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Why did Europe go to war in 1914?
In 1914, one of the most important wars in History broke out. At that time,
Frank Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie, had been killed in Sarajevo by
a teenage terrorist. This murder is a short – term cause which led to war. Also,
there were several long – term causes which made Europe go to war as well.
For example, Imperialism, Nationalism, Militarism and The Alliances. The aim of
this essay is to show how these causes led to war in 1914.In order to do so I will
examine each of them and I will asses if the murder in Sarajevo was the main
cause that led to the outbreak of war.
One of the causes was The Alliances. These were agreements or
promises to defend and help other countries. In 1914, the most powerful
countries in Europe were divided into opposite alliances. For example, in 1907
The Triple Entente was formed. One of the countries that included was Britain.
France and Russia were Britain’s two most dangerous rivals. But by 1990’s this
began to change. France and Britain reached several agreements in 1904
about colonies in North Africa. Moreover, Britain was less concerned about
Russia because it had been defeated by Japan in a war. Furthermore, the
German Kaiser wanted an Empire and a strong navy. So, Britain saw this as a
threat to its own empire and navy. In 1907, it signed an agreement with Russia.
Other country which included the Alliance was France, which was defeated by
Germany in 1870. In addition to this, it built up their industries and army and
also developed a close friendship with Russia. However, France had some
concerns. It needed to protect against Germany and get back Alsace- Lorraine
which Germany had taken from. Finally, Russia, which had a rivalry with Austria
– Hungary. So, this is one of the reasons why it was so friendly with Serbia.
Another reason was that the Prussians and the Serbs were Slavs. Russia
began to build up a large army because they couldn’t afford the failure at the
war with Japan in 1905. Therefore, we can say that the System of Alliances was
an important cause that led to war because it divided Europe into two blocks
and it turned conflicts into wars.
One of the most significant causes of tension was Militarism. This was
building up armed forces, getting ready for war. For example, the Anglo German
Naval Rivalry, which developed after 1900. Since 1805, Britain had ruled the
seas without any problem. But this changed in 1898, when Kaiser, Wilhelm,
wanted to build a powerful German navy to protect its growing trade. Britain felt
threatened by this. Added to this, in 1906 Britain launched HMS Dreadnought.
Germany responded by building its own Dreadnoughts. What is more, the naval
race was well and truly and they spent millions on their new ships. Therefore,
we can say that Militarism was an important cause that led to war, as it
increased tension and suspicion between states.
Another cause was Imperialism. This means that they were trying to build
up an empire. For example, there were two events which increased the tension.
The first one was in 1905, when Kaiser visited Morocco to show that Germany
was now an important power in the area. He said he supported the Moroccans
in the struggle against the French. Because of this, France was furious. The
other event was in 1911 when he sent a gunboat to Agadir in Morocco. The
British and the French thought he was planning to establish a naval race. For
the Kaiser, Britain, France and Russia had to resist Germany’s ambition.
However, the British and French thought they had to take a firm stant against
Kaiser’s bullying tactics. Therefore, we can say that Imperialism was another
important cause for war because it increased tension and rivalry between states
and it led to conflicts that added to this tension.
Yet another cause of tension was Nationalism. This meant having pride in
your country, willing to defend it. For example, the very unstable area of The
Balkans. Russia and Austria wanted to control this area because it gave them
access to the Mediterranean. In 1908, it came the first crisis, when Austria took
over the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Russia and Serbia protested but
they backed down when they knew Germany supported Austria. This happened
because they were not prepared for a war against Germany. But this
encouraged Russia to increase its army. A number of local wars were between
1912 and 1913. After this, Serbia became the most powerful country in the
area. By 1914, Austria wanted to crush Serbia. This opportunity came with the
murder of Archduke and his wife in Sarajevo. Because of this, Austria blamed
Serbia. This would make Austria deal with the problem once and for all. They
made Serbia part of Austrian Empire but Austria refused and declared war on
28 July 1914. This was the moment when the war began. Therefore, we can
say that Nationalism was an important cause that led to war because it
increased tension between great powers such as Russia and Austria – Hungary
and led to conflict’s that added to Europe’s general tension.
To conclude, it must be considered that the two most important causes
that led to the outbreak of war were the murder in Sarajevo, since it increased
tension between Austria and Serbia, and the System of Alliances because it
divided Europe into two armed blocks and it turned local conflicts into
international wars. Nonetheless, other causes must be considered such as
Militarism, Nationalism and Imperialism.
Josefina Perez Balconi