On July of 1914, World War 1started officially and ended in early November 1918 (Ferguson 22). More than 17 million people died, and several others sustained injuries. More so, many were left in pain and misery due to the injuries inflicted and the loss of their loved ones. This paper aims to look at both the long-term and immediate factors that triggered the start of World War 1.
The Long Term Causes
All nations never satisfied with having few military forces and weapons because of suspicion (Ferguson 24). The suspicion grew to higher levels such that each country sought to arm itself and had a well-trainedarmy to execute any attack at whatever time. Every country seemed to be gaining more power by having its military expanded and well equipped with the best weapons for the sake of defending international boundaries and waters. This was characterized by the arms race that took place between several countries, especially in Europe. These countries includedFrance, Britain, and Germany, whereby each of these nations had its navies doubled up in preparation for attacks. These activities started way back in the 1970s and continued until the climax in 1914. At the time of the outbreak of the war, Germany had around 2 million soldiers in her army, while France had approximately 1 million. Due to the arms race, trust between countries was lost, and tension heightened. The factor of militarism exposed the tension, rivalry, and distrust that existed among European countries many years even beforeWorld War 1 broke out. It was militarism that facilitated the creation of large and heavily armed armies that fought in the World War 1.
Before the year 1914, many European nations had aligned themselves into alliances that were meant to protect their political and territorial interests. Just before 1914, Europe was already divided into two, whereby Russia, France, and Britain made their alliance as Italy, Austria-Hungary, and Germany teamed up to form the Triple Triple Entente and Triple Alliance respectively. The two alliances were ready to do anything to protect their members, and make sure that they dominated Europe politically as well as military power. These alliances caused even more tension, and as a result, they remained in complete distrust against each other. A tiny thing could provoke them to face each other any time.
Imperialism means domination and annexation of lesser powerful nations by European superpowers who unleashed their anger at less developed continents of Africa and the Americas. The scramble for Africa happened before World War 1, and it created a rivalry between the European powers (Strachan 60). The European nations faced against each other in the scramble for some territories in Africa as they sought out overseas colonies. These colonies provided the colonial powers with industrial raw materials and slave labor for plantations that helped boost the economies of the countries of their masters. More so, the state that had more prominent and more colonies also proved to be dominant. Otto von Bismarck convened the Berlin Conference of the European powers that sat down to discuss how Africa would be divided among the European nations to avoid rivalries. However, the peace that followed this conference only lasted a short period.
There was a wave of nationalism growing all over Europe whereby the citizens of different nations were showing strong loyalty to their countries. The people in one country saw each other as brothers and sisters and asa result, established a strong sense of national identity. This was being made possible by the existence of similar political and religious ideologies, culture, and language that united the people of each country. The nationalism factor formed some nations such as Italy and Germany that previously existed as separate states. When the people got to realize that they had so many similarities that brought them together and made them one, they formed strong unions and created countries that were founded and strengthened by nationalism. Unrest as well as tension developed due to the existence of nationalism. For instance, the presence of many groups in the Austro-HungarianEmpire was a problem because these people united and wanted to break away. In Germany, Adolf Hitler was leading nationalism.
The Immediate Causes of World War 1
With the existence of the alliances, militarism, imperialism, and nationalism, starting a world war only needed something that would spark it up. The perfect opportunity presented itself when the Austria-Hungarian archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. This started happening in 1914 when a terrorist organization in Serbia known as the Black Hand sent for the execution of the assassination of the Archduke. The first attempt was made when a grenade was thrown targeting the car in which the Archduke was traveling in. However, the driver avoided the grenade. The second attempt was caused by a Serbian who shot at the archduke who was with his wife in Sarajevo. The effort was successful, and the Archduke died at the end.
As a result of the assassination, German rose up to support Austria-Hungary in attacking Serbia by offering unconditional support if Russia would have a hand in aiding Serbia out of this mess.
Due to the support and the Germany hand in this, Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia by issuing strict terms that the latter could not cope up with the conditions and therefore Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Nonetheless, Serbia had accepted most of the conditions in the 48-hour ultimatum but only declined one. The declined ultimatum was requiring Serbia to allow Austria-Hungary to conduct all the investigations and trial proceedings under the latter law and courts.
On the other hand, Russia was in support of Serbia and could not wait to see the latter being harassed (Strachan 57). Germany noticed that Russia had a hand in this and sent an ultimatum which Russia failed to honor, making the former declare war on the latter. In the ultimatum, Germany called for Russia to stop any military organization on behalf of Serbia and withdraw from the war.
Germany went on in an offense and invaded Belgium and further declared war also on France (Strachan 56). This happened after France refused to declare her neutrality on the matter. Britain rose up to support Russia and France and thereby waged war against Germany. Lastly, Austria-Hungary also started fighting Russia. This means that the was split between the two alliances.World War 1 was thereby fought between the two alliances, each determined to win.
Ferguson, Niall. The pity of war: Explaining world war I. Hachette UK, 2008.
Strachan, Hew. The First World War: Volume I: To Arms. Vol. 1.Oxford University Press, 2003.
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