Causes Of World War 1



Henri Barbusse noted: “Two armies that fight each other is like one large army that commits suicide”, and Ernest Hemingway in 1916 stated:”Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.” It is impossible to conceive that more than 2.1 million soldiers separated from their homes for more than 4 years to protect and struggle for their countries and to gain pride in the eyes of their friends and relatives, but later most families received a letter informing them that their beloved ones died at the hands of the enemy. It is so devastating that no one would want to go through something like that. The underlying historical causes of World War 1 were summed up in the word M.A.I.N., for Militarism, Alliance, Imperialism, Nationalism. We have to start identifying why wars are so difficult to confront in order to prevent such tragedies in the future.

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The Assassination of Franz Ferdinand as a pretext for the outbreak of war

There were numerous reasons and events that triggered the outbreak of the World War 1, the first of which was the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was the heir to the Austrian throne. On June 28, 1914, Franz Ferdinand and his wife were riding in a car across Sarajevo to the Town Hall. On the way back to the Town Hall, the motorcade deviated from the established route. When the driver started to reverse, the murderer called Gavrilo Princip appeared close to the car. He seized this moment and started shooting at the Archduke. He shot twice, striking the Archduke and his wife Sophie once. The car instantly went to the governor’s residence to get emergency medical assistance. Tragically, Sophie, his wife, died before the paramedics arrived and the Archduke died a few moments later. Nevertheless, even earlier than this occasion, the beginning of the World War 1 in 1914 was determined by a set of reasons that became the major, lasting causes of the World War 1 — militarism, alliances, imperialism and nationalism, tensions in Europe were high even before the war began, precisely because of the alliance system that provoked tensions in Europe.

Militarism, Alliances, Imperialism and Nationalism as the reasons for World War 1

Militarism means that a state seeks to have a powerful army. Prior to World War 1, militarism created fear and rivalry among European countries. The key militaristic episode that triggered World War 1 was the naval competition that occurred after 1900. Britain had the strongest navy in the world. The new Kaiser Wilhelm declared his determination to construct a German navy that would be superior to the British one. Britain saw this as a significant threat. The German navy was much weaker than the British navy, but the British army was stationed throughout the colonies so that they could be defended. Germany did not have as large an Empire as Britain, but most people accepted that they were the best prepared and most capable at the time. While Britain and Germany were developing their navies, the leading nations of continental Europe were also expanding their armies. Militarism also ensured that when Franz Ferdinand was murdered, the countries were long prepared to go to war.

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In the years before the war began, European states had entered into alliances with each other. An alliance is an accord between two or more countries that pledge to assist each other if conflict begins. Prominent instances of such blocs and alliances are the Triple Alliance and the Entente, established before the war. This considerably contributed to the outbreak of World War I because when Austria took revenge on Serbia for the execution of the heir to their throne, Russia, which had an agreement with Serbia, announced war on Austria.

Imperialism refers to when a country conquers other territories and extends its rule into an enormous empire. This triggered rivalries and clashes between many countries in the world. An illustration of this is that France and Great Britain established massive global empires and rose to become extremely wealthy and great powers, which later led to their outcomes, but the majority of nations were heavily influenced by them.

Nationalism is when a nation considers itself to be preferable to the other countries. Both the facts that Serbia intended to take over Austria-Hungary and the shooting of Franz Ferdinand are good reminders of this.


“This is the war to end all wars”. — Woodrow Wilson, 1917. In conclusion, according to me, the most relevant cause of the World War 1 was the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Other reasons for the war were militarism, allied imperialism, nationalism. These represent the fundamental roots of World War 1. Moreover, each state wanted to be stronger than the others, related to all four factors and dimensions of the events. World War 1 was over on November 11, 1918.

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