Passage: Causes of wwi

Download 23.95 Kb.
Size23.95 Kb.
1st Passage: Causes of WWI

World War 1 occurred between July 1914 and November 11, 1918. By the end of the war, over 17 million people would be killed including over 100,000 American troops. While there was a chain of events that directly led to the fighting, the actual root causes are much deeper and part of continued debate and discussion.

german prisoners of war in russia, during world war i, 1918. - fpg/archive photos/getty images

FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images

1.  Alliances

Over time, countries throughout Europe made mutual defense agreements that would pull them into battle. These treaties meant that if one country was attacked, allied countries were bound to defend them. Before World War I many alliances existed, including:

  • Russia and Serbia

  • Germany and Austria-Hungary (central Powers)

  • France and Russia

  • Britain and France and Belgium

As the following illustration show, the alliance system led to a series of events. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Russia got involved to defend Serbia. Germany seeing Russia mobilizing, declared war on Russia. France was then drawn in against Germany and Austria-Hungary. Germany attacked France through Belgium pulling Britain into war.

2.  Imperialism

Imperialism is when countries increase their power and wealth by bringing additional territories under their control. Before World War 1, Africa and parts of Asia were points of contention amongst the European countries. This was especially true because of the raw materials these areas could provide. The increasing competition and desire for greater empires led to an increase in confrontation that helped push the world into World War I.

3.  Militarism

As the world entered the 20th century, an arms race had begun. By 1914, Germany had the greatest increase in military buildup. Great Britain and Germany both greatly increased their navies in this time period .

One problem with military buildup is that it raises insecurity and anxiety from other countries prompting them to respond with a military buildup of their own. Under these conditions, the logical conclusion for each side is the eventual use of its arsenal. Likewise, such an increase in buildup increases the influence of the military establishment, an organization which tends to have more war hawks. Prior to World War I, the military establishment of both Germany and Russia began to have a greater influence on public policy.

4.  Nationalism

Nationalism is an extreme form of patriotic sense of loyalty to one’s country, or ethnic group. When the general population of a nation is overwhelmed with the ideology, it becomes very hard to take a compromising view with neighbors, who are often viewed as inferior. Hence, negotiation and rationale solutions to conflict become difficult. Much of the origin of the war was based on the desire of the Slavic peoples living in Austria Hungary Empire to break free and unite with Serbia. But in a more general way, the nationalism of the various major countries throughout Europe encouraged the population to take aggressive, patriotic positions.

image of archduke franz ferdinand

Image of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

5.  Immediate Cause: Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

The immediate cause of World War I was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary. In June 1914, a Serbian-nationalist terrorist group called the Black Hand sent groups to assassinate the Archduke. This assassination led to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia. Given the conditions listed above, the result was the tragic war we know today as World War I --- the War to end all Wars.

Source: Armenteros Notes +Excerpts from

2nd Passage: US Neutrality Challenged

In the early days of the war, as Britain and France struggled against Germany, American leaders decided it was in the national interest to continue trade with all sides as before as a neutral nation. Yet, Great Britain, with its powerful navy, imposed a blockade on Germany.

It was this situation that prompted German unrestricted submarine warfare against anyone trading with her enemies. However, after the sinking of several passenger vessels including the Lusitania, Germany had promised, under the Sussex Pledge, to end its unrestricted submarine warfare in 1916.

In 1917, Germany became convinced they could defeat the Allied Forces by instituting unrestricted submarine warfare once again, thus ending its Sussex pledge. The resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare and a controversial letter sent by Germany to the Mexican authorities, known as the Zimmermann Telegram caused the United States to declare war on Germany on April 6, 1917. After years of isolationism, America entered the Great War.

Yet, The United States was unprepared for war. The major American objective prior to sending its “doughboys” overseas was to raise support for the expedition and establish a war time economy on the home front. To increase our military, Congress passed the Selective Service Act in May 1917. All males between the ages of 21 and 30 were required to register for military service.

President Wilson quickly created the Committee on Public Information and used every possible medium imaginable to raise American support through propaganda. The C.I.P. organized rallies and parades, created song, and developed posters.

liberty bond poster
Powerful images designed to instill fear were used to sell Liberty Bonds in America

In order to raise money, war bonds were issued, which provided the US government with much needed loans. The economy in addition was restructured under the war industries board. In 1917, the War Industries Board was established to coordinate production of munitions and supplies. It encouraged companies to use mass-production techniques to increase efficiency and urged them to eliminate waste by standardizing products. Women shifted jobs from domestic service to heavy industry to compensate for the labor shortage owing to military service. African Americans flocked northward in greater and greater numbers in the hope of winning industry jobs.

Perhaps most controversial, in its war time preparation was dealing with dissension, from German Americans, members of the socialist party, and other groups. The government attempted to stop wartime opposition by law with the passing of the Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917. Anyone found guilty of criticizing the government war policy or hindering wartime directives could be sent to jail. Many cried that this was a flagrant violation of precious civil liberties, including the right to free speech. Worse still, German-Americans became targets for countless hate crimes by the public.

By the time the American expedition force landed, America was transformed from a Neutral power to a war time nation, displaying overly patriotic tendencies.

Source: Armenteros Notes +Excerpts from

3rd Passage: Treaty of Versailles

As the war drew to a close, Woodrow Wilson set forth his plan for a "just peace” and a safe world. Wilson believed that fundamental flaws in international relations could be overcome with international commitment and planning. His Fourteen Points outlined his vision for a safer world. Wilson called for many changes, such as an end to secret diplomacy, a reduction of armaments, freedom of the seas, and respect for national self-determination. In his most important Point, Wilson proposed an international organization comprising representatives of all the world's nations that would serve to end war, a League of Nations. Unfortunately, all his plans but the league of nations were rejected as the European leaders had other ideas.

Most of the decisions in the Peace Conference at Paris were made by the Big Four, the leaders of the United States, Great Britain, France, and Italy. The European leaders were not interested in a just peace. They were interested in retribution, or revenge. Germany was to admit guilt for the war and pay unlimited reparations. The German military was reduced to a domestic police. The territories of Alsace and Lorraine were restored to France. German colonies were handed in trusteeship to the victorious Allies. Wilson did gain approval for his proposal for a League of Nations. Dismayed by the overall results, but hopeful that a strong League could prevent future wars, he returned to present the Treaty of Versailles to the Senate.


The "Big 4" of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 were (left to right) Lloyd George of England, Orlando of Italy, Clemenceau of France, and Woodrow Wilson of the United States.

Unfortunately for Wilson, he was met with stiff opposition in the United States. The Republicans were very suspicious of Wilson and his treaty. Many viewed the League as an authority that would limit the power of the American government from determining its own affairs. Others believed the League was the sort of entangling alliance the United States had avoided under isolationism. Unable to rally support after a debilitating stroke, Wilson was unable to adequately defend the League. In the end the United States failed to become a member of this new organization or even ratify the Treaty of Versailles.

Without the involvement of the world's newest superpower, the League of Nations was doomed to failure. Over the next two decades, the United States would sit on the sidelines as the unjust Treaty of Versailles and the ineffective League of Nations would set the stage for an even bloodier, more devastating clash.

Source: Armenteros Notes +Excerpts from

Passage Items

1st Passage

Directions: Write the correct “MAIN” cause of the war next to the example given. The 4 choices are Militarism, Alliance, Imperialism, Nationalism.

Example Cause

  1. Colonies in Africa ----- ________

  2. Arms race -------- ________

  3. Central Powers ------ ________

  4. Patriotic singing ------ ________

2nd Passage

  1. What were the two main causes of US involvement in World War I?

  2. How did the United States increase its military numbers during the war?

  3. How did the United States government deal with dissension during the war?

3rd Passage

  1. List 5 provisions in the Treaty of Versailles.

  2. What were two main objections raised by Republicans against the Treaty of Versailles?

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page