Inquiry: causes of world war I

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Document 1: Nationalism

Nationalism means being a strong supporter of the rights and interests of one's country. The Congress of Vienna, held after Napoleon's exile to Elba, aimed to sort out problems in Europe. Delegates from Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia (the winning allies) decided upon a new Europe that left both Germany and Italy as divided states. Strong nationalist elements led to the re-unification of Italy in 1861 and Germany in 1871. Large areas of both Austria-Hungary and Serbia were home to differing nationalist groups, all of whom wanted freedom from the states in which they lived.

Nationalism posed a problem for Austria-Hungary and the Balkans, areas comprised of many conflicting national groups. Russia formed an Entente with Britain in 1907 after they had reached an understanding with Britain's ally Japan and William II had further alienated Russia by supporting Austrian ambitions in the Balkans. The Triple Entente, an informal coalition between Great Britain, France and Russia, now countered the Triple Alliance. International tension was greatly increased by the division of Europe into two armed camps. 

There was a rise in nationalistic feeling - the fervent loyalty to people of close language and geography - in Europe in the years before World War I. These powerful forces had resulted in the reunification of Italy in 1861 and the unification of Germany in 1871. The Franco-Prussian war left France bitter over the loss of a French area of Alsace-Lorraine and there was strong and powerful feeling in France that this territory should by rights be French.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was host to many nationalities, and struggled with nationalistic movements of people who had strong Serbian nationalistic feeling which led to the Archduke Ferdinand's assassination in 1914.

Document 2: Militarism

Militarism means that the army and military forces are given a high profile by the government. The growing European divide had led to an arms race between the main countries. The armies of both France and Germany had more than doubled between 1870 and 1914.

Building Military strength occurred among European countries before World War I broke out. Nationalism encouraged public support for military buildups and for a country's use of force to reach its goals. By the late 1800's, Germany had the best trained army in the world. In 1898 Germany began making a naval force that was big enough to challenge the British navy. In 1906, the British navy launched the Dreadnought, the first modern battleship. The Dreadnought had greater firepower that any other ship of its time. Germany rushed to construct one just like it. Advances in technology helped make military forces stronger. Machine guns fired more accurately and more rapidly than earlier weapons. By the end of the 1800's, technology enabled countries to fight longer and bear greater losses that ever before.

Militarism denoted a rise in military expenditure, an increase in military and naval forces, more influence of the military men upon the policies of the civilian government, and a preference for force as a solution to problems.

Arms race: After 1871, the war atmosphere engendered by the secret alliances led to an armaments race among the powers. The race was particularly serious between 1900 and 1914, as the international situation became much worse than before. There was a significant rise in the army and naval spending of the European powers in these years as is seen below:







£94 million

£130 million

£154 million

£268 million

£289 million

£398 million

It is also important to take notice of the fact that from 1910 to 1914, while France increased her defence expenditure by 10%, Britain by 13%, Russia by 39%, and Germany was the most militaristic as she increased by 73%. Increased war expenditure enabled all the powers to raise more armies and improve their battleships.

Document 3: Bosnian Crisis & Alliances

The Dual Alliance
Germany and Austria-Hungary made an alliance to protect themselves from Russia

Austro-Serbian Alliance
Austria-Hungary made an alliance with Serbia to stop Russia gaining control of Serbia

The Triple Alliance
 Germany and Austria- Hungary made an alliance with Italy to stop Italy from taking sides with Russia

Triple Entente (no separate peace)
Britain, Russia and France agreed not to sign for peace separately.


Franco-Russian Alliance
 Russia formed an alliance with France to protect herself against Germany and Austria-Hungary

Triple Entente
 This was made between Russia, France and Britain to counter the increasing threat from Germany.

Anglo-Russian Entente
This was an agreement between Britain and Russia

Entente Cordiale
This was an agreement, but not a formal alliance, between France and Britain.

An alliance is an agreement made between two or more countries to give each other help if it is needed. When an alliance is signed, those countries become known as Allies. A number of alliances had been signed by countries between the years 1879 and 1914. These were important because they meant that some countries had no option but to declare war if one of their allies declared war first.

In 1908, Austria-Hungary took over the former Turkish province of Bosnia, part of Serbia. Serbia threatened Austria-Hungary with war, and Russia, allied to Serbia, mobilized its forces. Germany, allied to Austria-Hungary mobilized its forces and prepared to threaten Russia. War was avoided when Russia backed down.

A Group of Alliances gave European powers a sense of security before World War I. They formed these alliances with each other for protection and to guarantee that other members of the alliance would come to the country's aid if attacked. Although alliances provided protection, the system also created certain dangers. If war came, the alliance system meant that a number of nations would fight, not only the two involved in a dispute. Alliances could force a country to go to war against a nation it had no quarrel with. In addition, the terms of many alliances were kept secret. The secrecy also increased the chances that a county might guess wrong about the consequences of its actions. The Triple Alliance was made up of 3 countries, Germany, Italy, and Austria. They all agreed to remain neutral if any of them went to war with another country. In 1894, France and Russia agreed to call up troops if any nation in the Triple Alliance mobilized. Russia and France also agreed to help each other if either were attacked be Germany.  On June 28, 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by a Serbian terrorist named Gavrilo Princip. The assassination triggered the outbreak of World War I, as all the alliances would now have to act. World War I had begun!Causes of World War I: Inquiry

Document 1: Nationalism

  1. Summarize the text in two complete, coherent sentences.

  1. Name at least 3 facts that support this reason as a cause of WWI.

  1. List one question or problem you have with this cause of WWI

Document 2: Militarism

  1. Summarize the text in two complete, coherent sentences.

  1. Name at least 3 facts that support this reason as a cause of WWI.

  2. List one question or problem you have with this cause of WWI

Document 3: Alliances and Bosnian Conflict

  1. Summarize the text in two complete, coherent sentences.

  1. Name at least 3 facts that support this reason as a cause of WWI.

  1. List one question or problem you have with this cause of WWI

MEL-Con: What was the most direct cause of The Great War (a.k.a. World War I, WWI)? (Use one piece of evidence to advocate for the direct cause and one piece of evidence to detract from one of the other two causes- 2 evidence, 2 link)

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