The World War I began when Austria-Hungary declared war against Serbia. However, it later spread all over Europe, especially in Germany, Russia, The Great Britain, and France due to the fact that these countries had formed alliances to defend each other in times of war. Over eight million people died in this Great War.
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Factors that led to World War I
Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the main cause of the outbreak of the war. Ferdinand was assassinated together with his wife by a Serbian nationalist in Sajarevo. He is believed to have been assassinated because Serbia wanted to take control of Bosnia and Herzegovina, however, Austria-Hungary had already taken control of the region.
The assassination led to the war between Serbia and Austria-Hungary and with Russia trying to defend Serbia, Germany declared war on Russia and it spread all over with the formation of alliances.
Tension between the European nations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries resulted into an arms race. Germany and The Great Britain had a large military buildup by having a large number of navies which had a great influence on the public. The increase in militarism between the states pushed the countries into war.
The development of intricate alliances and counter alliances among European nations ignited war among them. The European nations increased their wealth by acquiring additional territories. These European nations were interested in Africa and some parts of Asia due to the availability of raw materials.
The increased competition and the aspiration of greater emperors led to confrontations which later led to World War I. Nations like the United Kingdom and France amassed great wealth in the 19th century through their command of trade in foreign resources, colonies and slaves. Since Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Russia wanted to achieve the same growth as France and the UK, an Anglo-German rivalry developed as each nation sought more territories, especially in Africa. Rivalry also occurred in trade routes.
Nationalism among different countries all through Europe led not only to the start of the war but also to the extension of the war all over Europe. Each nation was convinced that their country was the most superior and this resulted into hostilities among them. For instance, France turned against Germany while Russian turned against Austrian.
Strong feelings of nationalism created hatred and hostilities among the European nations. The hostilities were mainly felt in the Balkans after Archduke Frank Ferdinand’s assassination. The tension seemed to have been resolved but one month later Germany supported Austria to cut off relations with Serbia whereas Russia defended Serbia.
Mutual defense Alliances
All countries throughout Europe had mutual defense agreements that were intended to bring protection. When Austria- Hungary declared war on Serbia, Russia came in to defend Serbia and this move irked Germany which later declared war on Russia. France joined the war to fight against Germany and Austria-Hungary. Consequently, France was attacked by Germany through Belgium and this dragged Britain into the war. The war continued spreading and soon, Japan joined the war followed by Italy and the United States.
U.S. involvement in the War
The US had remained neutral in the war until April 1917 when it declared war on Germany. The introduction of unrestricted submarine warfare by the Germans made President Wilson to ask congress to join the war against Germany. Prior to this request, shipd belonging to the US had been attacked in the Atlantic Ocean by German forces. The sinking of the Lusitania resulted in the death of 128 Americans on board and this pushed the US on the wall, ultimately, they decided to wage war on Germany.
Alfred Zimmerman’s attempt to provoke Mexico and Japan to attack the US with A promise of help from Germans also made the U.S. into joining the world war because they had to intercept the Germans’ proposal to Mexico. The United States’ entry into the war was inevitable because they had to support their allies. Besides, it had to protect its economy and also to keep peace in Europe.
Despite the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, successor to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife being the main reason for the war in Europe, there are other reasons that led to WW1. These include nationalism, materialism, imperialism and defense alliances and so on. These factors led to hostilities between the European nations and ultimately led to the world’s deadliest war in history. The US was not initially involved in the war, but in the latter stages, it got involved to protect its allies and interests.
Bass, Herbert, America’s Entry into World War I. New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1964.
Cipriano, Anne, The United States in the First World War. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1995.
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Pope, Steven, and Elizabeth-Anne Wheal, The Dictionary of The First World War. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.