Origins of the First World War

Essay by virgil_7University, Bachelor's October 2002

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In June 1914, Franz Ferdinand the Arch Duke and heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary and his wife, were assassinated while on an official visit to Sarajevo. The group responsible for this was a Serbian Nationalist movement which had ties with the Serbian government. The Austrian government saw this as an opportunity to crush Serbian nationalism. On July 23rd, they served an ultimatum to Serbia. About three hours before the deadline was due, the Serbian government ordered the army to mobilize to face the ultimatum. On the 28th of July, Austria declared war on Serbia. On the same day, Russia announced that she was mobilizing her troops along the Austrian borders. Since the war between Austria and Russia was inevitable, Germany issued an ultimatum to the Russians to cease all military activities against Germany and Austria-Hungary, which they failed to comply. On August 1st Germany declared war on Russia. The French ordered general mobilization on the same day.

And two days later Germany declared war on them. On August 4th, German armies swept through Belgium and by midnight Germany and Great Britain were at war.

Of all the phenomena associated with the outbreak of the war, nationalism was unquestionably the most important underlying factor. It was the spirit of nationalism that drove the young Serbs to assassinate Franz Ferdinand. It was also the feeling of brotherhood based upon on a common Slavic identity, that drove the Russians to come to the aide of the Serbs. The second most important underlying factor was militarism. The continental states over the years had amassed large standing armies, an indication that the state had the authority to force its needs on its subjects and also the power it could muster in terms of sheer numbers. Nationalism and Patriotism were channeled to fulfill their main...