Seeds of World War I Lecture Notes The Main Players Ruler Great Britain France Germany Austria-Hungary Russia The German Empire was young in 1914. It came into being following a series of wars that led to German Unification as a nation in 1871 under the leadership of Otto von Bismarck, German Chancellor under Kaiser Wilhelm I, a very strong leader! German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck’s idea was always to be in a majority of three in any dispute among the five great European powers. His aim was to preserve Germany’s peaceful ties with Russia. Kaiser Wilhelm II quickly upset Bismarck’s delicate balance of power. Germany, by refusing to renew its friendship with Russia, soon found itself in a minority of two. Its only European ally was the weakest of the European powers, Austria-Hungary. The tripwire that set off the century’s first global conflict was Austria's declaration of war against Serbia on July 28, 1914. Why did Austria declare war on Serbia? How did all of this happen? Emperor Franz Josef of Austria Son Rudolf Son Carl Ludwig No sons! Son Franz Ferdinand (the new heir to the throne) Franz Ferdinand decided to go to Serbia on a good will mission. He knew that the journey to Sarajevo would be dangerous. A large number of people living in Bosnia- Herzegovina were unhappy with Austro-Hungarian rule and they favored union with Serbia, which was a Slavic state. On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sofie, were assassinated by a Bosnian national!!! A war between Austria and Serbia meant a war between Austria and Russia, Serbia's traditional ally. That meant war between Russia and Germany. War between Russia and Germany meant war between Germany and France. That meant war between Germany and Great Britain. In a flash, the whole continent was at war!!