Most Significant Political Changes in the Century before World War I


World War I, which started in 1914 after Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, is regarded as one of the biggest events in history. It also became one of the longest wars that lasted until 1918 (Burg, 2010). However, there are also other significant political events that happened before this war. Noteworthy, prior to WWI, there had been no great war that involved all the continents, but there were major political events that included the Franco-Prussian war that led to the emergence of the German empire and encouraged industrialization in France. The second is the Russo-Japanese war that caused a political crisis in Russia while the assassination of Austro-Hungarian heir is another significant event that contributed to the occurrence of WWI.

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Franco-Prussian War

One of the major political events that happened before the World War I is the war between France and Prussia which later became the German Empire. The war is vital because it is thought to be one of the factors that led to WWI as accentuated by Tucker, Roberts, and Herwig (2014). The war started in the year 1870 and ended in the year 1871 where France got a humiliating defeat, lost the regions of Lorraine and Alsace, and was also forced to pay an indemnity to Prussia. The war led to the creation of the powerful empire of German that had the industrial and military potential to further disrupt the balance of power in Europe. It also led to resentment and the desire for revenge in the French society as they wanted their land back (Burg, 2010). The society also came to believe that the modern war can be decisive.

Russo-Japanese War

The second major political event that happened before WWI was the rivalry between Russo and Japan over Korea and Manchuria which reached its peak between 1904 and 1905 (Burg, 2010). The outcome of the war was a blow to the Russians who lost almost the entire Pacific and Baltic fleet. The defeat resulted in a major political crisis that resulted in the Russian Revolution year 1905 (Tucker, Roberts & Herwig, 2014). In addition, the war resulted at the end of the Russian ambitions to take over the Far East and it started focusing on Europe. Its first interest was in Balkans which increased the old rivalry with Austria-Hungary which also was interested in the Balkans.

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The Assassination of Austro-Hungarian Heir

On June 1914, some conspirators from the revolutionary movement known as the Young Bosnia or Mlada Bosna assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife as they were visiting Sarajevo. After the instance, it was found that the group behind the incident was Bosnian Serbs and, thus, the Dual Monarchy accused Serbia of standing behind the attack (Tucker, Roberts & Herwig, 2014). The incident triggered a political crisis and led to events that eventually resulted in the 1st world war, but it did not cause it (Burg, 2010). The Austria-Hungary had been determined to eliminate the threat that Serbia posed even before the assassination of their heir presumptive.


The above explication candidly indicates that the Franco-Prussian war, Russo-Japanese war, and the assassination of Austro-Hungarian heir are three of the most important events that preceded WWI.  These events set the stage for a major world war by showing countries that they should be prepared for wars. It also gave countries involved in the conflicts an inordinate opportunity to exercise their military prowess. Countries participation in the various wars prepared them for WWI.

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  1. Burg, D. F. (2010). Almanac of World War I. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.
  2. Tucker, S., Roberts, P. M., & Herwig, H. H. (2014). World War I: The definitive encyclopedia and document collection. Santa Barbara, California.
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