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Updated January 30, 2023

The Major Causes of World War I

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The Major Causes of World War I essay
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World War I was a devastating war that caused over 16 million deaths worldwide, including over 60,000 Canadian deaths. War experts initially thought World War I would be a short war and last only for a couple months, but it lasted for over 4 years, from 1914 to 1918. It was called “the great war” and “the war to end all wars” at the time because the world has not seen a larger and more deadly war in the past. The war started when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.

Russia, allied with Serbia mobilized its army as part of a treaty. Germany viewed Russia’s mobilization as an act of war against Austria-Hungary. Germany had a military alliance with Austria-Hungary, so Germany declared war on Russia. Germans were also nationalistic and very proud of their country, so they wanted to go to war to show they were superior. As the war grew larger, more and more allies from both sides joined the war, which caused more fighting and casualties. The three main causes of the war were Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia, Military Alliances and Nationalism.

Though many consider the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand to have started the war, the actual war did not start until Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. After Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, Austria-Hungary blamed the Serbian government for the attack and decided on a punishment for Serbia. On July 23, 1914 Serbia had 48 hours to accept a harsh 10 point ultimatum which included suppressing all anti Austria-Hungary propaganda, remove military officers who made anti Austria-Hungary propaganda, and try to eliminate terrorists organizations.

One of these terrorist organisations was the black hand, which was believed to have helped Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Ferdinand. Serbia accepted almost all of Austria- Hungary’s demands for the ultimatum, except for a few points regarding judicial process for those responsible for the crime. In response, Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia on July 28, 1914, and attacked Serbia’s capital, Belgrade with artillery shells starting July 29, 1914. This began the first war in World War 1.

Military Alliances played a huge role in the growth of World War 1. There were two opposing military alliances in World War 1, the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria- Hungary and Italy) and the Triple Entente (England, France and Russia). One of the reasons Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia was because it had a military alliance with Germany. Germany had the most powerful army in the world at that time, and Germany agreed to defend Austria-Hungary in case of a war. Because Germany had such a powerful army and agreed to help Austria-Hungary in war, Austria-Hungary did not hesitate to attack Serbia.

In response to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia, Russia mobilized their army on July 31, 1914. Germany saw Russia’s mobilization as preparing for war against Germany. On August 1, 1914 Germany declares war on Russia. Germany also declared war on France on August 3, 1914. England did not join the war until Germany invaded neutral Belgium. England defended Belgium because England promised to in the Treaty of London. When England went to war, all its colonies from around the world including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India and Canada were also at war with England. What started as a small dispute between Serbia and Austria-Hungary turned into a massive worldwide war because of the military alliance between countries.

Nationalism also played a huge role in starting World War 1. Nationalism is extreme loyalty and pride of one’s own country. In World War 1, nationalism had ties with imperialism. Countries were trying to gain more land to prove they were superior and gain power over other countries. This created aggression and hostility between countries. Germany is an example of a extremely nationalistic country in World War 1. Even before the war began, Germany already wanted to go to war to expand its powers and prove they were superior.

After Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated, Germany encouraged Austria-Hungary to go to war with Serbia. Germany wanted to go to war, and tried to provoke other countries in joining the war but could not join until it had a reason to do so. Germany saw Russia’s army mobilization as a reason to join the war. Britain’s and Serbians were nationalistic as well. Gavrilo Princip killed Archduke Ferdinand because the organisation he belonged to, The Black Hand, wanted Serbia to be independent from the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Britain wanted to expand and defend its colony, which was already large at the time, and that was one of the reasons Britain joined the war. Nationalism in Russia was what led to the revolution of Russia and the forming of the USSR. Nationalists from different countries wanted to prove that they were superior and better than other countries, which formed hatred and aggression between them.

World War 1 was one of the largest and pointless wars of all time. It cost a lot of lives, and in the end, none of the countries gained anything. Many countries, Serbia, Austria-Hungary, Russia, Germany, France and England were at least partially responsible for starting the huge war, but the three main causes of World War 1 were Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia, military alliances and nationalism. These three causes turned what was a small conflict between two countries into the biggest war the world has seen at the time.

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The Major Causes of World War I. (2022, Dec 31). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-major-causes-of-world-war-i/

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