Prelude to World War I
The roots to WWI can be found
in the war between Prussia (a
powerful German state) and
France in 1870. This war
resulted in a French defeat and
the loss of the territory of
Alsace-Lorraine to the newly
created German nation.
The MAIN causes of WWI can be
remembered by using this simple
I mperialism
•Also referred to as the arms race
•Creation of alliances accompanied by an
armaments race. Each side believed it
was essential to build their armies and
stockpile weapons. This heightened the
fear and suspicion.
•German army --most powerful, well equipped and
well trained. Based on conscription (compulsory
military service).
•1914--866,000 men in German army.
•After mobilization--5 million + 4 million reserve.
•Russians, French and Austro-Hungarians had
similar system.
•Britain--no conscription, relied on powerful navy.
•Germany and France created war plans in
preparation for war.
•Germany: Schlieffen Plan
France-Plan 17
•-By 1870 Europe was the richest and most advanced
continent. It’s people enjoyed prosperity and European power
controlled vast empires.
•By 1907 Europe was divided into two camps.
Triple Alliance
Triple Entente
Triple Alliance:
Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy
Key member: Germany
Bismarck, the German chancellor, realized peace was
necessary. To do this he wanted to isolate France and
stay friendly with Britain.
To avoid antagonizing Britain he refrained from
building the navy or colonization.
In 1882 Italy joined the Alliance. (During the war,
they changed sides and joined Britain and Russia)
In 1888 the new Kaiser Wilhelm II had Bismarck
dismissed. The alliance with Russia collapses and
Russia allies with France. Ties with Britain are
weakened by naval building and the creation of a
German colonial empire.
Triple Entente:
Britain, France and Russia
Key Member: Britain
Increasing concern over strength of German navy. Naval
race strains relations.
Britain and France resolve differences and form Entente
Cordiale, 1904.
1907--Russia joins Britain and France to form Triple
•Sometimes referred to as the “grab for colonies”
•by late 19th century Industrial Revolution had
affected all major European nations.
•Industrialists demanded that the governments should
gain more colonies or “spheres of influence” for their
own advantage.
•Source of raw material
•market for manufactured goods and investment
•outlet for surplus population
Rivalry for colonies
•strategic reasons
•prestige for mother country. caused a number of crisis
and hostility.
Nationalism is more than just loyalty and
patriotism and can be defined as the strong
identification of people with those of a nation
or state. The aim of nationalist movements
was the establishment of new independent
states for their own racial group. In the late
19th and early 20th centuries nationalism
developed into a struggle between the powers
to dominate each other.
Examples of Nationalism
Britain: dominant in colonization. Great
jealousy from France and Germany.
France: humiliated in Franco-Prussian war,
Wanted revenge against Germany
Germany: unification upset balance of power
in Europe
Russia: wanted to extend power in Balkans
Nationalism was potentially a powder keg
that could plunge the world into major
Crisis Proceeding the War
A series of crisis began in 1905 eventually leading to
the outbreak of war in 1914.
Moroccan crisis: dispute between France and
Germany over Morocco led to Algeciras Conference
of 1906. This conference showed the unity of other
powers against Germany. The second Moroccan
crisis was the Agadir incident of 1911 which
threatened to involve Britain in the quarrel and
potentially start a war.
Balkan crisis: Europe’s worst trouble spot.
Argument over borders and independence. Concerns
about growing power in Serbia. Two rival powers on
borders: Russia and Austria-Hungary were
suspicious of each other.
The Assassination
Austria-Hungary was afraid that many if her national
groups would unite with Serbia, and wanted to crush
Serbia in war.
June 28, 1914 Austrian heir to throne, Archduke
Ferdinand was assassinated while on a state visit to
No direct evidence Serbian government involved, but
Austria-Hungary saw opportunity and issued an
ultimatum that Serbia rejected. War declared on July
28, 1914 with support from Germany.
Russia mobilizes her army and as other powers became
involved the Great war had begun.