What were the main causes leading up to world war 1?

Essay by Ramboseller March 2004

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World War I was the result of leaders' aggression towards other countries, which was supported by the rising nationalism of the European nations. Economic and imperial competition, fear of war prompted military alliances and an arms race as well as the assassination of the archduke Francis Ferdinand, which further escalated the tension in the Balkans contributing to the outbreak of war.

World war 1 started on the 28th of June 1914 when Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia and ended on November 11th 1918. World war 1 was fought in Europe but did involve around 50 countries and 31 million men where over 7 million of them died with 2.6 million missing in action.

The menace of the hostile division led to an arms race, another cause of World War I. Acknowledging that Germany was the leader in military organization and efficiency, the great powers of Europe copied the universal conscription, large reserves and detailed planning of the Prussian system.

Technological and organizational developments led to the formation of general staffs with precise plans for mobilization and attack that often could not be reversed once they were begun. The German von Schlieffen Plan to attack France before Russia in the event of war with Russia was one such complicated plan that drew more countries into war than necessary.

Armies and navies were greatly expanded. The standing armies of France and Germany doubled in size between 1870 and 1914. Naval expansion was also extremely competitive, particularly between Germany and Great Britain. By 1889, the British had established the principle that in order to maintain naval superiority in the event of war they would have to have a navy two and a half times as large as the second-largest navy. This motivated the British to launch the Dreadnought, invented by Admiral Sir...