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Why Did War Break Out In 1914?

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There are several reasons why war broke out in 1914. Reasons such as revenge and jealousy influenced the outbreak of war majorly and in the important events leading up to the war such as the Moroccan crises, the Bosnian crisis and the Balkan Wars, the concepts Nationalism, Militarism, Imperialism and Alliances were seen. These events could either be categorised into short term or long term causes. An example of a short term cause that led to the outbreak of war in 1914 is the Assassination of Franz Ferdinand, an example of a long term cause would be the Franco-Prussian war. Nationalism was the main drive of all the other concepts that helped the outbreak of war in 1914. Nationalism is the strong belief that your country is better than others and this led to people being imperialistic. Imperialism is the desire to build or extend ones empire or influence to benefit the main country or mother country. To do this, a country needed military forces, and this is what Militarism is.

With all this power and strength among different countries in Europe, countries allied themselves with other countries to gain a sense of protection and safety. A long term cause of the outbreak of war in 1914 would be the Franco-Prussian war in 1870. This war showed the major concepts of Nationalism, Imperialism and Militarism and developed a revengeful spirit in the French Empire for Germany because Prussia and other parts of Germany took over two provinces of France, Alsace and Lorraine. This also led to the imperialistic act of Germany uniting and becoming one German empire ruled by Prussian leader, Kaiser Wilhelm I. France was bitter due to the recent loss in battle, and Bismarck who was a Prussian Prime minister and the first German Chancellor was committed to keeping the peace in Europe. A rising France with a powerful European ally scared Bismarck, so his foreign policy of peace was mainly to isolate France. To achieve this he had to keep in good terms with Austria-Hungary and Russia.

This is one of the main reasons why he formed the Dreikaiserbund (League of the three Emperors) in 1873. This was an alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia. He also formed this to try reduce tensions between Austria-Hungary and Russia over the Balkans so a war would not occur. This was the first act of alliances leading up to the war. Tension between Austria-Hungary and Russia could not be contained, a dispute in the Balkans destroyed the Dreikaiserbund alliance. German leader Kaiser Wilhelm acted on this by forming the Dual Alliance in 1879 between themselves and Austria-Hungary, which later became the Triple Alliance in 1882, when Italy joined. Alarmed and threatened by this central block, in 1894 France made an alliance with Russia, and in 1904 France made an agreement with Britain called the entente cordial. This was a friendly relationship, not a formal alliance, but a promise to work together.

The countries of Europe thought that the alliance system would act as a deterrent or preventative of war but in fact, it tied the countries together so that if one country went to war, other countries would get dragged in as well. The First Moroccan crisis in 1906 showed the concepts Nationalism and Imperialism and was a long term cause of the outbreak of war in 1914. This is because it intensified the tension between Germany and France and started to develop a tension between Britain and Germany because Britain saw Germanys move to own a port in Morocco as a scheme to build a full-blown naval base. They were especially alarmed by this being placed in Morocco because it was nearby important trade routes and Gibraltar which was a British fortress that played an important part in Britain’s military strategy as it was a stronghold for Britain’s naval power. This move made by Germany also led to the entente of Britain and Russia in 1907 which ultimately formed the ‘Triple Entente’.

With rivalry among the Triple Alliance (Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary) and the new Triple Entente (Britain, France and Russia) both alliances were wanting to build their armed forces up because they thought that a military solution could solve their foreign relation problems. This is also known as the concept Militarism. The Bosnian crisis in 1908 is a good example of the concept Militarism (it also shows the concepts Imperialism, Nationalism and Alliances) and led to the assassination at Sarajevo because Serbia was furious about the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina because they contained Serbs that Serbia had hoped to rule. It also caused Russia to call a conference and be humiliated because France and Britain did not support them. Militarism was shown when Germany backed Austria-Hungary’s annexation by threatening war unless Russia accepted the annexation. The tension between Germany and France increased even more over the Agadir Incident or the second Moroccan Crisis in 1911.

This crisis was mainly an act of Nationalism and Militarism and also contained the concepts Imperialism and Alliances. Germany and France were rivals in business over in Morocco and sending a gunboat called the ‘Panther’ to the Moroccan part of Agadir (hence the incident name) to demand for compensation due to French gains was one of the worst things they possibly could have done. This is because Britain got involved and British Chancellor ‘Lloyd George’ basically said in a speech that he didn’t want to see any of his allies be pushed around and had fleets prepared for war. This was long term cause of the outbreak of war in 1914. Another long term cause of the outbreak of war in 1914 would be the first Balkan War of 1912. This war was an act of Militarism, Imperialism, Nationalism and Alliances and led to bitterness between Serbia and Austria-Hungary.

Tension between the Balkan league (Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia) and Turkey also increased. The Second Balkan war in June 1913 caused war amongst the Balkan League and could be categorised as a short term cause of the outbreak of war in 1914. The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand is the most important short term cause of the outbreak of war in 1914 for it was the trigger of World War One. The act of assassinating the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary occurred on 28th of June 1914 and was a nationalistic act of a Serbian freedom fighter gang called the ‘Black Hand’ gang. They committed this act because Ferdinand wanted to give concessions to the South Slavs which would make it harder to create a ‘Greater Serbia’ and also because they were unhappy about the treatment of their people under the Austria-Hungarian government.

This event lead to the start of World War One on July 28th 1914 when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. This lead to Germany declaring war on Russia and France. Britain declaring war on Germany, Austria-Hungary declaring war on Russia, and Serbia declaring war on Germany. All the events leading up to the outbreak of war in 1914 were like dominoes, when one got knocked over, the next one did then the next one and so on. So one event lead to another. But when The Assassination at Sarajevo occurred, all the tension built up between rival countries couldn’t be bottled up so all their tension was released. The events leading up to the war were mainly driven by Nationalism, Imperialism, Militarism and Alliances. This is why the outbreak of war occurred in 1914. By Andre Brooking

The Road to Sarajevo, Harry Mills, Graham Bean, John Pipe, 1996 History Department, Origins of WW1 NCEA Lv2 revision booklet http://www.historyhome.co.uk/europe/bismarck.htm
http://www.markedbyteachers.com/gcse/history/why-did-war-break-out-in-1914-211362.html http://www.markedbyteachers.com/gcse/history/why-did-ww1-break-out-in-1914.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_von_Bismarck

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