The Four Major Causes of World War I militarism

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The Four Major Causes of World War I
1. Militarism (Economic Rivalry)

•European countries now trust in military might as a way to resolve conflicts.

•A race to build the best weapons turned Europe into an armed camp. Of special interest was the ability to produce the best dreadnought (means “fear nothing”) which was a type of heavily armed battleship.

•Factories produced more goods (things) than countries could use, among these were new weapons of increasingly destructive power.

2. Alliances

•An alliance is when two or more countries agree to defend each other.

•By 1914 two powerful alliances, very willing to defend each other, had formed in Europe:

–The Triple Entente: Britain, France and Russia.

–The Triple Alliance: Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy.

•With this arrangement a conflict between two countries could easily expand to include all the major European powers (which did happen in 1914).

3. Imperialism

•The major powers of Europe were competing with each other to expand their nations through the founding of colonies or conquering of territories around the globe.

•This competition created much tension among the major powers of Europe.

•The stage was now set for conflict in Europe to involve much more than Europe itself. Canada is an excellent example of this as we were part of the British Empire.

4. Nationalism

•Nationalism is having pride in one’s country; not a bad thing if that pride does not involve a contempt for other countries.

•With expansion of colonies around the world and the resulting competition some European nations developed a serious, dangerous contempt for each other.

•To extreme nationalists war was the ultimate competition.


–With these four elements at play (Militarism, Alliances, Imperialism and Nationalism) Europe was like a powder keg waiting for a spark to set it off.

–That spark came in the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand while he and his wife were visiting the Serbian city of Sarajevo, a country that was an ally of Russia.
Canadian connection to World War I

–With Canada a proud member of the British Empire and our foreign relations handled by Britain Canada was automatically drawn into Britain’s conflict in Europe.

–Many Canadians did not understand the causes of the war but felt Britain was right and Germany was wrong.

–Many Canadians joined a war they did not cause or declare.

–This war would change Canada and our relationship with Britain.

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