Causes Of World War One Paper

This essay has a total of 1886 words and 9 pages.

Causes Of World War One

World War One or ‘The Great War' as it became known, occurred due to many causes, some
of which still remain unexposed today. The obvious trigger for the war was the
assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and
his wife Sophie on 28th June 1914. The assassination occurred during the Archduke's visit
to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Archduke was targeted due to the
general feeling amongst Serbians that, once appointed to the throne, Ferdinand would
continue the persecution of Serbs living within the borders of the Austro-Hungarian
Empire. Just moments after the two had been shot; authorities arrested the culprit,
Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian student, who was believed to have been linked to the Serbian
terrorist organization, The Black Hand.


Causes of the war also dealt with such ideologies as Nationalism, Imperialism and
militarism along with the prominent alliance systems in Europe all strongly affected the
outbreak of the war. All of these factors where established in many of Europe's ‘Great
Powers' which consisted of Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia.


During the late nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries, Nationalism was a prominent
movement that had spread itself across Europe. All major powers had strong feelings toward
the concepts of supporting their own nation. Nationalists believed that their own nation's
needs must be met before that of other nations. These strong beliefs sometimes became
obsessive as nationalists became so proud of their nation that they strived for it to
become richer and more powerful than any other.


This wave of national pride became a major problem for the Austro-Hungarian Empire as they
attempted to maintain a form of order and control within the annexed area of Bosnia. This
power was placed under threat due to the Slavonic peoples dislike of their
Austro-Hungarian superiors and there desire to attach themselves to Serbia and create an
independent state to be known as Yugoslavia, or ‘The Land of the South Slavs.' This was
seen as the reason for the assassination of Ferdinand and his wife.


The assassination gave Austria-Hungary the ideal excuse to declare war against Serbia. An
ultimatum was issued to Serbia stating that it must agree to all terms described in the
ultimatum in order to avoid war. Austria-Hungary gave Serbia 48 hours to reply and clearly
stated that all terms must be met and complied with. Serbia agreed to all terms of the
ultimatum bar one. This concerned Austro-Hungarian officials entering Serbia to perform an
investigation into the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and his wife. As the Serbians
denied this request, it is believed by some historians that the young operatives sent to
kill Ferdinand were not only nationalistic students but also as scapegoats used by the
Serbian government to carry out their dirty work.


Imperialism was present in Europe for some time before the war broke out, as each of the
great powers aimed to expand theirs boundaries into new areas in order to exploit the
opportunities that the new land held. Just as England had done for centuries, it had
become desirable to seek out new land to rule under the laws and cultural beliefs of the
‘mother' country.


The numerous conflicts raging within the confines of the Balkans since March 1912 had many
historians, such as Remak, believing that the First World War was simply the Balkan War
that had raged out of control and spread across Europe. The Balkans had been a problem in
Europe for over a century as it was ruled by the Turkish ‘Ottoman Empire.' This empire
had become so dilapidated that the many different ethnic groups within the area wanted to
break away becoming free of Turkish rule, and create their own independent nations.


This particular theory is supported by the fact that all of the Great Powers in Europe had
a vested interest in this area of Europe. Within the Balkans, the Slavic people were
rising up against Austria-Hungary who had annexed Serbia and not allowed the independent
state that the Slavs desired. Russia, who also consisted of Slavs, was involved due to its
ethnic ties to the Slavs residing in the Balkans. Britain and Germany both developed
interest in the area for the same reasons. At the time, Britain held the bulk of trade
from Europe to distant markets such as the Middle East and Asia. Germany saw the Balkans
as an ideal prospect to gain, as it was adjoined to their ally, Austria-Hungary and was in
an ideal position to establish a trade headquarters, dealing to the same markets as the
British. After its embarrassment at the hands of Bismarck and the Germans in 1871, France
had held a bitter grudge and looked to gain control of the Balkans simply to frustrate and
achieve revenge against Germany.


Austria-Hungary was willing to go to war with Serbia as long as they could be assured of
Germanys support in the matter. The Germany Kaiser, Wilhelm II, provided this support for
their neighbouring ally through a telegram to Emperor Franz Joseph II. This telegram is
known today as the "Blank Cheque." It was this reassurance that prompted Austria to
declare war on Serbia, which set off a chain reaction of conflicts. This theory is what
another historian, Gilbert, believes provoked war, saying that "The Austrian foreign
minister was ‘fired up' for war against Serbia, but needed Germanys support.


In the early part of the twentieth century, militarism was as prominent as ever, with the
recent industrial revolution being the main factor. As materials for weaponry and other
war structures could be produced with less effort and in greater volume, countries were
attempting to increase their stocks of weaponry and other instruments of warfare.
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