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The Root Causes Of World War I

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Published: Tue, 02 May 2017

THESIS: The root causes of World War I include; imperialism, nationalism, formation of alliances, militarism and the main cause was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand who was the heir to the Austrian throne by Gavrilo Princip of Serbia.

In the history of mankind there has always been competition for resources, domination or ideology.

The competition has led to conflicts which later became violent and led to death, social disruptions and destruction.

In the history of mankind 90 – 95% of known communities have engaged themselves in warfare activities (Keely, 15).

The First World War started in 1914 and ended in 1918.

The war was caused by imperialism, nationalism, alliances, militarism and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (Johnson and Meredith, 11).

More than 70 million troops were used to fight where 10 million lost their lives and there were a lot of civilian casualties.

The buildup began in the late 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century.

The major players in Europe were: – Britain, Germany, Russia, Italy and Austria – Hungary.

The relations between these powerful states was of rivalry and suspicion

One of the causes of the First World War is the formation of defense alliances.

The alliances were to defend fellow allies in case they were attacked.

The two alliances that went into war were the Central powers and the Allies.

Militarism also caused the First World War, where the military was given more attention by the government to the extent of influencing public policy.

It led to development of more military equipment and increase in the number of troops.

Countries also drew elaborate plans on how to attack their enemies e.g. Von Schlieffen plan.

Imperialism also caused the World war as countries competed for overseas territories in search of raw materials and market for their goods.

Another cause of the war was nationalism; in their national pride people felt they were superior than other nationalities.

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was the main cause of the war.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand war the heir to the Austria-Hungary throne.

He was assassinated in Sarajevo by a Serbian. Sarajevo was in Bosnia and Herzegovina a region that Serbia wanted.

The assassination led to Austria – Hungary declaring war on Serbia, Russia mobilized its troops to support Serbia and Germany declared war on Russia.

The assassination brought into fore all the other causes; imperialism, nationalism, defense alliances and militarism.

Conclusion: From the causes of the war, it is clear that this war could have been avoided. The war led to a lot of destruction, high military and civilian mortality and no winners or heroes. Prevention is better than cure and thus mankind must learn from these causes and avoid at all costs, anything that might lead to conflict in the future.

Godfrey Mwangi

Test assignment

12 October 2010

The Root Causes of the First World War

In the history of mankind there has been competition for resources, power, domination or ideology. Sometimes this competition has led to bitter conflicts which later became violent and led to death, social disruptions, great destruction of infrastructure and a lot of suffering (Levy and Thompsons, 1). From time in history, the human beings have engaged themselves in warfare activities. History has it that 90-95% of known communities involved themselves in warfare at least occasionally and others constantly. The wars fought were more deadly and frequent than modern war (Keeley, 15). Due to the increase and improvement in technology including the technology of war, from the onset of the 20th Century all the wars that have been fought have caused massive destruction and high mortality, this include the First World War and the Second World War.

The First World War is also known as The War to end the War or The Great war, it started in 1914 and ended late in 1918. More than 70 million troops were used to fight in this war where more than 10 million troops lost their lives, Civilians also lost their lives in this war, and the financial cost of the war was in billions of dollars (Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 529). The huge destructions and the high human mortality rate were due to the destructive power or the modern weaponry used, owing to the improvement in technology. It is the second deadliest warfare in the history of mankind. The causes of this war include; militarism, defense alliances, Imperialism, nationalism and the main root cause which was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand who was the heir to the Austria throne, he was assassinated by Gavrilo Princip from Serbia (Johnson and Meredith, 11).

The buildup began in the late 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century. The major players in the International scene were Britain, which was more economically, industrially and military powerful than the other European countries. Germany was another internationally powerful state, under the then Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck who had led his country into winning a war against France in 1871(Duiker and Spielvogel, 571). Other powerful countries then included Russia, France, Austria and Italy. The relations between these powerful states were of rivalry, suspicion and competition. They formed alliances and most of these alliances did not hold due to the differences amongst themselves, like the alliance between the Emperors of 1872 broke because Austria and Russia could not have a common policy over the Balkans.

One of the causes of the First World War was the formation of competing defense alliances by the powerful nations. States mobilized their military in show of support for their alliances and as a method of inflicting fear to their enemies. These alliances were formed to ensure that no country became stronger and more powerful than the others, so it was a way to counter a powerful nation (Kay, 29). The two groups who fought the First World War were the Central Powers made up of Germany, Bulgaria, Austria, Hungary and Turkey and the Allies, which was an alliance that had developed from the Triple Entente which was made up of Britain, Russia, Italy and France. These alliances stated that if one of the alliance members was attacked, the other members were bound to defend the attacked country. When Austria Hungary declared war on Serbia, Russia decided to defend Serbia and Germany declared war on Russia to aid Austria Hungary as they were allies (Child et al, 7). This led to the beginning of the First World War.

Militarism meant that military was given more attention by the government and the military had more influence on the public policy of the country. Due to the divide amongst European states, the armies of most countries such as Germany and France had increased and more than doubled from 1880 to 1914. There was fierce competition between Germany and Britain on their navies and each country invested a lot of resources in improving their navies. The British had an effective warship called the ‘Dreadnought’ and the Germans improved their warships (Tucker, 1301). Countries also drew elaborate plans on how to attack their enemies, for instance, Von Schlieffen drew a plan on how to attack France through Belgium. These plans created fear and hatred among these countries.

As a result of Imperialism, countries aspired to increase wealth and power by making other territories to be under their rule. Furthermore, industrialization meant that countries needed raw materials for their industries thus need for more territories to provide them with raw materials. In the last part of the 19th Century there was scramble of Africa and parts of Asia. The French and the British controlled huge territories in Africa, Germany which was new in Africa controlled less land. This caused bitter conflicts and tensions amongst states for example, the conflict over Morocco between the Germans and the French in 1906 to 1911 (Brummett, 162).

Nationalism means supporting the rights and interests of one’s country and priding that one’s country is superior than the others. There were strong emotions of nationalism in the period before the war in Europe. Nationalistic literature and speeches in countries like Germany, led to the war by countries trying to prove their nationalities superiority. The French were keen to regain the region they lost in the Franco-Prussian war to Germany. Also, most of the Slavic People wanted to no longer be part of Austria-Hungary and wanted to be part of Serbia (Duiker and Spielvogel, 627). This led to direct war when a Serbian Killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife of Austria in 1914 by Gavrilo Princip from Serbia was the main root cause of the First World War. It was after this that imperialism, militarism, nationalism and the formed alliances came into play. Ferdinand was the apparent heir to the Austria Hungarian throne. The assassination took place in Sarajevo, Bosnia and was part of Austria Hungary. The assassination was in protest of Bosnia being part of Austria Hungary. Serbia wanted to acquire Bosnia and Herzegovina from Austria Hungary. This led Austria Hungary to declare war on Serbia. Russia decided to prepare to support its ally which led to Germany declaring war on Russia (Johnson and Meredith, 11). This was the beginning of the First World War.

From the causes of the war, it is clear that this war could have been avoided. The war led to a lot of destruction, high military and civilian mortality and no winners or heroes. Prevention is better than cure; therefore mankind must learn from these causes and at all cost avoid anything that might lead to conflicts in the future.


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