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Transcript
The Causes of World War 1
The causes of World War 1 are not as clear cut as many other wars. Most historians agree that
the war had been building up for many years before 1914. The "Great War" was caused by rivalries
and jealousies between bickering nations.
The primary cause of World War 1 was the Alliance System. At the end of the Franco-Prussian
War, a system of secret alliances (treaties and agreements between nations) developed in Europe. This
eventually split the continent into two hostile sides. Because so many different powers were involved
in mutual defense agreements, when the war did happen, nearly every country of Europe became
involved. Due to the alliances, some countries were forced to support policies followed by their
partners, which they didn't really approve of.
The competition for colonies was another source of international antagonism. Great Britain,
Germany and France needed foreign markets after the increase in manufacturing caused by the
Industrial Revolution. European powers split up Africa and made new European colonies there. They
established spheres of influence in China and sought trading relationships elsewhere in the Pacific
Ocean. Sooner or later this rush to gain new territories was bound to spark disagreements over
borders and the boundaries of control for each nation.
In the decades before the war, armies and navies were
greatly expanded in an Arms Race. The standing armies of France
and Germany doubled in size between 1870 and 1914. Expansion
of navies was also extremely competitive, particularly between
Germany and Great Britain. By 1889, the British had established
the principle that in order to maintain naval superiority in the
event of war they would have to have two and a half times as
many ships as the next largest navy. This motivated the British to
launch the Dreadnought, the largest battleship of its time in
H.M.S. Dreadnought
1906. As part of their planning the militaries of each country had
drawn up complete plans for how to fight and win a war. These plans only awaited the go-ahead signal
to invade and attack, and that often could not be reversed once they were begun. The Germans had
come up with the Von Schlieffen Plan. This planned was to attack France and then turn and attack
Russia. This was plan that could draw more countries into war than necessary.
Strong feelings of nationalism (extreme patriotism) fed the fires of hatred in pre-war Europe. It
turned Frenchman against German and Russian against Austrian. Nationalistic speeches and writings
(especially in countries like Germany) encouraged the war by painting it as the best way to prove their
national superiority.
These general causes created an atmosphere in Europe
which made war likely. The spark which ignited the flame and
engulfed the continent in war happened in the Balkans. On
June 28, 1914, Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria was
assassinated while visiting Sarajevo. At first, it appeared to be
another Balkan crisis that might pass without a major
disturbance, but a month later, Austria severed relations with
Serbia and refused to accept their terms of apology for the
assassination, so now it was war between Austria and Serbia.
Germany supported Austria's actions, while Russia stepped
forward to defend it friend, Serbia. Despite frantic efforts by
Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife Sophie
other nations to stop the war or make it smaller, it spread
rapidly, involving France and Belgium, and eventually Great Britain. As the world looked on, all of
Europe erupted into war within months.
American relations with European nations were at the time generally friendly, especially with
Great Britain. When the war started President Woodrow Wilson called upon his countrymen to take no
sides and to be impartial, but neutrality for America was not possible. Germany was using their Uboats
(submarines) to attack U.S. ships that were delivering weapons and food to the Allied Powers.
Germany considered this to be basic defense, but the United States considered it an act of aggression.
The final act that pushed America into the war was the Zimmerman
telegram. A German official sent a telegram to the German
ambassador to Mexico. In the telegram Germany promised to support
Mexico, and help them regain their lost territories of California and
Arizona, if they attacked the United States. Although Mexico never
agreed, or even saw the telegram, it will make America very angry with
Germany and decide that war is our only option. Wilson asked
Congress to recognize that a state of war existed between the U.S. and
Germany on April 6, 1917. The resolution passed both houses of
Congress, the President signed it, and America joined the war.
Sources:
U.S. Declaration of War, signed
by Wilson
"Causes of World War 1." Essortment Articles. Web. 1 Jan. 2002. Web. 15 Mar. 2010.
<http://www.essortment.com/all/worldwaricaus_nbk.htm>.
"Causes of World War I." Chico Unified School District. Suzanne Karpilovsky, Maria Fogel, Olivia Kobelt
Web. 15 Mar. 2010. <http://www.cusd.chico.k12.ca.us/~bsilva/projects/great_war/causes.htm>.
Causes of World War 1 Essay Test
Name_______________________
Essay Test. Answer the following question in essay format. It should consist of 3 paragraphs:
an introduction, the body with the argument/discussion and conclusion. Answer all parts of the
question in your essay.
Question: Intro: What were the two main causes of World War 1? Body: How did the War
escalate from a conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia to include most of the world? In
your opinion, what country antagonized the other countries the most and why? Conclusion:
How did the United States become involved?
Intro: What were the two main causes of World War 1?
_______________________________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________________________
Body: How did the War escalate from a conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia to include
most of the world? In your opinion, what country antagonized the other countries the most and
why?
_______________________________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________________________
Conclusion: How did the United States become involved?
_______________________________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________________________
Essay Answer- Now answer the question in your own words: