Edexcel IGCSE History - The origins and course of the First World War, 1905-18


Edexcel IGCSE History – The origins and course of the First World War, 1905-18

Ø  The alliance system before 1914:

·      A series of alliances divided Europe into two clear sides.

·      Triple Alliance (1882) involved Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy.

·      Triple Entente (1907) involved Great Britain, France, and Russia.

Ø  The key issues in the Balkans:

·      By 1905, the Ottoman Empire was in very serious decline, and many countries (such as Greece, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Romania) had fought for and won independence.

·      These Balkan states, however wished to re-unite with their fellow nationals in the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires.

·      Russia was interested in obtaining a warm water port to protect her trade, and to help with construction of a navy. She also wished to protect small Slav countries, such as Serbia, against Turkish Muslim control, believing in Pan Slavism (the union of all Slavic peoples).

·      Germany saw the Balkans as a chance to build the German Empire, with lots of cheap raw materials, an export market, and an area for profitable investment.

·      Austria was terrified of nationalist movements, particularly in Serbia, which threatened to break up the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

·      In 1908, a new king (Peter) ascended the throne in Serbia, who was strongly anti-Austrian and wished to unite with his fellow nationals in Bosnia.

·      In July 1908, the ‘Young Turk Revolution’ broke out in the Ottoman Empire, protesting against the despotic rule of Sultan Abdul Hamid II, who gave way at once and agreed to restore a constitution. Ferdinand of Bulgaria took advantage of the chaos to throw off his last shreds of allegiance to the Sultan, and declared himself King of Bulgaria. Crete united with Greece, and Austria-Hungary also wanted to take advantage of this chaotic situation.

·      Russia’s defeats in the Far East had turned her attention back to the Balkans. In September 1908, the Russian Foreign Minister, Alexander Izvolski, made a political bargain with his Austro-Hungarian counterpart, Count von Aehrenthal. Russia agreed not to oppose Austrian annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, if Austria agreed to raise no objections to the opening of the Dardanelles Straits to Russian warships.

·      While Izvolski was trying to gain approval from the other powers about the opening of the straits, Austria suddenly annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina in October 1908. Russia and Serbia were both furious and war seemed imminent, but Russia was forced to back down, as Britain and France refused to get involved, and Germany promised to give Austria military support.

·      Russia felt humiliated and intensified her armaments programme, and sent Izvolski to Paris as an ambassador, in order to gain more support from France.

·      Serbia became the irreconcilable enemy of Austria-Hungary. Serbian nationalists formed a secret society, the Black Hand, in 1911.

·      The Turkish government remained ineffective, and the Balkan states formed a Balkan League and declared war on Turkey


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