[Causes of World War I (The Great War)] Part One

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[Causes of World War I (The Great War)]

Part One The long-term causes of World War I were imperialism, nationalism, and militarism. Define these each of these terms below.
Imperialism: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Nationalism: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Militarism: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Part Two Within six weeks, these ideologies started a war that resulted in the deaths of over ten million soldiers. How?!
Many European countries believed that their country was more important than any other. Several European countries demonstrated this extreme nationalism through their imperialistic and militaristic actions. Read the “backstories” to the following European countries and highlight what each did to promote nationalism.

  • 1870-1871 = Franco-Prussian War

France suffered a humiliating defeat. The result of this war was that Prussia (Germany) became a unified nation. Germany also took two French provinces, Alsace and Lorraine. As a further insult, Kaiser Wilhelm I of Prussia was crowned Emperor of Germany on French soil in the French palace at Versailles!

  • Ever since this war ended, France has wanted revenge. In order to attack Germany, France had to make sure to built up its military through several military alliances with other countries.

  • 1894 = the Dual Entente between France and Russia

  • 1904 = the Entente Cordiale between France and Britain

  • 1907 = the Triple Entente between France, Russia and Britain

  • The French also developed a plan of attack called Plan 17. Basically they were to charge straight into Germany through the area of Champagne.

Great Britain

  • 1839 = Treaty of Westminster. Through this treaty Britain committed to defend Belgium if it was ever attacked.

  • After Kaiser Wilhelm II succeeded the throne in Germany, Germany began to occupy colonies in African and the Pacific. This concerned Britain because these were areas where they also held several colonies.

  • 1898 & 1900 = Germany passed the Navy Laws which outlined plans to build up the German navy over a period of 17 years to rival the British Royal Navy.

  • 1901 = Queen Victoria dies

  • 1906-1914 = Naval Arms race between Britain and Germany

Prussia (Germany)

  • 1870-1871 = Became a unified country after defeating France in the Franco-Prussian War. Germany also acquired two French provinces: Alsace and Lorraine. Although Germany was aware that France desperately wanted these provinces back, Germany was unwilling to give them back.

  • 1871 = Kaiser Wilhelm I of Prussia is crowned Emperor of Germany on French soil at the Palace at Versailles.

  • 1888 = Kaiser Wilhelm II becomes emperor after the death of his father.

  • 1898 & 1900 = Germany passed the Navy Laws which outlined plans to build up the German navy over a period of 17 years to rival the British Royal Navy.

  • 1906-1914 = Naval Arms race between Britain and Germany

  • Germany was concerned about both France and Russia attacking them. If this occurred, Germany would be fighting a two-front war.

  • Germany developed an attack plan known as the Schlieffen Plan. This plan involved traveling through Belgium in order to attack and defeat France quickly so that Germany’s attention could be focused on Russia.


  • Although Austria-Hungary had been growing weaker over the past several years, this did not stop them from expanding their empire.

  • 1885 = Austria-Hungary occupies Bosnia

  • 1908 = Austria-Hungary annexes Bosnia

  • Next, Austria-Hungary intended to occupy and annex Serbia, however Russia backed up Serbia. Austria-Hungary knew that the only way to stand a chance against Russia was to obtain an alliance with Germany.


  • 1904-1905 = Russia loses to Japan in the Russo-Japanese War. This defeat caused major civil unrest at home. In spite of this defeat, Russia still felt that it could easily defeat any European nation.

  • Russia wanted to gain more influence in the Balkans (this area included the following countries: Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Albania, and Greece). Russia was especially dedicated to protecting Serbia.


  • After successfully separating from Austria-Hungary, Serbia still desired an area of Austria-Hungary that shared the same ethnic group as them. This area was Bosnia.

Part Three Conflict in the Balkans

Bosnia wished to break free from Austria-Hungary and join up with Serbia. Austria-Hungary had already annexed Bosnia and desired to conquer Serbia. However, Russia supported Serbia and vowed to protect them from Austria-Hungary. The political cartoon below illustrates this stressful situation. Analyze the political cartoon and answer the questions that follow.

  1. What ideology is illustrated by dressing all the men on top of the pot in military uniforms?


  1. Who are the men on top of the pot?


  1. Based on what you have learned about what is going on in the Balkans during this time period, what do you think the phrase “The Boiling Point” suggests?

Part Four Short-Term Causes of the War

Serbia had become an independent country in the late nineteenth century. The Serbians wanted to expand, but were surrounded by other countries too powerful to conquer on their own. They also wanted to take Bosnia from Austria-Hungary because most of the people who lived in that area were of Serbian background. This tension gave rise to a violent organization known as the Black Hand Gang. It was just a matter of time before a spark ignited the powder key known as the Balkan territories.

On June 28, 1914, an eighteen-year-old Serbian named Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Archduke of Austria-Hungary. Princip was a member of the Black Hand Gang. Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. With his death, Austria-Hungary had no other option than to declare war on Serbia. Below are the final steps to joining the war.
July 5 = The Austrian government asked the German government if it would support Austria in a war against Russia since Russia supported Serbia. Kaiser Wilhelm replied by issuing a “blank cheque”. He said that Germany would support whatever the Austrian government decided to do.

July 23 = The Austrian government sent the Serbian government an ultimatum.

July 25 = The Serbians accepted all the conditions except one, that Austrian police should be allowed into Serbia to help stop any further unrest. The Austrian government expect the Serbians to reject this.

July 28 = Austria-Hungary declared war upon Serbia.

July 29 = The Russian army was mobilized.

August 1 = Germany declared war on Russia.

August 3 = Germany declared war on France.

August 4 = Germany declared war on Belgium.

August 4 = Britain declared war on Germany.

August 6 = Austria declared war on Russia.

August 12 = France and Britain declared war on Austria.

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