Theories for the cause of the First World War

Bullet points of the theories of what caused the outbreak of war in 1914

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War of aggression

  • The Germans had a aggressive foreign policy, trying to isolate France. To attack France once it was fully isolated?
  • The Schlieffen plan was designed to take over France
  • It's no secret that Germany wanted an empire as well
  • Germany also wanted economic domination
  • Germany was involved in the arms race
  • 2nd Morrocan Crisis shows that Germany was eager to start trouble


  • There was no clear plan war plan (the Schlieffen plan was not very detailed)
  • Germany also held back Austria during the  Balkans war
  • There were also last minute negotiations, to try to avoid war
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  • Most of the treaties signed were based on friendship, not a military alliance
  • There was no clear war plan
  • Germany expected Britain and France to fight each other, not with each other
  • 2nd Morrocan Crisis, Germany hoped the split Britain and France up
  • Germany was tempted to go to war (they wanted and empire)
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An offensively conducted defensive war

  • Germany felt more and more surrounded and threatened. Since war seem inevitable they might be able to win if they attack first and catch the enemies by surprise.
  • The Schlieffen plan also required Germany to attack France before Russia was mobilized. Now or never?
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Escape forward

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  • After being humiliated by it's defeat against Japan, Russia was desperate to show it was still strong. The best way would be to show off it's military, which means they needed a war.


  • Russia does encourage Serbia to accept the Austrian ultimatum, showing they didn't want to fight a war
  • The Tsar wanted to do partial mobilization, but he could only do full mobilization or no mobilization
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  • Knowing they were Germany's last ally, Austria played their position, they knew Germany would support them
  • Austria wanted war, to show it was still powerful and to stop their empire from collapsing.
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