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Cause Of Ww1 Essay Outline


The following article on causes of WW1 is an excerpt from H.W Crocker III’s The Yanks Are Coming! A Military History of the United States in World War I. It is available for order now from Amazonand Barnes & Noble.

Listen to the audio of this blog post about World War One – Causes


 

The first world war began in August 1914. It was directly triggered by the assassination of the Austrian archduke, Franz Ferdinand and his wife, on 28th June 1914 by Bosnian revolutionary, Gavrilo Princip.

This event was, however, simply the trigger that set off declarations of war. The actual causes of the war are more complicated and are still debated by historians today.

Causes of WW1: Alliances

An alliance is an agreement made between two or more countries to give each other help if it is needed. When an alliance is signed, those countries become known as Allies.

A number of alliances had been signed by countries between the years 1879 and 1914. These were important because they meant that some countries had no option but to declare war if one of their allies. declared war first. (the table below reads clockwise from the top left picture)

Causes of WW1: Imperialism

Imperialism is when a country takes over new lands or countries and makes them subject to their rule. By 1900 the British Empire extended over five continents and France had control of large areas of Africa. With the rise of industrialism countries needed new markets. The amount of lands ‘owned’ by Britain and France increased the rivalry with Germany who had entered the scramble to acquire colonies late and only had small areas of Africa. Note the contrast in the map below.

Causes of WW1: Militarism

Militarism means that the army and military forces are given a high profile by the government. The growing European divide had led to an arms race between the main countries. The armies of both France and Germany had more than doubled between 1870 and 1914 and there was fierce competition between Britain and Germany for mastery of the seas. The British had introduced the ‘Dreadnought’, an effective battleship, in 1906. The Germans soon followed suit introducing their own battleships. The German, Von Schlieffen also drew up a plan of action that involved attacking France through Belgium if Russia made an attack on Germany. The map below shows how the plan was to work.

Causes of WW1: Nationalism

Nationalism means being a strong supporter of the rights and interests of one’s country. The Congress of Vienna, held after Napoleon’s exile to Elba, aimed to sort out problems in Europe. Delegates from Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia (the winning allies) decided upon a new Europe that left both Germany and Italy as divided states. Strong nationalist elements led to the re-unification of Italy in 1861 and Germany in 1871. The settlement at the end of the Franco-Prussian war left France angry at the loss of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany and keen to regain their lost territory. Large areas of both Austria-Hungary and Serbia were home to differing nationalist groups, all of whom wanted freedom from the states in which they lived.

Causes of WW1: Crises

Moroccan Crisis

In 1904 Morocco had been given to France by Britain, but the Moroccans wanted their independence. In 1905, Germany announced her support for Moroccan independence. War was narrowly avoided by a conference which allowed France to retain possession of Morocco. However, in 1911, the Germans were again protesting against French possession of Morocco. Britain supported France and Germany was persuaded to back down for part of French Congo.

Bosnian Crisis

In 1908, Austria-Hungary took over the former Turkish province of Bosnia. This angered Serbians who felt the province should be theirs. Serbia threatened Austria-Hungary with war, Russia, allied to Serbia, mobilized its forces. Germany, allied to Austria-Hungary mobilised its forces and prepared to threaten Russia. War was avoided when Russia backed down. There was, however, war in the Balkans between 1911 and 1912 when the Balkan states drove Turkey out of the area. The states then fought each other over which area should belong to which state. Austria-Hungary then intervened and forced Serbia to give up some of its acquisitions. Tension between Serbia and Austria-Hungary was high.


This article on causes of WW1 is from the book The Yanks Are Coming! A Military HIstory of the United States in World War I © 2014 by H.W Crocker III. Please use this data for any reference citations. To order this book, please visit its online sales page at Amazonor Barnes & Noble.

You can also buy the book by clicking on the buttons to the left.

Writing an Essay on an Underlying Cause of World War I

Determining and analyzing the cause of any particular historical event, especially such a complex event like a war, is a highly challenging task, even for a professional historian. On top of that, World War One is still one of the most contentious of events. After the war, which was unprecedentedly destructive, nobody seemed to know exactly what it was all about. Even now there is no broad consensus among historians. For this reason, it can be very intimidated for a student to write about the causes of World War One. However, there’s actually a bright side to this subject. Since there is no consensus, there can be no one “right answer.” As long as you bring facts to support your case, you can put together a successful paper on the underlying cause.

The best papers are those that have a strong thesis. In this case the thesis is the easy part. It will simply take the form of “X was the primary cause of World War One.” However, you should know the difference between types of causality. In one sense, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand caused World War One, since it is universally agreed that that is the inciting event, but that is not the kind of cause you’re looking for. It’s more of a how the war got started than a why. However, if you look at the context of the assassination, which is the annexation of Bosnia by Austria-Hungary and what became known as the “Bosnian Crisis,” you have a significant thesis to be argued. It’s impossible to overrate the importance of good research.

Here’s a quick guide to the causal factors of World War One:

  1. The growth of nationalism across Europe
  2. Unresolved territorial disputes
  3. A complex alliance system between states, (the Germany-Austria “Dual Alliance,” the Franco-Russian alliance, and England and France’s “Entente Cordiale”) which entailed commitments that made it difficult to avoid war.
  4. A naval arms race between Germany and England
  5. Imperial rivalry between European states, competing for colonies
  6. The decline of the Ottoman Empire left a power vacuum
  7. The conventional wisdom of military strategy emphasized offensive attack
  8. There was a failure of diplomacy among warring states, illustrated best by Germany’s “Schlieffen Plan”
  9. The growth of militarism, especially Germany’s militaristic ideology
  10. Economic and trade rivalries