COSTP World History Project/Causes and course of the First World War
The First World War was a tragedy that left over twenty million dead and planted the seeds for the Second World War two decades later. It marked the end of what seemed to be the gilded industrial age of European empires and replaced it with a new era of struggling republics in eastern Europe and the creation of the Soviet Union. While it is obvious that the world was changed dramatically by the war, the causes of the conflict are confusing and form a line of deadly dominoes that only become apparent after the assassination of Austria-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Bosnia on June 28, 1914.
European Alliances[edit | edit source]
The main factor behind the evolution of events that led to World War One was the system of European alliances that developed in the decades before the conflict. Following the Franco-Prussian War, German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck sought an alliance that included Russia to deter a French attempt to regain the lost territory of Alsace-Lorraine. After Bismarck resigned in 1890, German Emperor Wilhelm II ended the Russian alliance and focused on building stronger relations with Austria-Hungary. The stronger alliance Wilhelm II sought with Austria-Hungary only worsened relations with Russia since Austria-Hungary's most likely cause of mobilization would be for a war against Russia.
"the day of Austro-Hungarian mobilization, for whatever cause, will be the day of German mobilization too" – Kaiser Wilhelm II
Russia then pursued an alliance with France in 1892 that became final in 1894 to counter any future German or Austria-Hungarian aggression. The Russian-French Alliance then expanded in 1904 with the Entente cordiale between Britain and France to form the Triple Entente. Britain joined the alliance over German threats to increase their navy's size and threaten the superiority of the British Royal Navy. The German Empire and Austria-Hungary had also expanded their alliance in 1882 to include Italy to form the Triple Alliance. The Triple Alliance was renewed in 1902, but Italy did not fight with what would become the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary due to their non-defensive role in the conflict and Italy would eventually join the Entente. --Kirkh (talk) 23:51, 22 August 2009 (UTC)
Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand[edit | edit source]
The assassination of the Archduke of Austria-Hungary Franz Ferdinand was the spark that touched off the powder keg built over the past decade by the alliances. Austria-Hungary had taken over the administration of Bosnia-Herzegovina from the decaying Ottoman Empire which had angered the Kingdom of Serbia due to the large amount of Serbs living in Bosnia-Herzegovina. This hostility eventually led to Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian-Serb student and member of Young Bosnia, shooting and killing the Archduke while he was traveling through Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina on June 28, 1914. --Kirkh (talk) 00:14, 23 August 2009 (UTC)