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'Sunday the 28th of June 1914 was a very bright and extremely hot day
in Sarajevo. Sarajevo in Bosnia was preparing for a very rare royal
visit. The streets had been specially decked out for the royal visit
and colourful Turkish rugs had bean hung out along Apel Quay where the
procession was going to take place.' The Austrian-Hungarian empire in
central Europe had expanded; it had taken control of Bosnia. (A small
country in the Balkans) Serbia, who was close neighbour to Bosnia and
shared the nationality of being a Slav along side countries such as
Russia. Russia and Serbia tried to stand up to Serbia. However,
Germany told Russia that it supported Austria. Russia and Serbia
backed down so not to risk war but by building up, their army's they
would not be caught out again. This made situations even tenser than
they already were inside Austria as there were many different
nationalities being treated as unfairly as minorities. There were a
series of local wars in the Balkan area where Serbia had emerged as
the strongest nation. A group called the Black Hand were hidden among
the crowds waiting for the procession to pass. When the procession
took place, the archduke of Austria Franz Ferdinand and his wife
Sophie were assassinated.
To wipe out Serbia altogether Austria blamed it for the terrorist
attacks. Even so there was no evidence to attach Serbia to the
Russia their ally declared war on Austria. Germany tried the same as
previously and told Russia to back down but Russia was ready and did
not so Germany declared war on Russia. This was the spark in the
gigantic bonfire of causes that started the First World War.
Empires and Alliances
Germany had recently become united in to a country from squabbling
city-states. Prussia was the largest of these, which in 1870 had won a
war against France to gain a territory called Alsace-Lorraine, which
was a big industrial area.
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Like Italy who had also become a united country recently, Germany
wanted to have an empire as great as the United Kingdom you could even
go as far to say Germany felt jealous of Britain for having such a
great and powerful empire.
Russia so far had no access to the Mediterranean Sea, unless of course
it went through the Balkans an area also wanted by the Austrians for
the same reason. This is the reason why Russia remained friendly to
Serbia who of course was a major power in the Balkans.
As Austria Italy and Germany, all wanted to expand their empires
without taking little land from each other it seamed logical to create
an alliance together.
Britain had little concern for what happened in Europe, it wanted to
concentrate its priorities overseas to its vast empire. Although, it
had to sort out a few rivalries. Britain was concerned about France
who also had a growing empire in the 19th century; it also had
concerns about a powerful empire in the east, Russia. Above all
Britain was concerned about Germany and its growing power and want for
foreign empires. By the early 20th century, Britain had sorted matters
with France by coming to agreements with colonies in North Africa.
Russia meanwhile had been beaten in a war with Japan, which weakened
them a little.
Britain began to have friendly negotiations with France and Russia.
Britain, France and Russia were all worried about growing German power
in central Europe as they had just beaten France in a recent war and
had stood up to Russia when Austria took over Bosnia. Britain signed
an agreement with France in 1904 and Russia in 1907. The Triple Ente
The arms race
Germany felt surrounded, it was almost sure that the Ente was planning
something. It still however planned to increase its empire by building
a fleet of ships which was second largest to that of the U.K. Britain
wanted to know why Germany had all these ships in the north sea, as it
had practically no empire to protect and little land to gain. When the
U.K approached the Kaiser, he only said that Germany needed to protect
their growing trade. This still did not make Britain feel at ease,
they still could not understand the numbers. The race was on, who
could build the best and biggest navy. In 1906, Britain built a modern
ship called a dreadnought. Germany built her own dreadnoughts; by
1914, Britain had 29 and Germany only 17.
The arms race on land had begun. While Britain and Germany had built
up their navies the rest of Europe were building up there armies.
Russia was almost backward military wise, but had one of the biggest
armies and if given enough time could train it up.
The Germans had a big army that was efficiently trained and ready for
battle. Their strategy was to go via Belgium and attack France. Then
along side, Austria attack Russia who was thought to be slow in moving
their forces this was the Schlieffen plan. Italy however was the weak
side to the alliance they did not have a big army and it was not
efficiently trained. Britain had a secret weapon. Again, her empire
played a big role. She could transport thousands of troops from
different parts of her empire at her disposal. She also had an
efficient well trained but small number of soldiers who could fight
along side France at short notice.
Each army had made sure it was ready for war when it broke out. Every
country had its own plan and its own analysis of what the other side
was going to do.
Why did the assassination spark WW1?
In 1905, the people of Morocco were in a struggle against there French
leaders. Kaiser Wilhelm showed his support for the Moroccan people.
France was furious. He wanted to be a major power in Africa. Except he
was humiliated, when the people rejected his views and international
powers made him back down.
The Kaiser was furious. In 1911, he sent a gunboat to establish a
naval base in the territory. Again, he was made to back down.
This was just another event that could have triggered the war, as it
was a reason for France to declare war on Germany. Fortunately, it did
not. The major powers were only looking for excuses to declare war on
each other. The fact of the matter is that this was not the reason
they used. Instead, they used the assassination to start the war.
The want to further empires was a major part to play in the causes of
the war. Nevertheless, the most important role in the causes of the
war was the fact that everyone was preparing for war and NOT! Settling
down and discussing with each other how to prevent it.