Causes of World War 1

Last Updated: 29 Mar 2021
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The Causes of World War I World War I is essentially much more complicated and complex than a simple list of causes. While there was a series of events that directly led to the fighting, the actual origin causes are much deeper and a part of continual debate and discussion. Ultimately, countries all over Europe made joint defense agreements that would pull them into battle. Therefore, if one country was attacked, allied countries were bound to defend them. Before World War 1, the following alliances existed:

  • Russia and Serbia.
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  • Germany and Austria-Hungary.
  • France and Russia.
  • Britain and France and Belgium.
  • Japan and Britain.

Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, in which Russia got involved in to defend Serbia. Germany, seeing Russia rallying, declared war on Russia. France was then drawn in against Germany and Austria-Hungary. Germany attacked France through Belgium, pulling Britain into war. Then Japan entered the war. Afterwards, Italy and the United States would enter on the side of the allies. Imperialism is when a country boosts their power and wealth by bringing additional territories under their control.

Before World War I, Africa and parts of Asia were points of controversy amongst the European countries. This was particularly true because of the raw resources these areas could provide. The growing competition and want for greater empires led to an increase in disagreement that helped press on the world into World War I. As the world got into the 20th century, an arms race had begun. By 1914, Germany had the greatest increase in military buildup. Great Britain and Germany both greatly increased their navies in this time period.

Further, in Germany and Russia particularly, the military establishment began to have a greater influence on public policy. This increase in militarism helped push the countries involved to war. Much of the origin of the war was based on the desire of the Slavic peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina to no longer be part of Austria-Hungary, but instead be part of Serbia. In this way, nationalism led directly to the War. But in a more general way, the nationalism of the various countries throughout Europe contributed not only to the beginning but the extension of the war in Europe. Each country tried to prove their dominance and power.

The instantaneous cause of World War I that made all the aforementioned items come into play (alliances, imperialism, militarism, nationalism) was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary. In June 1914, a Serbian nationalist assassinated him and his wife while they were in Sarajevo, Bosnia which was part of Austria-Hungary. This was in objection to Austria-Hungary having control of this region. Serbia wanted to take over Bosnia and Herzegovina. This assassination led to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia. When Russia began to gather together due to its alliance with Serbia, Germany declared war on Russia.

Thus began the expansion of the war to include all those involved in the mutual defense alliances.

Works Cited

  1. Beck, Roger B. World History: Patterns of Interaction. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell, 2005. Print.
  2. Duffy, Michael. "Firstworldwar. com. " First World War. com. 22 Aug. 2009. Web. 22 May 2012. <http://www. firstworldwar. com/origins/causes. htm>.
  3. "World War One - Causes. " Causes of World War One. Historyonthenet. Web. 22 May 2012. <http://www. historyonthenet. com/WW1/causes. htm>. *
  4. "What Really Caused World War 1? " WW1. Web. 22 May 2012. <http://www. threeworldwars. com/world-war-1/ww1. htm>.

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Causes of World War 1. (2017, Apr 08). Retrieved from

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