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Origins of WW1
Revision
There are four MAIN causes that led to the start of world War
One.
Militarism Alliances Imperialism Nationalism
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Militarism
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This is not just an arms race, but also a government's
attitude of mind, seeing war as a valid means of foreign
policy.
All the nations of Europe were militaristic, but the
governments of Germany and Austria-Hungary were
especially so.
All the countries of Europe built up their armies and
navies. In 1914, their armed forces stood like this:
• Germany: 2,200,000 soldiers, 97 warships
• Austria-Hungary: 810,000 soldiers, 28 warships.
• Italy: 750,000 soldiers, 36 warships
• France: 1,125,000 soldiers, 62 warships
• Russia: 1,200,000 soldiers, 30 warships
• Great Britain: 711,000 soldiers, 185 warships
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As one country increased its armies, so all the others felt
obliged to increase their armed forces to keep the
‘balance of power’.
Germany and Britain clashed over the size of their navies
In 1900 Kaiser Wilhelm began to build up the German
navy, announcing that he wanted Germans to sail all
over the world and take for Germany 'a place in the
sun'. Britain built the large 'Dreadnought‘ battleships,
which were more powerful than any other ship. Britain
tried to keep a ‘Two Power Standard’, where their navy
was bigger than the next two biggest combined.
Alliances
As well as seeking protection in the size of their armies, the countries of Europe sought protection by
forming alliances.
At first, Bismarck had kept Germany friendly with Russia. Kaiser Wilhelm overturned this, and
concentrated instead on the Dual Alliance of 1879 between Germany and Austria-Hungary - which
became the Triple Alliance when Italy joined in 1882.
Alarmed by this strong central bloc:
a. France in 1894 made an alliance with Russia, and
b. In 1904 France made an agreement with Britain called the Entente Cordiale (= ‘Friendly Relationship’
– not a formal alliance, but a promise to work together).
c. In 1907, Britain made an entente with Russia, thus forming the Triple Entente (France, Russia, Great
Britain).
d. In 1902 Britain made a naval treaty with Japan.
•
The Triple Entente alarmed Germany, which felt itself surrounded by the France-Russia alliance.
The countries of Europe thought that the alliance system would act as a deterrent to war; in fact it
tied the countries together so that, when one country went to war, the others felt themselves
obliged to follow.
Imperialism
• Countries who believed that they were superior thought it was
alright to conquer and rule others – particularly if they were
inhabited by races they thought were inferior. This is why countries
like Britain, France, Belgium and Italy thought it was OK to colonise
vast areas of Africa in the 19th century. In 1900, the British Empire
covered 25% of the earth.
a) This led to clashes between imperialist powers. Britain was trying
to conquer Africa from Cairo (in the north) to Cape Town (in South
Africa). France was trying to conquer Africa from the Atlantic to the
Red Sea.
b) The Austrians feared Serbia / Russia in the Balkans.
c) Most of all, it led to HUGE tension when Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany
decided that HE wanted some colonies too!
Pre 1914 crises
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Morocco: 1905-06
Both Germany and France wanted Morocco. France was given a free hand in
Morocco because of the entente with Britain in 1904. Kaiser William II, angry at
France's influence and at Germany’s exclusion, decided to intervene. The German
government followed this up by demanding an international conference to clarify
the status of Morocco. At the Algeciras Conference Morocco was preserved as an
independent state whose trade was to be open to all nations; but in fact France
was given special privileges.
•
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Morocco: 1911
France wanted to have complete control of the country. After 1906 they had
increased their influence in the country. In 1908, the French installed a pro-French
Sultan. In May 1911, the French forces occupied Fez, the capital of Morocco, in
order to suppress a rising against the pro-French Sultan.
The Germans responded by sending a gunboat Panther to Agadir. Britain protested
against Germany and backed up France to fight against Germany. Because of
British support of France, Germany gave in
•
Pre 1914 crises
• Bosnia 1908-09
• Austria annexed (took control of) Bosnia on
October 6th. Austria had strengthened their
position in the Balkans without giving the
Russians any compensation. Serbia had wanted
to create a Greater Serbia which should include
Serbia and all neighbouring kindred people. The
Austrian annexation dashed this dream.
• This led to the formation of the Black Hand…
Nationalism
• EVERYONE was nationalist in those days, and this helped cause war in two
ways:
• a. It made the people of countries like Britain, Germany and France more
bellicose (warlike) – the British sang: ‘Rule Britannia’ and ‘Land of Hope
and Glory’, and the Germans sang: ‘Deutschland uber alles’. French
politicians like Clemenceau and Poincare (who had been around in 1870)
HATED the Germans. People were enraged when someone insulted their
country.
• b. It made the races ruled by Turkey (such as the Romanians and the
Bulgarians) and by Austria-Hungary (such as the Serbs) want to be free to
rule themselves. In the Balkans this was called ‘Panslavism’ because the
people who wanted to be free were all Slav races. The most nationalistic
of all were the Serbs – Serbia had become an independent country by the
Treaty of San Stefano in 1878, but in 1900 many Serbs were still ruled by
Turkey and Austria-Hungary, and Serbia was determined to rule over them
all. This led to rebellions and terrorism which destabilised the Balkans.
Black Hand and Assassination
• This group was a secret society aimed at uniting
all Serbs in a Greater Serbia. The stated aim of
the Black Hand was ‘To realise the national ideal,
the unification of all Serbs. This organisation
prefers terrorist action to cultural activities; it will
therefore remain secret.’ They planned to achieve
their aims through spreading anti-Austrian
propaganda, training saboteurs, acts of violence,
political murders, the planned the assassination
of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914.
Assassination
• 28th June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
visits Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia. The Black Hand
terrorists attack the Archduke. A bomb attempt fails in
morning, but Gavrilo Princip shoots the Archduke and
wife in the afternoon. Austrians blame Serbia for
supporting terrorists.
• Austria, supported by Germany, sends Serbia a tough
ultimatum. Serbia agrees to all but two terms of the
ultimatum. Russia mobilises her troops to support
Serbia, causing Germany to demand that Russia stands
her armies down. When Russia do not Germany
declares war on Russia.
Schlieffen Plan
• Germany’s military plan to
defeat France and Russia.
• First a “Knockout blow” aimed
at France, avoiding French
defences by invasion of
Belgium. Then when that was
achieved troops would be
transferred to attack Russia.
• Germans thought Britain
would not intervene.
• Britain upheld an old treaty
that had been signed with
Belgium (“Scrap of Paper”)
and went to war against
Germany.
Exam Practice
• Which was the more important reason for
Great Britain joining the First World War in
1914:
• • the Naval Race with Germany, 1906–1914
• • the Schlieffen Plan?
• You must refer to both reasons when
explaining your answer.