CAUSES OF WORLD WAR I

There are several reasons why war broke out between the 'Great Powers' of Europe in the summer of 1914. Some of these causes had been developing over a very long time (long-term causes), some over a shorter time (medium-term causes) while some came about very quickly (short-term causes). These notes begin with long-term causes. 

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GCSE HISTORY CAUSES OF WORLD WAR I.
There are several reasons why war broke out between the 'Great
Powers' of Europe in the summer of 1914. Some of these causes
had been developing over a very long time (longterm causes), some
over a shorter time (mediumterm causes) while some came about
very quickly (shortterm causes). These notes begin with longterm
causes.
1. The Alliance System.
The states of Europe had arranged themselves into alliances since
the defeat of France by Germany in the FrancoPrussian War
187071. These alliances were designed to keep the peace by
making each state appear to have so many powerful allies that an
enemy would think twice before attacking.
The Triple Alliance of GERMANY, AUSTRIAHUNGARY and
ITALY began in 1879 with the Dual Alliance of Germany and
AustriaHungary this was a defensive alliance, i.e. each would help
the other if attacked by Russia. In 1882 Italy joined, making it a
Triple Alliance, which was renewed every five years: Italy was to
help Germany if Germany was attacked by France and vice versa,
but Italy could excuse herself from any fighting which might involve
opposition to Britain.
The Triple Entente of FRANCE, RUSSIA and BRITAIN began
with the FrancoRussian Alliance 1893/4: this was a defensive
alliance, in that each country would help the other if they were
attacked by Germany or AustriaHungary. The 'Entente Cordiale'
(friendly understanding) between Britain and France developed
after Edward VII's visit to Paris in 1903: in 1904 colonial disputes
in Africa were settled (Britain was to control Egypt, France to
control Morocco). Later the two countries began joint military and
naval talks, but there was no formal alliance until September 1914,
i.e. after the war had started. The AngloRussian Entente 1907
settled rival claims to influence in Persia (Iran), after Russia's
defeat in the RussoJapanese War 19045 had shown Russia to be
less of a threat to Britain's most valuable colony, India, than had
previously been feared.
Thus the Great Powers divided into two armed camps.
"Neither, it must be emphasised, was constructed as a preparation
for war. Both were attempts to prevent war by appearing so
strongly embattled with allies that the other would not dare to

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D. Thomson, Europe Since Napoleon, p528)
2. Colonial Rivalry.
Between about 1870 and 1914 the major European nations began to
gather as many overseas colonies as they could for a variety of
reasons, such as hope of economic gain, taking the raw materials
from colonies and selling manufactured goods back to them the
desire for prestige for religious or cultural reasons from a feeling
of superiority for military and strategic reasons, e.g.…read more

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Britain did not. Armies
were large and cost vast sums to maintain. Weapons were
becoming more advanced, e.g. the machine gun or very powerful
artillery guns. Germany, France, AustriaHungary, Italy and Russia
all had armies of enormous size and expense. The British Army was
still composed of volunteers, although there were several important
reforms introduced by R.B.…read more

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Boer War 18991902, e.g. sending Kruger a
message of congratulation when the Jameson Raid 1895 failed, and
selling weapons to the Boers.
6. Resentment over Alsace and Lorraine.
France's humiliating defeat by Germany in the FrancoPrussian
War 187071, and especially the loss of the border provinces of
Alsace and Lorraine, increased French hostility to Germany. Most
French people felt that they needed revenge for this.
7. The Balkans and the Eastern Question.…read more

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So we can see that there were serious disagreements over a wide
range of matters which placed the members of the two alliances in
opposition to each other. Yet this does not explain why in the
summer of 1914 war suddenly broke out. Therefore we move on to
the immediate shortterm cause.
Sarajevo.…read more

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For 10,000,000 people his words were sadly prophetic.
GCSE HISTORY: CAUSES OF WORLD WAR I.
The Austrian Ultimatum To Serbia, 23 July 1914.
These are the ten points of the ultimatum issued to Serbia by the government of
AustriaHungary following the death of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the Archduchess
Sophie at Sarajevo on 28 June 1914.
1. Serbia must condemn antiAustrian propaganda
2. Serbia must express its regret for the results of previous
antiAustrian propaganda
3.…read more

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Ciganovic was a Bosnian who worked for Serbian Railways.
*= this was rejected by the Serbian government.…read more

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