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Causes of the First World War

Updated on October 18, 2015

World war is a global level conflict, the first world war began in 1914 and lasted until November 1918. Precisely it is a war between two groups. At the end of the war several treaties were confirmed.

Division of Europe into Two Rival Camps

Bismarck completed the unification of Germany in 1871. His foreign policy includes isolation of France, balance of power in Europe and supremacy of Germany. In view of the foregoing Bismarck formed an alliance of Germany, Austria and Russia in 1872 and it was named Trai Kaiser Bund. In course of time a conflict araised in between Russia and Austria regarding Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bismarck convened Berlin Congress to resolve the issue but Russia was disappointed at the end and in consequence Russia stepped out of Trai Kaiser Bund. Thereby subsequently, Trai Kaiser Bund, the three Empire league has become Dual alliance with Germany and Austria. Italy has joined the Dual alliance in anger at the French seizure of Tunisia. Thus, the Dual alliance became Triple alliance.

The Berlin Congress, 1878

Otto von Bismarck in 1878 convened The Congress of Berlin. It was a meeting of the European Great Powers. A conflict between Austria and Russia regarding the possession of the Bosnia and Herzegovina was dealt in here. The said region was given over to the administration of Austria (with no territorial annexation) and this disappointed Russia. As a result, in 1879, Russia came out of Trai Kaiser Bund, the three Empire league.

On May 20, 1882, Triple alliance met at Vienna, Austria and a treaty called Vienna Triety was concluded. The treaty was named as Treaty of Neutrality and Mutual Safety. The provisions of this treaty are; mutual economic and military assistance, military assistance in between the every nation which is a kind of groupism and curbing the socialist forces.

In 1891, Russia concluded a treaty with France against Triple alliance called Entente Cordiale. In course of time England joined the same and the alliance became Triple Entente which is once again a military groupism.

Historian Fay said,

"The system of alliance was the curse of modern times."

Extreme Nationalism in Europe

The concept of nationalism has emerged after the French Revolution. Pan-Germanism and Pan-Slavism were two concepts predominantly came into being. The former one was the superior race concept. The later one was aimed at unity of all the Slavic people and it was supported by Russians.

Lord Acton said,

"Extreme nationalism is a criminal principle."

Competitive militarism

A race for arms development was seen in between France and Germany. Both the nations use to spend almost 85% of their national income to procure arms. Apart from the arms race, the nations, Germany and England thrived to achieve naval supremacy.

Rivalry over Colonies

In the interest of their economic growth, a race to procure colonies has began. Germany and Italy started snatching the colonies of France and England.

Lack of any International Organizations

At this point of time there were no international Organizations like League of Nations formed in the later stage or United Nations Organizations, etc. to avert the rivalry and create a harmonious situation in between the nations.

Immediate and triggering factor

In 1908, Austria occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina violating the provisions of the Berlin congress. The same affected the interests of Serbia. In consequence many terrorist organizations were formed against Austria.

In 1914, the Austrian Prince, Franz Ferdinand visited Sarajevo (capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina). Ferdinand was assassinated by Gavrilo Princip a member of one of the terrorist organizations formed against Austria.

In view of the foregoing, Austria made Serbia responsible and to curb all the terrorist forces waged a war against Serbia in 1914 with the help of Germany.

© 2013 Dilip Chandra


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    • dilipchandra12 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dilip Chandra 

      3 years ago from India

      Hii Graham Lee, thank you friend for stopping by. I never knew that fact, sad thing. Thank you for sharing the info.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 

      3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi dilip. A vey informative hub. It is hard to accept these days that France and Germany were spending 85 per cent of national income on arms procurement.

      Tip Top.


    • dilipchandra12 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dilip Chandra 

      5 years ago from India

      Thank you Kieran Gracie for stopping by :)

    • profile image

      Kieran Gracie 

      5 years ago

      Interesting summary of the main reasons for starting what became the first world war. Not sure about the picture of a Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star fighter aircraft you use at the beginning of your Hub - this plane arrived at the end of WW2, but saw no action until the Korean War!

    • dilipchandra12 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dilip Chandra 

      5 years ago from India

      Thank you dahoglund :)

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I've read a little about the start of WWI but don't know a whole lot about it. Your hub gives a nice overview. sharing


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