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					                                         Causes of World War I

Be Prepared to Discuss the following questions!

    1.   What are the four main long-term causes of WWI?
    2.   What is the short-term cause of WWI?
    3.   What role did Otto Van Bismarck play in German Unification?
    4.   What was the result of the Franco-Prussian War?
    5.   What alliances did Bismarck establish? What was the purpose of these alliances?
    6.   How strong was the German/Russian/Austria-Hungarian alliance?

World War I (WWI), which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence
until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centered in Europe that
began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918. It involved all the world's great powers,
which were assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allies (centered around the Triple Entente) and the
Central Powers (originally centered around the Triple Alliance). More than 70 million military personnel,
including 60 million Europeans, were mobilized in one of the largest wars in history. More than 9 million
combatants were killed, largely because of great technological advances in firepower without
corresponding advances in mobility. It was the sixth deadliest conflict in world history.

It was a war that began with an assassination and ended with a series of revolutions (involving multiple
countries). The assassination on 28 June 1914 of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the
throne of Austria-Hungary, was the proximate trigger of the war. Long-term causes, such as imperialistic
foreign policies of the great powers of Europe, including the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian
Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire, the British Empire, France, and Italy, played a major
role. Ferdinand's assassination by a Yugoslav nationalist resulted in a Habsburg ultimatum against the
Kingdom of Serbia. Several alliances formed over the past decades were invoked, so within weeks the
major powers were at war; via their colonies, the conflict soon spread around the world. The four long-term
causes of the war were militarism, alliances, imperialism, and nationalism (MAIN).

Historical Background: The Unification of
Germany

Up until 1871 there was no united German state
or nation. The territory of Germany as we know it
today was instead broken up into small little
kingdoms. The biggest of these Kingdoms was
Prussia, which was in the North of Germany.

"By blood and iron."

Under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Prussia
defeated Austria (1866) and France (Franco-
Prussian War of1870) in wars that paved the way
for the formation of the German Empire under
Emperor Wilhelm I in 1871. Germany became a
federal state, with foreign and military policy
determined at the national level, but most other
policies remained the purview of the states.

The Franco-Prussian war marked the end of French military domination in Europe. The new German
Empire emerged as Europe’s foremost military power. Prussia dominated this new German state.
The war and its aftermath created great bitterness between the two countries and sowed the seeds for the
First World War. French resentment at the loss of Alsace-Lorraine and the desire for revenge dominated
French politics for fifty years.

Bismarck’s Alliances:

The key in Bismarck’s view to German interests lay in good relations with Russia and Austria. As he said
“you forget the importance of being a party of three on the European chessboard.” This would deprive
France of a potential ally.

This was a difficult task as Austria and Russia were rivals in the Balkans. The friendship with both,
Bismarck hoped, would reduce tensions between both over the Balkans.

Dreikaiserbund – A shaky alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia

Purpose: Bismarck wanted to diplomatically isolate France by allying with AH and Russia.The
Dreikaiserbund was an alliance in the latter part of the 19th century of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and
Russia, devised by German chancellor Otto von Bismarck. It aimed at neutralizing the rivalry between
Germany’s two neighbors (Russia and Austria-Hungary) and at isolating Germany’s enemy, France.

The first Dreikaiserbund was in effect from 1873 to 1875. A second one, formal and secret, was established
June 18, 1881, and lasted for three years. It was renewed in 1884 but lapsed in 1887. Both alliances ended
because of continued strong conflicts of interest between Austria-Hungary and Russia in the Balkans.

In 1890, when Wilhelm II becomes Kaiser of Germany, Austria and Russia were arguing over who should
control the Balkans. The Balkans was the name given to the area of Europe bordering Turkey. Turkey was
ruled the Balkans for centuries, but is now too weak to hold on to them (she became known as the "Sick
Man of Europe").

The argument between Austria and Russia about who should control the Balkans means that the
Dreikaiserbund is falling apart. Germany will have to choose whether to continue her friendship with
Austria, or with Russia.

Russia OR Austria-Hungary?

The Kaiser rejected the Russians and instead strengthened his ties with Austria and Italy (the "Triple
Alliance"). Why Austria-Hungary and not Russia? Austria-Hungary was comprised of mostly ethnically
German people.

In response, Russia quickly formed an alliance with France [in 1894]. This scared Germany, because it
meant she had enemies both in the West (France) and in the East (Russia). The idea of a "war on two
fronts" was very scary.

Germany decided to try to form an alliance with Britain.

To put pressure on Britain, Germany passed two laws (1897 & 1900) which authorized a massive
expansion of the Navy. Britain saw this as a direct threat to her Empire, whose defense depended on British
control of the seas ("Britannia rules the waves"!).
Militarism
In all of the Great powers, military spending increased greatly in the years prior to the war. All except
Britain had conscription. Over 85% of men of military age in France and 50% in Germany had served in
the army or navy. France had the highest proportion of its population in the army.

Percentage Increase in
                       1890-1913 Size of Peacetime Army 1914
Military Spending
Britain                         117                         430,000
France                           92                         970,000
Russia                           19                       1,500,000
Germany                         158                         760,000
Austria Hungary                 160                         480,000

                                       The armies of both France and Germany had more than doubled
                                       between 1870 and 1914. The rivalry between the powers led to a
                                       building up of weapons and an increase in distrust.

                                       Colonial rivalry had led to a naval arms race between Britain and
                                       Germany. This had seriously worsened relations between both
                                       countries. The British-German dispute also led to greater naval co-
                                       operation between Britain and France.

                                       Nationalism
                                         Allied to this growing militarism was an intense nationalism in
                                         most of the Great powers. Weltpolitik or the desire for world
power status was very popular in Germany. The French desire for revenge over Alsace and Lorraine was
very strong. The Franco-Prussian war between France and Germany in 1870 resulted in a German victory
and as a result the French had to cede its territory to Germany known as the Alsace Lorraine (today the
region is in present day France but it has both French and German cultural influence). In Britain
Imperialism and support for the Empire was very evident. This nationalism meant that there was little
resistance to war in these countries. Many welcomed what it was felt would be a short victorious war. For
example the outbreak of war was greeted by cheering crowds in Berlin, Vienna and Paris. As A P J
Taylor wrote “the people of Europe leapt willingly into war.”

German vs. Slavic Nationalism

Nationalism posed a problem for Austria-Hungary and the Balkans, areas comprised of many
conflicting national groups. The ardent Slavic people of Serbia, and Russia's willingness to
support its Slavic brother conflicted with Austria-Hungary's Pan-Germanism. People of the
Balkans and Russia were ethnically Slavic and people of Germany and Austria-Hungary were
ethnically the same.

The Ottoman Empire to the south was dwindling. The Russians knew that when states in the
Balkans had Nationalist rebellions and seceded from the Ottoman Empire they would be easy to
annex into the Russian Empire. Therefore, the Russians supported Balkan Nationalism because
they wanted to annex more land and have a better foothold in Europe. The Austrians had a similar
idea, figuring they could conquer/annex any land lost to the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, the
Austrians annexed Serbia, angered a lot of Serbians and led to the assassination of Franz
Ferdinand Hapsburg, a symbolic gesture for the anger the Serbian nation felt toward the
Austrians. The Russians felt if they supported Serbia and all those other countries, they would
annex them and not face similar problems because they were all Slavs and therefore wouldn't see
the Russians so much as foreign rulers.


Imperialism
Imperialism is when a country takes over new lands or countries and makes them subject to their rule.
By 1900 the British Empire extended over five continents and France had control of large areas of
Africa. With the rise of industrialism countries needed new markets. The amount of lands 'owned' by
Britain and France increased the rivalry with Germany who had entered the scramble to acquire colonies
late and only had small areas of Africa. Note the contrast in the map below.
Germany:

1879: The Dual Alliance
1882: The Triple Alliance

Austria-Hungary:

1879: The Dual Alliance
1881: Austro-Serbian Alliance
1882: The Triple Alliance


Serbia:

1881: Austro-Serbian Alliance

Bosnian Crisis 1908-1909

Italy:

1882: The Triple Alliance

Britain:

1904: Entente Cordiale
1907: Anglo-Russian Entente
1907: Triple Entente
1914: Triple Entente


France:

1894: Franco-Russian Alliance
1904: Entente Cordiale
1907: Triple Entente
1914: Triple Entente

Russia:

1894: Franco-Russian Alliance
1907: Anglo-Russian Entente
1907: Triple Entente
1914: Triple Entente
Germany:

  Title of Agreement      Alliance With…?           Significance
 1879: The Dual
Alliance
1882: The Triple
Alliance

Austria Hungary:

  Title of Agreement      Alliance With…?           Significance
1879: The Dual Alliance
1881: Austro-Serbian
Alliance
1882: The Triple
Alliance


Serbia:

  Title of Agreement      Alliance With…?           Significance
1881: Austro-Serbian
Alliance




EVENT                         What was the result of the crisis between Austria-Hungary and
                              Serbia
The Bosnian Crisis




Italy:

  Title of Agreement      Alliance With…?           Significance
1882: The Triple
Alliance




Britain:

  Title of Agreement      Alliance With…?           Significance
1904: Entente Cordiale
1907: Anglo-Russian
Entente
1907: Triple Entente
1914: Triple Entente—
no separate peace
France:

  Title of Agreement      Alliance With…?   Significance
1894: Franco-Russian
Alliance
1904: Entente Cordiale
1907: Triple Entente
1914: Triple Entente—
no separate peace




Russia:

  Title of Agreement      Alliance With…?   Significance
1894: Franco-Russian
Alliance

1907: Anglo-Russian
Entente

1907: Triple Entente


1914: Triple Entente No
separate Peace

				
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