Causes of WWI

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causes of WWI




What Were the Causes of World War I?
Some people believe that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary
was the primary cause of World War I, but it was just one event that triggered the
conflict. Many other events and political beliefs combined to lead thirty-two nations
into war. Resentments from earlier wars, advances in technology and military strength and
a chain of alliances all contributed to the first "Great War" of the Twentieth Century.
The United States tried to remain neutral, but it was pulled into the Great War, and
changed America forever.

In the years before the war, Europe was very unstable. Nationalism, the belief that
loyalty to a person's nation and its political and economic goals come first, was growing.
People of the same heritage, language, culture and political beliefs wanted to form their
own independent nations or states. During the 1800's many groups were separated and
angry. The Congress of Vienna had caused Germany to be divided into many parts. Italy
was also divided with some parts under foreign control and the Belgians were under Dutch
rule. Belgium won its independence in 1830, Italy became unified in 1861 and Germany
united in 1871. This led Germany and Italy to become two great world powers.

But in the early 1900's, the Balkan Peninsula was the "Powder Keg of Europe." Many
different groups were under the control of the Turks of the Ottoman Empire, and they
wanted to be independent. In 1912 and 1913 the Balkan Wars took place. In the first war,
Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro took control away from the Turks. In the second
war, Serbia, Greece, Romania and Turkey forced Bulgaria to give up a large part of
Macedonia to the other four countries ("Army"). These wars made Serbia even more
determined to take over the parts of Austria-Hungary where many Serbian people lived. At
the same time, both Bulgaria and Turkey, who lost land in the Balkan Wars, wanted
revenge.

Meanwhile, other countries of Europe were busy building military strength. The nations of
Europe did not trust each other. Some people believe that Germany was most responsible
for World War I, because it wanted to become the strongest power in Europe (Ruggenberg).
By the early 1900's Germany had the best army in the world and was building a strong navy.
This made other nations nervous, and the British developed the Dreadnought, the first
modern battleship. Germany began building ships to defeat the Dreadnought and developed
submarines (U-boats). France worked to build a stronger army and increased the time
people had to serve in the military from two to three years. All the other nations of
Europe began to spend much more money to make their armies extremely powerful. During the
four years between 1910 and 1914, Germany and Austria both doubled the amount of money
they spent on their militaries (Craig, 484). Technology made it possible to develop new
weapons such as the machine gun. This made it possible to kill more enemies at one time
and fight longer and harder than ever before. Another development was that the military
had a bigger effect on government policies, and sometimes military leaders were more
powerful than civilian leaders (Craig, 485).

At the same time, the countries of Europe were competing with one another for foreign
trade. Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, they could make more goods than they could
sell at home. Many wanted to control parts of Africa because there was a lot of business
to be had there, so they worked to colonize different parts of the continent. France
controlled Morocco and Algeria. Italy controlled Libya, the British controlled Egypt, and
they were competing with the Dutch for South Africa. Germany wanted to control Morocco
and other areas, so it was constantly arguing with France and Great Britain over African
soil. Because of the bickering in Africa, the nations of Europe had even more reason not
to trust each other.

In 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary made a visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina, a
part of Austria-Hungary where many Serbian people lived. Franz Ferdinand was the heir
to the Habsburg throne -- some day he would become the emperor of Austria-Hungary. He
happened to visit on the anniversary of the Battle of Kossovo, June 28, 1914. The Serbs
celebrate the Battle of Kossovo as a day of liberation, because it was the day an invading
Turkish Sultan had been killed.

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