The Causes Of World War I

The Causes Of World War I

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The first world war had many causes, the historians

probably have not yet discovered and discussed all of them

so there might be more causes than what we know now. In

this essay I would discuss the main causes of the war—the

ones that were discussed in the textbook. In the time before

the war’s outbreak (before 1914—in the beginning of the

century) the world was separated into big empires that had

colonies around the world (European countries ruled most of

Africa). There were fights and disagreements between the

major empires. Usually, when there are many arguments

between countries, people start fear of war and prepare for

it (for example, today in Israel, after Benjamin Netanyahu

winning the elections, Israel’s policy towards the Arabs and

the Palestinians have changed. There is fear from war with

Syria, because of threats from both sides, so both countries

arm themselves and ready for war, just in case it would

break). In the beginning of the century Britain was the largest

empire in the world, it also had the largest navy. The navy

was so big and strong because the Britons needed to protect

their empire and maintain the sea routes between the

different colonies. The Kaiser William II of Germany hated

and envied Britain for having a stronger navy than his. He

increased the German navy and built many warships. Britain

responded with building more ships and increasing its navy

too. This started a race for building more and better

warships and it created tension and competition between

those two countries. Germany and France were rivals for

centuries and at the beginning of the century and at the end

of the 19th century the rivalry increased. This happened

because of the war between those two countries in 1870-71

when Germany defeated France. Germany took over the

areas of Alsace and Lorraine and the French people wanted

to revenge Germany and retrieve those lands. France could

not start a war against Germany since Germany had more

resources and a stronger army than France. France needed

allies to help it fight (the subject of alliances would be

discussed later). There was another quarrel between France

and Germany—about controlling Morocco. In 1905 France

thought that it should have more influence in the western

Mediterranean Sea area as it already controlled Tunisia and

Algeria, it wanted Morocco too. The Kaiser of Germany

visited Tangier (a big city in Morocco) and said that

Germany would protect Morocco in case of a French

attack. In 1911 France increased its control over Morocco

and Germany sent a warship. The Germans withdrew at last

but the French gave them a part of Western Africa in


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These two incidents increased the tension

between France and Germany. Austria-Hungary was a big

empire in southern-eastern Europe, it included eleven main

nationalities. In the ninetieth and twentieth nationalism was

becoming a powerful force in Europe so people that had the

same culture, language (usually), etc wanted their own

country. This was a problem for the government of

Austria-Hungary that did not want to lose their power and

control. The Slavs in the southern part of the empire were

their main concern since they wanted to join up to Serbia.

This, they thought, would lead to a break-up of the empire

(this eventually happened after the war). In 1908

Austria-Hungary have taken over Bosnia. The Serbs wanted

it too, and Russia was on their side, but Germany declared

that they would attack Russia if it would attack

Austria-Hungary. This was because of the agreements

between Austria-Hungary and Germany and it also made

them stronger (the alliances would be discussed later). This

also led to the Sarajevo murder that would, too, be

discussed later. In 1912 and 1913 the Balkan countries had

fights among themselves and against the Ottoman Empire.

First, in 1912, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece

attacked the Ottoman Empire and took large parts of land

from it. After the war was over these countries fought one

against each other about the way they would share the

conquered land. After the fights Serbia became a stronger

country than it was before. This increased the fears in the

Austro-Hungarian government. There were alliances

between different countries in Europe--when a country feels

a threat it looks for friends to help it. The alliances between

the strong countries were what divided Europe into two

armed camps where the smaller countries were connected to

the alliances, but not official members. This thing created the

danger of huge armies colliding into each other and causing

huge destruction. This can happen even because of a small

incident that can make all the allies that are committed to

help their other allies join the war (this was the case in this

war). There were two main alliances in Europe: the ‘Triple

Alliance’ or the ‘Central Powers’ (included Germany,

Austria-Hungary and Italy) and ‘Entente Powers’ or the

‘Allies’ (included France, Russia and Britain). The ‘Triple

Alliance’ or the ‘Central Powers’ were first formed as

Germany and Austria-Hungary became allies in 1879 and

three years later Italy joined them. The ‘Entente Powers’ or

the ‘Allies’ were formed as France became and ally of

Russia in 1892 and in 1904 and 1907 Britain entered into

ententes with France and then Russia. The assassination of

the Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914

was the spark that ignited the First World War. On June 28

the archduke and his wife were driving in the streets of

Sarajevo. As the car suddenly stopped and reversed a

Serbian student named Gavrilo Princip shot them. He was

supported by a Serbian secret society called the ‘Black

Hand’. In my opinion one cannot make a statement of one

single most significant cause since a person cannot say that

one cause is more important than another. This is because if

one thing would not have happened, as small and

unimportant as it might seem, the action would not have been

the same. Since I was asked to put the most important cause

in my opinion I would put it, but it is a bit general. The

nationalism and imperialism were the most important causes,

in my opinion, since empires do not let the national groups in

their countries have their own countries, as they should have.

Also, empires always want to expand and conquer other

countries so they would become stronger and more

powerful. Austria-Hungary was an empire—and it collapsed

into smaller countries after the first world war, like the

Ottoman empire, which was divided between France and

Britain. In the two decades after the Second World War

Britain and France separated from their colonies. The

USSR, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia separated into

smaller countries in and after 1989. In this century

nationalism and the end of imperialism was happening all

around the world, it was a main cause for many wars

(including the First World War). To conclude I can say that

there were many reasons for the outbreak of the First World

War and not all of them were discussed here. Only the main

and most clear causes were discussed, and not as they

should be presented (the right way to present them in a good

research in my opinion is to put some evidence too, not just

write everything down as facts).
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