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Long Term Causes of the First World War

The Spark: The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

The Schlieffen Plan

Reactions to the outbreak of war

The British Expeditionary Force

Interactive Timeline of the First World War

Simulation: The Western Front

Statistics relating to the First World War

The First World War and the role of women

War Poetry

Life in the Trenches

Coastal Bombardments

Zeppelin Raids

The Battle of the Somme

Causes of the First World War

Long Term Causes

A. Nationalism
Many European countries believed that their country was more important than any other. This
showed itself in lots of ways. It showed itself in German aggression both in Europe and over
colonies. It also showed itself in another way in the Balkans. Here it was seen as attempts to
gain independence from both Austria-Hungary and Russia.

B. Economic rivalry
Many European countries began to build up tariffs against each other from the 1880’s
onwards. England was the only exception. This led to a great deal of tension between the
various countries.

C. Imperial rivalry
As the various European countries tried to gain colonies for themselves before the war a great
deal of trouble was caused. Britain and France had clashed on occasions. Germany also
created a. great deal of tension, especially over Morocco. The Kaiser had, claimed Germany's
right to their “place in the sun”.

D. Power blocs
Two power blocs had developed in Europe before the war. The first time they really became
apparent was over the 1903 annexation of Bosnia. The commitments on both sides led to the
chain reaction of 1914 once the war began.

Short Term Causes

A. The Kaiser and German attitude
German foreign policy before the war was uncertain and insecure. It was mainly the fault of
the Kaiser. He had little idea of what was involved and more often than not made errors of
judgement which were difficult to overcome. see 'Daily Telegraph’ Interview.

B. Series of Crises
It has boon argued that the series of crises before the war led to many problems.’ Tension
increased throughout the period as the European countries became involved in incident after
incident. see Moroccan Crises.

C. Anglo-German rivalry
These two clashed in many different areas before the war. The most important was over the
question of navies. Britain had. always, regarded herself as supreme in naval affairs In 1898
Germany began to develop her own navy under the direction of Admiral Tirpitz. they claimed
that they needed a navy to protect her colonies. Germany began to spend large amounts of
money and so did Britain. Eventually in 1906 Britain launched a new and far superior type of
ship called a ‘Dreadnought'. This made all existing ships obsolete (out of date). Inside two
years Germany was also producing its own ships of the ‘Dreadnought’ class. Attempts
were made to slow down naval rivalry but were never successful. By 1914 Britain had 19 at
sea and Germany had 13. The effect of naval rivalry was once again to increase the many
problems facing European countries.

D. Failure of Disarmament
Most European countries were up their in the years before 1914. The attempts to slow this
down or even stop it were not successful See Hague Conference.

Immediate Causes

A. The Balkan Wars
The wars in the Balkans from 1912 to 1913 created great deal of trouble for the rest of
Europe. Austria-Hungary in particular became concerned at the possibility of losing
influence in the Balkans.

B. Sarajevo
Serbia was blamed. Austria and this lead to the chain reaction already noted.

C. Belgian Neutrality
Britain entered the war to preserve Belgian neutrality which had. been guaranteed since 1839.
Germany was a little surprised at Britain’s actions. Germany had to invade Belgium to avoid.
the difficulties associated with a war on two fronts.





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