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Cause 1: Franco-Prussian War 1870-1871

  • France decleared war on Prussia (biggest german state because France was becoming concerned over her strength
  • other German states were unifying with Prussia- Unified Germany
  • Spanish Monarchy fell vacant- Bismarck pput forward a German candidate
  • Outraged, France demanded Germany to withdraw and apologise
  • When no apology came; France decleared war

Main fighting was over in just 6 weeks (Parris held out until 1871)- 150,000 french troops dead

Crucial because:

  • humiliated France and showed their military weakness
  • Led to the unification of Germany
  • Could be argued that it led to the start of the alliance system (dual alliance)
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Cause 1: Franco-Prussian War 1870-1871

1871 Treaty of Frankfurt

Peace treaty to end Franco-Prussian War.  Agreements;

  • France pay 5 billion Francs to Germany (reparations)
  • Alsace-Lorraine (1.5m inhabitants) transfered to Germany

Unified Germany

  • Prussia forcibly re-united all German States
  • German king crowned- Kaiser Wilhelm I in Hall of Mirrors, Versailles (humiliated france further)
  • France and Russia made uneasy by the unification of Germany
  • Preparations for war; France built forts on the French-German border to prevent Germany invading again
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Cause 1: Franco-Prussian War 1870-1871

Start of Alliance System

  • Germany concerned France may organise revenge attack
  • Bismarck (foreign Minister) maked anti-French alliances with Austria-Hungary and Russia to protect Germany (Dreikaiserbund)

France's Political Structure

  • Republic 1871- Napoleon captured in Battle of Sudan
  • Many political parties; French governments rarely in power for long

  French Government unpopular; - very weak, divided unpopular French governments

  • Signed Treaty of Frankfurt
  • Too weak to push through strong measures against Germans- seemed unwilling to fight
  • Political Instability- 26 different Prime Ministers 1889-1914
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Cause 2: Rise of Germany

  • Kaiser Wilhelm I 1871-1888 - appointed by God
  • Bismark 1878-1890- Unified Germany through 'Blood and Iron'
  • Germany began building alliances (1872 onwards) to prevent France seeking revenge (can be interpreted that the Unification of Germany led to the Alliance System?)
  • Germany encouraged industrialisation with new production techniques and rapid expansion

Bismarckian Foreign Policy

  2 main aims: keep German empire together & isolate France (alliances)

  • 1873: Dreikaiserbund (Three Emporors League)- Germany, Austria-Hungary & Russia        secure side if nedd to attack France
  • 1879: Dual Alliance- Germany & Austria-Hungary (Russia dropped~ Germany responsible?)
  • 1887: Reinsurance Treaty- Germany and Russia (after breakup of Dreikaiserbund)

Wilhelm II crowned Kaiser 1888

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Cause 2: Rise of Germany

Wilhelm II Foreign Policy

  • Radicalises/more agressive
  • Determined to match economic power with military power
  • Bismarck restrained Wilhelm II from being overly aggressive (sacked 1890)
  • Foregin Policy- 'Weltpolitik'- "Germany wants its own place in the sun"
  • Threatens Britain- "Sun never sets on Brittish Empire"
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Cause 3: Alliance System

Alliances were defensive and were not binding

  • 1882 Dreikaiser Bund (Germ, Aust-Hung, Russ) -->1879 Dual Alliance (Germ-Aust-Hung) -->1882 Triple Alliance (Germany, Aust-Hung & Italy)
  • 1894 Dual Entente (Russia & France)~ Response to Dreikaiserbund
  • 1904 Entente Cordiale (England & France)
  • 1907 Anglo-Russian Entente (England & Russia)
  • 1907 Triple Entente (Britain, France & Russia)

Dreikaiserbund 1872 (Germany, Austria-Hungary & Russia)

  • Anti French "3 Emporors League"- aim to isolate France~ potential lead to war
  • Germany anxious French would seek revenge (F-P War) and try to regain Alsace-Lorriane
  • Sought alliances to defend herself

Dual Alliance 1879- Germany & Austria-Hungary

  • 1876-1878 Bulgarian Crisis- Bulgaria wanted independence from the Balkans
  • The response to the Balkans led to the break down of the Dreikaiserbund
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Cause 3: Alliance System

Triple Alliance 1882- Germany, Austrain-Hungary & Italy

  • Italy joined to improve relations with Austria-Hungary (shared boundaries)
  • Italy angry France gained colonies in North America- close to Italy territory
  • Italy never firm ally- later signed secret alliance with France & joned WWI on Britian's side

Dual Entente 1894- France & Russia

  • 1888 Kaiser Wilhelm II became German emperor and wanted Germany to expand and dismissed Bismarck (1890)
  • Alarmed France & Russia signed Dual Entente- response to Dual Alliance


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Cause 3: Alliance System

Entente Cordialle 1904- Britain & France

  • Britain & France clashed over Fashoda, Sudan both claiming its ownership
  • Neraly came to war, instead Britain agreed France could have a free hand in north west Africa e.g. Morocco
  • Avoided War over the Fashoda Crisis by dividing Europe between Britain & France

Anglo-Russian Entente 1907- Britain and Russia

  • disagreement over middle east
  • collectively formed the Triple Entente

Triple Entente

  • didn't mean to be anti-German
  • Wilhelm II saw it as a threat- can be seen as the cause of war as Wilhelm felt being circled
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Cause 4: Imperialism, Colonialism & Moroccan Crisi

Scramble for Africa

  • Gain political power over other European nations, find new materials to boost own economies
  • Cause tensions such as the Fashoda Crisis

First Moroccan Crisis (Tangier Crisis) 1905-1906

  • Began due to Germany's growing economic power and imperial rivalry (Wilhelm & Entente Cordialle)
  • Wilhelm attempts to split the Entent Cordialle- by stopping France from having a free hand in Morocco but Briatin and Russia supported France and the public support belonged to France- Germany becoming isolated
  • 1906 Algeciras Conference Jan 16- April 7- 13 Nations present.  Britain & France planned military action against Germany. Germany's only support was Austria-Hungary.  Wilhelm humiliated and it proved the strength of Entente Cordialle 
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Cause 4: Imperialism, Colonialism & Moroccan Crisi

2nd Moroccan Crisis (Agadir Crisis) 1911

  • Germany wanted to prove strength and didn't think that they would be humiliated a second time
  • Wilhelm sent gunboat 'Panther' to Agadir (Moroccan Coast) to pressurise France and reduce its influence on the area
  • Germany tried to intimidate france to ally with her
  • Britain supported France as they thought Germany wanted Agadir as a naval base for the Atlantic but Austria-Hungary failed to support Germany- Germany increasingly becoming more isolated
  • Lloyd george decleared a naval lead was necessary to put Germany back in its place.  1912 Anglo-French Naval Agreement- Entente Cordialle now a military alliance.
  • Caused by Militarism but 2nd Moroccan Crisis led to further militarism.
  • Led to the Arms Race
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Cause 4: Imperialism, Colonialism & Moroccan Crisi

German Aims

  • wanted to protect their economic interest in the area against France's growing control
  • scare France to turn to Germany


  • Britain and France stood fast- Wilhelm humiliated
  • Created a bigger void between France, Britain and Germany
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Cause 5: Arms Race & Schlieffen Plan

Arms Race

  • Wilhelm announced he wants to expand his navy to be the best- threatens Britain who's navy is the worlds biggest- leads to Arms Race
  • Tirpiz
  • 1898 German Naval Law- 12 new battleships
  • 1900 German Naval Law- 38 new battleships (big increase/significant)
  • However 1906- Briain designed the Dreadnought- made all battleships insignificant meaning Germany was back to square one!
  • Dreadnought- bigger calibre so could easily sink a battleship with one shot and battleships couldn't sink them
  • 1914- UK had 20 dreadnaughts whereas Germany only had 13 dreadnaughts
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Cause 5: Arms Race & Schlieffen Plan

Schlieffen Plan

  • 1905- Count Alfred Van Schliffen
  • Avoid 'war on two fronts' between France and Russia
  • Aimed to defeat France in six weeks (proven possible by the Franco-Prussian War) by invading through neutral Belgium
  • Army return through Germany to defeat Russia (thought it would take Russia 6 week to mobilise)
  • Long term cause of war- without invading neutral Belgium, Britain would never have joined the war turning it into a World War

Army-preparations for war

  • Germany had the largest land army- accepted as the biggest and the best in the world
  • As well as standing armies, nations introduced conscription, so they also had large numbers of trained reserves
  • All the nations except Britain had huge armies
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Cause 6: The Balkans

1875-1878 Balkan Crisis

  • Bulgaria wanted independence from the Balkans (Ottoman Empire)
  • Austria-Hungary (close neighbour) against this and feared a knock-on-effect where members in Austria-Hungary Empire would also want nationalistic ideas
  • Austria-Hungary anxious Russia would gain too much influence in the area~ Pan-Slavism
  • Russia wanted Bulgaria to have access to the Dardenelle Straights so the Navy can have access from the Black Sea to the Mediterainean Sea
  • Treaty of San Stefano (1878): Balkan states gained their independence.  New stste of 'Greater Bulgaria' created
  • Austria-Hungary alarmed and called on Germany (wanted to surpress Russian Control)
  • Treaty of Berlin (1878): Bulgaria reduced in size
  • Russia felt Austria-Hungary sided against them- Dreikaiserbund (no shared interests over the Balkans
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Cause 6: The Balkans

Austro-Hungarian annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina 1908

  • 1908- Austrian Foreign Minister Austrian Foreign Minister met Russian Foreign Minister
  • Agreed Austria would support Russian control of the Dardanelles Straits
  • However, Austraia-Hungary unerlateraly anexed Bosnia-Herzegovina without support or agreement October 1908

Bosnia Crisis (Annexation Crisis) 1908

  • 1908 revolution in Turkey, Austria-Hungary took advantage to annex Turkish State of Bosnia
  • Serbia furious (borders Boznia-Herzegovinia and wanted to annex Slavic part of Bosnia because Bosnia included many Serbs whom it had hoped to rule.  Serbia threatened War on Austria-Hungary
  • Russia pledgeded support to Serbia (Russia & Serbia alliance 1908), and began to mobilise, causing Germany, allied with Austria-hungary to threaten war on Russia.
  • Russia expected support from France and Britain however, Britain and France didn't support Russia.
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Cause 6: The Balkans

Bosnia Crisis (Annexation Crisis) 1908

  • Beginning of WWI postponed when Russia backed down, but relations between Austrai-Hungary and Serbia were greatly strained.  Russia vowed not to back down again (important after assination)

First Balkan War

  • May 1912, Greece and Bulgaria signed alliance- The Balkan League (Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece & Montenegro)- gang together to take more territory from Ottoman Epire
  • Troops mobilised September 1912 and October 1912 decleared war, Ottoman no state to fight and Balkan League was very successful
  • Main powers kept out of fighting but tried to influence peace negotiations.

Second Balkan War

  • June 1913, Bulgaria went to war with members of the Balkan League
  • Bulgarian commander ordered attack without recieveing governemt authorisation
  • Turkey and Romania joined war on Serbia's side
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Cause 7: Assassination and July Crisis

August 19194

  • June 28- Ferdinand (air to throne) Shot
  • July- Austria-Hungary asked for German support- blank cheque (support no matter what)
  • July- Austria-Hungary ultimatum to Serbia- Serbia followed all of the ultimatum except an      invesigation into the goverment as Black hand gang (blamed for assassination) is linked to the government.  Austria-Hungary shellled Serbian Capital
  • July- Russia mobilised, in support of Serbia, at Austrian border
  • July- Austria-Hungary decleared war on Serbia
  • July- Russia ordered general mobilisation
  • July- Germany ordered Russia to demobilise.  Russia refused- won't back down again (annexation crisis 1908)
  • August- Germany decleared war on Russia- France mobilised
  • August- Germany demanded passage through Belgium (Schlieffen Plan)
  • August- Germany decleared war on Belgium and France
  • August 4- Britain decleared war on Germany (Britain defending neutral Belgium)
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Cause 8: Nationalism

  • Can be interpreted that the key cause of WWI is nationalisation
  • Britain had the world's largest navy- Britain more confident to assert power & determined to keep their navy the best (2nd Moroccan Crisis~ Agadir Crisis & Arms Race)
  • France sought revenge on Germany~ humiliation of Franco-Prussian War 1870-1871) defeat
  • France and Germany became more nationalistic (Franco-Prussian War)- many competitions (alliance systems & Moroccan Crises)
  • German Policy- Sammlungspolitik: Wilhelm II believed this would bring social classes together (abolishing titles~ replaced with Comerade)
  • 2nd Moroccan Crisis/Agadir Crisis- due to German nationalism- prove strength after humiliation at Algeciras Conference
  • Arms Race-  Nationalism conflict of Germany and Britain- leading navy
  • Russia- cannot back down after Annexation Crisis- doesnt want to show weakness- vital in the assassination~ refuses Germany's demand to demobilise
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