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Outbreak of WWI
M.A.I.N. Causes of World War I
Causes of
• Policy in which stronger nations extend their
control over weaker nations
– Many European nations were competing for land in Asia and
– Germany had fewer colonies than Britain and France and felt
it deserved more
• Strong feeling of pride, loyalty, and protectiveness
towards one’s own country
• Many felt that country borders should be drawn
according peoples’ nationalities instead of expanding
• Policy of making military power a primary goal
– Led to competition for military power and strength
– Increase in military spending
• An alliance is a formal agreement between nations to
defend each other if either nation is attacked
• Many countries in Europe had formed alliances
Setting the Stage
• World War I began as a result of competition
1. Imperial territories (Imperialism)
2. The build up of powerful militaries (Militarism)
• European nations formed alliances for
• Two major military alliances threatened to
draw European countries into war
1. Triple Entente – England, France, and Russia
2. Triple Alliance - Austria-Hungary, Italy, and
• Rivalries due to militarism and imperialism
increased nationalism among European powers
British propaganda poster, 1897
Austrian national poster, 1900
The Balkans
• Nationalism was strong in the Balkans where
many Slavic people lived (also called Slavs)
• Slavs share similar languages, culture, and
historical backgrounds
• Serbia hoped to unite with the Slavic region of
Bosnia which was under the control of the
Austro-Hungarian Empire
Assassination of Franz Ferdinand
• A secret Serbian terrorist group called The Black Hand plotted
to assassinate the Archduke of Austria-Hungary, heir to the
Austro-Hungarian throne
• June 28, 1914 - Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were
assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia by Gavrilo Princip
• This triggered the start of WWI
Alliances create a WORLD war
Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia
Russia comes to aid of Serbia
Germany declares war on Russia
Germany declares war on France and prepares to
invade Belgium
• Great Britain declares war on Germany
• Austria-Hungary declares war on Russia
• France and Great Britain declare war on AustriaHungary
Taking Sides
• After the outbreak of WWI, two major
alliances were formed:
1. Central Powers – Austria-Hungary,
Bulgaria, Germany and the Ottoman Empire
2. Allied Powers – Belgium, France, Great
Britain, Russia, Serbia and later Italy
United States Neutrality
• By 1914, the U.S. was a world power with
overseas territories and influence
in Latin America and Asia
• However, Americans wanted to remain
neutral and avoid involvement in Europe’s
“Great War”
– Isolationist foreign policy
“The people of the United States are drawn from
many nations, and chiefly from the nations now at
war. It is natural and inevitable that there should be
sympathy with regard to the circumstances of the
Every man who really loves America will act and
speak in the true spirit of neutrality…The United
States must be neutral in fact, as well as in name,
during these days that are to try men's souls.”
—Woodrow Wilson, 1914
The Lusitania
• Germany decided to attack all foreign shipping to
limit supplies reaching Britain
– Employed unrestricted submarine warfare and attacked
passenger ships
• The SS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat for
allegedly carrying military supplies
• About 1200 people died in the attack including 128
Zimmerman Telegram
• Germany tried to distract the United States from the war in
– They hoped to win the war before the U.S. joined
• German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmerman sent a
SECRET telegram urging Mexico to invade the U.S.
– In exchange, Germany would help Mexico gain back Texas, New
Mexico, and Arizona
• After the British intercepted and decoded the message,
Americans were outraged
Joining the War
• The USA remained neutral from 1914 to 1917, but
Germany continued to sink U.S. ships
• April 2, 1917 - Congress declared war on the Central
• President Woodrow Wilson famously promised to
“make the world safe for democracy”