Causes of World War I Essay

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The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was what allegorically kick-started the First World War. However, there was a lot more to what actually led to the outbreak of war than one political assassination. The assassination of the Archduke was significant in that it represented a growing trend in the geo-political landscape of Europe: nationalism. The Serbian assassin was a member of a Serbian nationalist group called the Black Hand.

Sensing that budding discontent against the Austro-Hungarian regime could be politically costly, the Empire, still under Franz Josef goaded the Serbian nationalists first by issuing an ultimatum. The Austro-Hungarian Empire wanted to gain total control over the entire Balkans: a geographically strategic area. Serbia stood in its way, making it seem like a worthwhile maneuver to enter into war if need be. Serbian nationalists, on the other hand, also believed it worthwhile to push back against the encroachment on the massive Central European superpower. Seeking aid from its Slavic ally Russia, the Black Hand ensured it would have support. Russia readily agreed.

Thus began the political tensions and geo-political cleavages that led to World War One. Although the crumbling Ottoman Empire also had a lot to do with the timing of the offences, it is important to focus on central and eastern Europe.
Austria-Hungary made the first bellicose move by officially declaring war on Serbia in July of 1914. Viewing Russia as a potentially dangerous ally to its enemy, Austria-Hungary also sought assistance from its ally Germany. Thus, Germany and Russia were together drawn into war.

France had also been allied with Russia prior to the outbreak of war, necessitating its coming in on the side of the Russians. The reason why France and Russia had a strategic alliance had to do with the emboldening of Bismarck-era Prussia. Prussia—essentially comprising much of modern-day Germany, Poland, and the Baltic states—had been unified under Bismarck but Bismarck wanted to centralize power over an otherwise disparate set of Germanic states. Germany as it exists now did not yet exist then, and Bismarck wanted badly to secure a modern nationalist regime. As a show of might, force, and political intent, Bismarck invaded France and took over the Alsace-Lorraine. In response to growing German aggression and unable to defend itself otherwise, France sought an alliance with Russia. Italy was by this point siding with Prussia and Austro-Hungary,….....

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Duffy, M. (2009). The causes of World War One.

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