it was going to succeed, and that is why it had a part in starting WWI; it made both sides pressured to make a move.

Another long term cause for the outbreak of war was the Alliances. The Alliances were mutual agreements between countries that they would aid each other in the case of war. Thus, under the alliance system, if a country was attacked it would call for help from another country in the agreement, and they had to oblige under the rules of the contract. This set off a chain reaction of countries joining a war to help so it could easily lead to a world war, as was the case in 1914.

First, Serbia got invaded by Austria, and they then called Russia for help. Russia started to aid the Serbia, so Germany, which was in cahoots with Austria, declared war with Russia. Russia then asked help from France and Britain who then respectively joined the war, due to the Triple Entente agreement. One by one, the countries got mixed up in the war. Though the alliance system had a lot of plus sides to it, the potential down sides could be devastating.

There were two major alliances at the time: The Triple Alliance (from 1882), and the Triple Entente (from 1907). The Triple Alliance involved Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy, and the Triple Entente included Britain, France and Russia. These six countries were regarded to be some of the most powerful in Europe. The pressure of having some of the largest empires in the world pitted against you in a war was quite unnerving and a bit mentally demanding. Their rivalry, enmity, and even fear through their respective alliances played a big part in causing the war. Also, the increased number of the army meant that the countries in the alliances became a bit more confident in themselves and thus became more likely to invade.

Moreover, there were also some short term causes that lead to the outbreak of war: Militarism, aka the Arms Race. This was the struggle between the two alliances, mainly Britain and Germany, to get ahead in the production of warships, soldiers, etc. Britain was in a desperate situation; the German navy fleet was growing considerably larger. The navy was probably the most valuable asset to the British. They had the largest in the world; they had to, in order to protect the vast overseas lands. This put a lot of pressure on the Brits, so they came up with a great solution: Dreadnought. This ship was magnificent, state of the art, putting previous warships out of date. It had an amazing firing range, and it was faster and bigger than any other ships before. On top of that, it was great for British propaganda. It inspired the hearts of the people and also struck fear in the Germans. The Arms Race helped start WWI because it put a lot of pressure on both sides: The Germans had the fear that the British would completely obliterate their navy, and the English fear was that a lot of time and money was taken on the Dreadnought; so will it really work?

Finally, the trigger of WWI; the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Coincidentally, both nationalism and imperialism had a big part to play in this, as mentioned briefly before. The Serbian based Black Hand group saw the arrival of the Archduke as an ideal way to further their main prospect, which was to attain freedom. Unfortunately, the outcome was not quite what they had expected. When Gavrilo Princip killed the Archduke and his wife, it gave the Austrians an ideal excuse to invade Serbia.

In conclusion, the main causes that started the First World War were the Alliances, Imperialism and Nationalism, Militarism, War Plans and finally the Assassination at Sarajevo. All these causes also link and interwine, for example

* Both Nationalism and Imperialism were the cause for the Assassination of the Archduke, which in turn was the trigger for WWI. This was because imperialist Austria was ruling Nationalist Bosnia so they clashed and that lead to the death of the Archduke.

* Also, the Alliances and the War Plans were interlinked because if not for the Alliances, the War Plans would not have been made in the way they were made. The Schlieffen Plan was to first go through Belgium then invade France, and then go back to attack Russia. Thus, if not for the Triple Entente Alliance, France could have been neutral and then the Schlieffen plan would not have been made to invade France.

* Furthermore, the Arms Race was also linked to the Alliances for the same reasons as explained in the paragraph above: If not for the Alliances, there would have been no enmity or hostility between Germany and Britain, so then there would have not been an Arms Race for them.

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