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EUROPEAN HISTORY
Unit 11
Causes of the First World War
Form 4
1
Unit 11.1 The European Alliances System, 1871-1914
1. The situation of the Great Powers in 1871
Britain
Germany, AustriaHungary and Russia
France
Italy
The Ottoman
Empire
had no ties with other countries for it gave more importance to the building of
her colonial empire. Britain was said to be in ‘splendid isolation’.
These were tied to each other by an agreement called the Three Emperors
League.
had very few friends because she had been defeated by Prussia in 1871
(Franco-Prussian War) and it was still licking her wounds.
Had just been united and it was still not strong enough. It was trying, however,
to build up her army and her Mediterranean navy.
Turkey was in rapid decline. It had lost most of her lands in the Balkan
peninsula. By this time it was called ‘the sick man of Europe.’
2. How the European Alliance came into being
Agreement 1
1879 The Dual Alliance
GERMANY
AUSTRIA-HUNGARY
Agreement 2
1882 The Triple Alliance
GERMANY
AUSTRIA-HUNGARY
ITALY
This three-way friendship worried
France and Russia that they could be
attacked by three powers acting
together. So in 1892 they agreed to
help each other if either of them was
attacked. For a while, agreement no.
3 calmed their fear.
But soon it was Britain’s turn to become worried. During the Boer War in South Africa, Germany
showed sympathy with the Dutch Boers against the British. Britain started to mistrust Germany and
looked for France for a friend in Europe. In 1903 King Edward VII visited France and signed the
Entente Cordiale, meaning ‘Friendly Understanding’. This meant that Britain was no long in
‘splendid isolation’.
Agreement 3
1892 The Franco-Russian Alliance
FRANCE - RUSSIA
Agreement 4
1904 The Entente Cordiale
FRANCE - BRITAIN
Agreement 5
1907 The Triple Entente
FRANCE - BRITAIN - RUSSIA
Three years later, Britain
made a similar agreement
with Russia who was
already in alliance with
France. So by 1907 the
European Great Powers
were grouped into two
opposing armed camps.
Alliance No 2
Alliance No.4
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Alliance No.5
Unit 11.1 - The European Alliance System 1871-1914
1. Europe’s Alliances in 1914
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Unit 11.2 Planning for War on Land and Sea
1. The Schlieffen Plan
2. German dreadnaughts
1. The German Schlieffen Plan
In 1905 the German General Alfred von Schlieffen prepared a plan of how Germany could fight her enemies
if a war broke out in Europe. His plan was aimed to avoid a war on two fronts. If war began, the whole
German army should invade France by travel at high speed through neutral Belgium and capture Paris.
Having defeated France in six weeks, the German army would then be sent in on the eastern front to fight the
Russians. Although it was a simple plan, it actually made a war on two fronts even more likely. By attacking
France first, Germany made certain that France would not remain neutral in a war between Germany and
Russia. Schlieffen had made sure that any war fought by Germany would be a ‘European’ war.
2. The French Plan Seventeen
The French had been planning a war of revenge against Germany. They made many plans. Finally, in 1913,
General Joffre came up with Plan Seventeen – if war broke out, the French army would make an all-out
attack on their lost provinces of Alsace-Lorraine. They would then cross the River Rhine and head for
Berlin. Plan 17 relied also on high speed.
3. Other plans
Britain, Russia and Austria-Hungary also had their war plans. Britain formed an Expeditionary Force
whose task was to cross quickly to France as soon as war was declared. Russia started to build up her armies
in 1909. Austria started making enormous cannons in their Skoda arms factory.
By 1914, the rival alliances were armed to the teeth and ready to fight each other using detailed plans for
high-speed attacks. What remained was the excuse to start a fight.
4. The Anglo-German Naval Race
The naval race began when Kaiser William II wanted Germany to become a great world power. To achieve this, she
needed a navy that challenged Britain’s largest navy in the world. Britain, however, was not prepared to allow this.
She needed a large fleet to protect their colonies and her trade routes. So the British naval chiefs decided to enlarge
the Royal Navy even more. The race began in 1900 when the German Navy Law ordered the building of 41
battleships and 60 cruisers. The German Naval League was set up to make the people more informed and
interested in the navy. Britain responded by building a new type of battleship called Dreadnought. She was faster,
had thicker armoured plates and fired within a range of 32 km.
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Unit 11.3 Two Tests of Strength – The Moroccan Crises
1. The Kaiser
4. An Entente Cordiale Poster
2. Sultan Abdulaziz 3. Sultan Andulmehid
5. The German Panther at Agadir, 1911
1. The Tangier Crisis, 1905
In 1905 the French were getting ready to make Morocco into one of their colonies. Kaiser William opposed
this and went personally to Tangier to promise the Sultan of Morocco against a French attack. As the news
spread all over Europe, people wondered whether it would lead to war between Germany and France. For
several weeks there was tension in Europe, until in the end they decided against war. Instead they decided to
hold a conference in the Spanish town of Algericas. The conference was a great disappointment for the
Kaiser. France gained special rights in Morocco, but that country remained independent. But the Kaiser
found out want he wanted to know – that Britain and France would support each other by diplomacy, but
would not join together to fight a war against Germany.
2. The Agadir Crisis, 1911
Five years later, the Kaiser interfered again in the affairs of Morocco. In 1911 Moroccan rebels attacked the
town of Fez. The French government sent an army to help the sultan drive them out. William accused the
French of invading Morocco and so he send a German warship to the Moroccan port of Agadir. Britain
feared Germany would turn Agadir into a German naval base close to Gibraltar. The Royal Navy was made
ready for war. This time it seemed that there would be war between Germany and Britain. At the last
moment, the Kaiser gave way and ordered the German warships to leave Agadir. War was avoided but the
incident scared both Britain and France. One result of this crisis was that the race to build breadnoughts
became even more frantic. Both countries prepared themselves for the next confrontation.
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Unit 11.4 The Balkan Problems
1. How the Great Powers became involved in the Balkans
2 an 3. Poster of the First Balkan War, 1912
1.The Crisis over Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1908
The powerful countries surrounding the Balkan Peninsula (Russia, Austria-Hungary, Italy) were all
interested in what was going on in Turkey. They could take advantage of Turkey’s weakness to grab land
and increase their influence in that area. The chance to do so came suddenly in 1908.
In that year the Young Turk Revolution broke out in Turkey. A group of army officers took control of the
government in Constantinople and forced the sultan to grant a liberal constitution. On hearing of what happened
in Turkey, the King of Bulgaria declared his country independent from Turkey. The people of Crete broke away
from Turkey and united with Greece. But it was Austria-Hungary that took the most advantage by seizing the
provinces of Bosnia-Herzegovina from Turkey and joined it with Austria-Hungary. But this turned out to be a
fatal mistake – the people of these provinces were mostly Serbs who wanted to unite with Serbia not with AustriaHungary. This development was to bring more trouble in the Balkans, this time between Serbia and AustriaHungary.
2.The Balkan Wars, 1912-1913
After the Young Turk Revolution, Turkey grew more and
more weak. The Balkan countries now saw a chance to drive
out the Turks out of Europe. In 1912 the Kings of Greece,
Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro joined together in the
Balkan League and attacked Turkey. The First Balkan
War was cruel and costly. The League proved stronger and
after only 50 days of fighting Turkey surrendered. Turkey
gave up their remaining lands in the Balkans and these were
shared between the four victors. A new country, Albania
was created. But now the four kings of the League quarrelled
about their share of the land. This quarrel brought about the
Second Balkan War in 1913. Serbia, Montenegro, Greece,
Romania and Turkey joined against Bulgaria which was
attacked from four sides.
The country which came out best from the two Balkan Wars
was Serbia. King Peter of Serbia had doubled the size of his
country and his people. The Serbs living in Bosnia-Hezegovina
became restless and wanted more than ever before to unite with
Serbia. The Austrians became even more worried that these
people would rebel.
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Unit 11.5 The Sarajevo Murders, 28th June 1914
1. The last living moments of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, 28 th June 1914.
1. The Black Hand
In 1911, in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, ten young army officers founded a secret society named Unity
or Death, more commonly called The Black Hand. Their aim was to unite all the Slav peoples in the
Balkans into a single country called Yugoslavia. They made sure that frontier guards on the border
between Bosnia and Serbia were Black Hand members. Once in Bosnia, Black Hand terrorists would
plant bombs or shoot enemies and slip safely back into Serbia.
The Austrians were outraged and feared that the Black Hand would start a rebellion in Bosnia. In this
tense situation the Austrian Government made a foolish decision. They announced in the newspapers
that the heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, would visit Bosnia in June 1914 to watch
army exercises and go to Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo. The Black Hand made plans to murder the
archduke. Three weeks before the visit, Gavrillo Princip, 19 years old, and two other students
slipped to Bosnia and went to Sarajevo.
2. The Archduke’s visit and murder at Sarajevo. 28th June 1914
Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie arrived at Sarajevo railway station at 9.30 am. They travelled in
an open-topped car to the Town Hall. Crowds lined the streets. The Black Hand terrorists were in the
crowd waiting for the right moment to act. As the car approached, one of them stepped forward and
threw a bomb at it. Ferdinand managed to deflect it into the road where it exploded under the car
behind. Ferdinand became furious and the town mayor decided to cancel the rest of the visit.
On the way back to the railway station, the chauffeur took a wrong turning. Quite by chance, Princip
was standing in that very street. As the chauffeur reversed, Princip stepped forward and fired two
pistol shots. One bullet hit the Archduke in the throat, the other hit Sophie in the stomach. The royal
couple died a few minutes later in the Governor’s palace. Princip tried to commit suicide by
swallowing poison, but it failed to work. He was arrested, questioned and beaten up by the police. He
was later tried and hanged by the Austrians.
2. Colonel Apis, founder of
the Black Hand
3. The arrest of Gavrilo Princip moments after the Sarajevo murders
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Unit 11.6 - The Countdown to War
1. The results of the Sarajevo murders
The Sarajevo murders led directly to another war in the Balkans. The Austrian Government decided to teach
the Serbs a lesson for secretly helping the Black Hand. The Austrian Government sent a long telegram to King
Peter of Serbia, saying:
‘The Sarajevo assassinations were planned in Belgrade, the arms and explosives…were given to them
by Serbian officers…and the passage into Bosnia of the criminals and their arms was organised by the
chief of the Serbian frontier service…’
‘The Austro-Hungarian Government expects the reply of the Royal Government at the latest by 6
o’clock on Saturday the 25th July.’
King Peter had 48 hours to make up his mind and send a reply. The telegram was an ultimatum, or final
demand. If he did not agree to its demands, Austrian forces would invade his country. Shortly before the time
expired, King Peter replied. He agreed to do all the Austrians demanded, but with one big exception: he would
not allow Austrian officials into Serbia for that would mean the end of Serbia’s independence. When they
received the reply, the Austrian Government declared war on Serbia and the next day Austrian cannons
bombarded Belgrade.
The Serbian Government then asked Russia for help because the Russians were Slavs like the Serbs. So on 29 th
July, Tsar Nicholas II ordered the Russian army to prepare for war to help Serbia against Austria-Hungary. His
order started a countdown to the biggest war the world had ever known.
2. The countdown to war
6 days to war
Thursday
30th July
When Kaiser William heard that the Russian
army was preparing for war, he sent an
ultimatum to Tsar Nicholas, ordering him to
stop.
Nicholas refused and so Germany declared
4 days to war war on Russia.
As France was an ally of Russia, the French
Saturday
Government ordered the mobilization of the
1st August
French army and declared war on Germany.
The Kaiser ordered France to stop its
3 days to war mobilization. When it refused, Germany
declared war on France and started putting
Sunday
into practice the Schlieffen Plan by invading
2nd August
neutral Belgium.
2 days to war
Monday
3rd August
The British Government honoured their
promise to protect the neutrality of Belgium.
It sent an ultimatum to the Kaiser ordering
him to call back his army.
1 day to war
Tuesday
4th August
That evening, British politicians sat in the
Cabinet room waiting for an answer. But no
answer came from Berlin. That night Britain
declared war on Germany.
Five of the Great Powers of Europe were
0 days to war now at war with each other: the Central
Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary)
Wednesday
against the Entente or Allied Powers
5th August
(Britain, France and Russia).
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In 1915 and 1916 the war in Europe
continued to spread as more countries
joined the Central Powers and the Triple
Entente (see map above). By 1915 there
were to main fronts were the most fighting
took place: the Western and the Eastern
Fronts.
Unit 11.1 – 11.6 The Causes of the First World War
(1)
1. Use different colours to match the three columns together.
(5)
a
Germany and Austria-Hungary
The Triple Alliance
1892
b
France and Russia
The Entente Cordiale
1904
c
Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy
The Dual Alliance
1879
d
France, Russia and Britain
The Triple Entente
1907
e
Britain and France
The Franco-Russian/Dual Alliance
1882
2. During the First World War the alliance made up of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy were
referred to as the ________________ Powers, while that of Britain, France and Russia became
known as the _______________ Powers.
(2)
3. (a) Which Great Power came up with the Schlieffen Plan? _____________________________ (1)
(b) What was the main plan of this plan?
_________________________________________________________________________ (1)
4. (a) What was the main aim of France’s Plan Seventeen?
________________________________________________________________________
(1)
5. (a) Name the Great Powers that were involved in a naval race in the early 20th century.
_________________________________
__________________________________
(2)
(b) Why was there a naval race between these two powers?
_________________________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________________________
6. The Tangier and Agadir Crises are also known as the ____________________ Crises
(2)
(1)
7. These two crises were mainly a test of strength between ______________ and _____________ (2)
(a) Which of these Great Power came out as the loser and why? ________________________
__________________________________________________________________________ (2)
8. The Balkan Problem is also referred to by historians as the Eastern Question. What was the main
cause of this problem?
____________________________________________________________________________ (2)
10. How did the Turkish nationalists try to stop the decline of the Ottoman Empire in 1908?
___________________________________________________________________________
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(2)
9. Match the aims of the Great Powers during their involvement in the Eastern Question:
a
Austria-Hungary
to extend her influence over the Turkish Empire.
b
Germany
to stop Serbia from becoming stronger in the Balkans.
c
Russia
to preserve the balance of power in the Balkans.
d
Britain
to annex Albania and extend its influence in the Adriatic.
e
Italy
to annex Constantinople and obtain a Mediterranean seaport
for its Black Sea fleet.
(5)
11. Why did the Bosnian Crisis of 1908 lead to greater tension in the Balkans?
___________________________________________________________________________
(2)
12. What was the aim of:
(a) the First Balkan War of 1912? ______________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
(b) the Second Balkan War of 1913?
(1)
__________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
(1)
13. (a) What was the Black Hand? ________________________________________________
(1)
(b) Why was it founded? _____________________________________________________
(1)
14. Which did it accomplish in June 1914? __________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
(1)
15. What direct consequence did this bring:
(a) upon Serbia in July 1914? _________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________
(b) upon Europe in August 1914?
(1)
_____________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________
(1)
16. Explain the meaning of the term ‘mobilization’ in the context of the events of the summer of 1914.
___________________________________________________________________________ (1)
17. Who do you think was to blame for the outbreak of the Great War of 1914: Austria-Hungary,
Serbia, Germany or Russia?
Give a reason for your answer.
___________________________________________________________________________
___________________________________________________________________________ (2)
(Total Marks: 40)
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Unit 11.1 – 11.6 The Causes of the First World War
(2)
N.B. You need to re-read pages 2 to 8 in order to be able to answer the following exercise.
(b) In Column A: Fill in these causes for the outbreak of World War I, starting with the one that you
think was the most important causes and ending with the least important cause.
(c) In Column B explain how each cause contributed to the outbreak of the war.
List of causes to rearrange in order of importance in Column A.
The System of Alliances
The Moroccan Crises
The Bosnian Crisis of 1908
Kaiser William II of Germany
The Assassination at Sarajevo
The Balkan Wars of 1912-1913
The Naval Race
The Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia
The Schlieffen Plan
The invention of more deadly weapons
Column A
List of Causes of World War I
Explanation of each cause
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
Unit 11. 7 - Origins of the First World War
1. The year 1871 marked a turning point in the diplomatic relations between the ____________
Powers of Europe.
2. The defeat of ________________ by Prussia in 1871 left her isolated while ____________
was more concerned with colonial problems and internal social reform.
3. After 1871 Chancellor Bismarck started building up a system of ___________ to keep
Germany dominant in Europe and keep _____________ without allies.
4. In 1893 the France and Russia formed the ____________ Alliance against the
______________ Alliance made up of Austria-Hungary, Germany and Italy.
5. Once the Franco-Russian Alliance came into being, ________________ would be forced
to fight a war on two fronts at the same time.
6. A __________ race then developed between Britain and Germany over which one of them
was to have the largest and most powerful navy.
7. In 1904 ______________ abandoned her former policy of splendid isolation when she
signed the Entente Cordiale with France in 1904.
8. The two _________________ Crises of 1905 and 1911 nearly brought war between France
and Germany.
9. In 1907 Britain, France and Russia signed the ______________ Entente to defend
themselves in a future war against the Triple Alliance.
10. The Young Turk Revolution of 1908 made the Balkan peoples more determined to break
away from the _________________ Empire.
11. Austria-Hungary annexed _______________________ in 1908, a land which Serbia wanted
for herself to create a larger Slav state called Yugoslavia.
12. The incident that brought war between Austria-Hungary and ______________ was the
assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at ______________ on 28 th June 1914.
13. When Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on 28 th July 1914, France and Russia
supported Serbia while ________________ supported Austria-Hungary.
14. Britain declared war on Germany when Germany invaded neutral _______________
as part of the German _______________ Plan to defeat France.
15. By 3rd August 1914 the five Great Powers had entered the war on two opposing blocs, with
the exception of ____________ and Turkey which joined in the war in 1915.
(Total 20 marks)
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Unit 11. 8 - Origins of the First World War – Essay Questions
Read carefully the following essay titles and answer any ONE in about 200 to 300 words.
Essays carry 20 marks each.
PAPER 2A
1. Explain the reasons why the Great Powers of Europe went to war in 1914? (Oxford
GCE)
2. ‘By 1907 Europe was divided into two armed camps.’ Why was this so? What was the
consequence of this division? (Oxford GCE)
3. Identify the European alliances and alignments that preceded the First World War.
Explain why they led to war. (SEC 2010)
PAPER 2B
1. (a) What were the main reasons for the outbreak of the First World War? (12)
(b) What were the main provisions of the resulting peace treaty? (8) (SEC 2009)
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