The Origins of World War 1

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Triple Alliance- Germany,Austria-Hungary and Italy

1879 - Bismarck signed the Dual Alliance with Austria

1882 - Italy joined

Agreed to support each other if attcked by 2 or more powers

  • Germany had defeated France in the Franc--Prussian War of 1870-71 and had gained the province of Alsace-Lorraine from them.
  • This led to the unification of the German states as one country - King of Prussia (Kaiser)
  • Bismark relaised that France would want revenge and so he made a series of alliances that would isolate France - it separated France from Russia.
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Franco-Russian Dual alliance


  • Kasier had no interest in making an alliance with Russia (didn't sign the reinsurance treaty)
  • Both powers felt isolated
  • France wanted revenge (Alsace-Lorraine)
  • Russia needed a loan (Economy development)
  • Defensive alliance (support each other)

Alliance was only strengthened when France loaned money to Russia for their railway development projects

  • Germany = risk of 2 front war
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Entente Cordiale - Britain emerging from Splendid


Britain felt that she didn't need any allies because she had a strong navy. - Splendid Isolationism

  • began to feel isolated due to the fact that Germany had declined to limit the naval expansion (1900-02)
  • there was increasing rivalry with Germany
  • France wanted revenge on Germany over Alsace-Lorraine

Colonial Agreement

  • France allowed Britain to go ahead with reforms in Egypt
  • Britain promised to not oppose any French action in Morocco


  • Kaiser was suspicious ( wanted to challenge it)
  • Encouraged French expansion in Morocco
  • Increased their relations
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Anglo-Russian Entente


Britain and Russia signed due to French influence - both supported France at Algeciras

They were keen to settle disputes over land in Persia

Germany saw this as part of encirclement

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Kaiser Wilhellm II's aims in foreign policy

Expand German empire / Weltpolitik (World Policy) - place in the Sun


  • expand the empire
  • threatened interests in the Turkish empire, Africa and the Far East
  • built up Navy - threatened naval supremacy


  • challenge the Entente Cordiale
  • interfearing with French interests in Morocco


  • supported Aus-Hung in Balkans
  • infuriated Russia
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Moroccan Crisis 1


France already had an empire in North Africa and Morocco would complete the empire. The Kaiser decided to interfere and wanted to test the strength of the Entene Cordiale because it didn't believe Britain would stand by France. 1905 the Kaiser visited Tangier on a white horse and made a speech declaring that he supported Moroccan independance. France refused to back down. There was a conference at Algeciras in 1906 and only Austria-Hungary supported the Kaiser

Key Phrase - "Kaiser overplayed his part"


  • France was given control of the Moroccan police
  • Strengthened relations between France and Britain (Kaiser's attempts had backfired)
  • Anglo-German rivalry increased because the Kaiser blamesd Britain for the humiliating defeat.
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Moroccan Crisis 2


Rebellion broke out against the ruling Sultan in Fez (Moroccan capital.) The Sultan appealed to the French for help and Germany opposed. The German reaction was sending a gunboat, Panther to the port of Agadir to "protect German interests in Morocco." This action backfired and many countries saw it as an over reaction and a warlike statement from the Kaiser. The Kaiser then tried to set up an Atlantic naval base in Morocco.This caused Britain to back France further. Lloyd-George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, made a speech at the Mansion House and directly warned Germany that Britain would back the French (by war is necessary.) Germany backed down due to the risk of war.


  • Germany = Humiliated (2 patches of land in the congo) and was unlikely to back down in a future crisis. Gunboat showed that Kaiser didn't fear War.
  • German people began to support the idea of War - annoyed at Britain and France
  • Britain and France made a secret naval agreement: Britain would defend the north coast of France and France would protect the Mediterranean
  • Stengthened Entente-Cordiale
  • Italy opposed Agadir, thus weakening the Triple Alliance
  • Increased tension in Europe, particularlly Anglo-German naval rivalry
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Bosnian Crisis


There was a revolution in Turkey, Austria-Hungary took advantage and annexed Bosnia. This led to an international crisis and infuriated Serbia because it wanted to make Bosnia part of a greater Serbia. They appealed to Russia for help and Russia called for an international conference to discuss to annexation. Austria-Hungary refused to attend and were fully backed by Germany. Russia was forced to back down and accept the annexation. Nevertheless, Germany was annoyed at Austria-Hungary because it had acted without consulting them. Germany still supported them because of the events at Algeciras in 1906 - they were the only power that backed Germany.


  • Austria-Hungary felt it had full support from Germany
  • Italy again, opposed the actions and once more weakening the Triple-Alliance
  • Russia were humiliated and were unlikely to back down in a future crisis
  • Strengthened the Triple-Entente because all 3 powers had a reason for disliking Germany.
  • Serbia was now determined to oppose Austria-Hungary and looked to Russia for further support.
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Anglo-German naval rivalry


  • The launch of the first Dreadnought was in Britain in 1906, changing the balance of navies across the world. It was faster and had longer range guns. It made all other battleships obsolete.
  • In 1908, Germany decided that she wanted an empire.
  • By 1913, Britain was producing on a 3-power standard.
  • In 1911, the race continued but less intense because Britain had gone further ahead.
  • Germany knew she had to focus her efforts on the army due to the risk of fighting a two-front war so production slowed down in 1914.

This didn't directly cause war but it did mean that if wrar came, Britain would be more likely to fight against Germany.


Britain - 29

German - 17

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The Arms Race


  • There were 2 armed camps in Europe - all countries feared each alliance was against them.
  • The fears and crises which developed from these alliances caused the countries to build up their armies.

Everyone except for Britain introduced conscription

The armies could be mobilised at a moments notice

1900-14 - European powers doubled their spending on arms

Arms increased tension - as one power increased, the other would follow

Made war more likely - powers were willing to test their armed forces

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The Balkans


  • Felt increasingly threatened by Serbian nationalism
  • Many Serbs living in Bosnia were unhappy with the rule of Austria-Hungary
  • these Serbs wished to unite with Bosnia and become part of a greater Serbia
  • This lead to the break up of the Austro-Hungarian empire
  • Fully supported Germany; determined to crush Serbia.


  • By the end of the Balkan Wars, Serbia was the strongest of the Balkan countries. - they saw their victory was the first step to creating a greater Serbia
  • wished to unite all Slavs living in south-east Europe
  • supported by Russia (protector of all Slavs)
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Assassination as Sarajevo

28th June 1914 - 'Spark that lit the fire'

In 1911, 10 Serbian men formed a secret society called the Black Hand Gang, this group had an aim of uniting Serbs in a greater Serbia. Many of the members were leading officials in the Serbian army, for example General Appix provided the weapons. To show their opposition to Austria-Hungary, they planned to assissinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand (heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.)


  • Austria-Hungary (fully backed by the Kaiser) were furious and blamed the Serbs
  • 23rd July - sent an ultimatum to Serbia
  • these were 10 demands that were meant to be the end of Serbian independance
  • Serbia accepted all apart from 1 which was point 6 (Austria-Hungary influencing the justice system)
  • Germany sent a Blank Cheque to Austria-Hungary showing that there was no limit to how much they would help them.
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Events leading to war in - role of alliances in 19

28th July - Austria declares war on Serbia

30th July - Russia moves armed forces to help Serbia defend itself.

                 -Germany warns Russia to remain neutral but Russia ignores the warning

1st August - Germany declares war on Russia and warns France to remain neutral

                  - Italy declares that it will remain neutral

2nd August - France begins to mobilise its armed forces

3rd August - Germany declares war on France

4th August - Germany invades Belgium.

                    - Britain declares war on Germany

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Schlieffen Plan

1905 - head of the German army, von Schlieffen, devised a plan to overcome to problem of fighting a two-front war. 90% of army defeat France, 10% protecting the Eastern front near Russia


  • Russia would take at least 6 weeks to mobilise due to the size and backwardness of the country
  • France would easily be defeated in 6 weeks
  • Britain would remain neutral
  • Belgium would not resist any attack


  • Russia mobilised in just 10 days - forced to withdraw from Belgium to protect the eastern frontier
  • Germans were held up by the Belgian army backed up by the BEF which arrived quickly
  • Note- Britain backed up the Belgians due to the Treaty of London signed in 1839 - Kaiser reffered to this as a 'scrap of paper'
  • German forces were met by the French and British at the Battle of Marne (5-11 Sept) which halted the German advance
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