Causes of the First World War

Essay by allstar3b1College, UndergraduateA, May 2004

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In general, when people talk about the causes of the First World War they think of the obvious one - the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand. This clearly was the main spark to the war, but not many know the underlying reasons, that happened far before June 28th, 1914. For the previous fifty years before World War I, there were heightened feelings of nationalism which developed into the need for increased imperialism, militarism, and militaristic alliances. These changes in Europe lead to a war which the world will never forget.

Many alliances were formed during the years leading up to World War I. The first was in 1872, when Otto van Bismarck, prime minister of Germany, formed the Three Emperor's League. This brought together Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary. Ten years later, Bismarck found another country to add to his list of alliances. Bismarck took advantage of Italy's growing dislike of France since acquiring Tunisia.

In 1882, Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary entered into the Triple Alliance. After Bismarck was fired in 1890, his successors could not keep up his strong alliances. France saw this opportunity, and in 1891, formed the Franco-Russian Entente. It became a formal alliance three years later. From 1902 to 1907, Britain formed three very important alliances. In 1902 they increased their relationship with the United States by forming the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. Two years later, France reached an agreement with Britain over the control of Egypt in order to help France control Morocco in the Anglo-French Entente. In 1907, Russia, desolated after two years of fighting with Japan, set up the Anglo-Russian Agreement. As a result of Russia, Britain, and France all being in alliances with each other, the Triple Entente was coined. Tension increased greatly during the time since Europe was so greatly divided between the...