Between July 14, 1914, and November 11, 1918, World War I, also known as the "war to end all wars," took place. Over 17 million people were killed by the end of the conflict, including over 100,000 American forces. While the causes of the conflict are far more nuanced than a simple calendar of events and are still argued and discussed to this day, the list below provides an overview of the most commonly recognised events that led to war.
Countries all across the world have long formed treaties of mutual defence with their neighbours, accords that could bring them into conflict. As a result of these treaties, if one of the allies was attacked, the allies were obligated to defend them. The following alliances existed prior to the outbreak of World War One:
When Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Russia stepped in to protect the country. Germany declared war on Russia after observing Russia's mobilisation. After that, France was pitted against Germany and Austria-Hungary. Germany launched an attack on France by marching into Belgium, drawing Britain into the conflict. Then, to support its British friends, Japan entered the war. Later, Italy and the US would join the Allies on the side of the Allies (Britain, France, Russia, etc.).
Imperialism occurs when a country expands its power and wealth by gaining control of other regions, usually without colonising or resettling them. Several European countries had asserted conflicting imperialistic claims in Africa and parts of Asia before to World War I, causing conflict. Tensions arose about which country had the right to utilise these areas because to the raw minerals they could give. Increased competitiveness and a desire for larger empires resulted in more confrontation, which pushed the world into World War I.
As the world entered the twentieth century, an arms race erupted, centred on the number of warships and troops that each country could field—countries began training more and more of their young men to be battle-ready. Beginning in 1906 with Britain's HMS Dreadnought, warships grew in size, a number of weapons, speed, mode of propulsion, and armour quality. Dreadnought was swiftly outclassed as the Royal Navy and Kaiserliche Marine added more modern and stronger battleships to their fleets.
Germany has approximately 100 battleships and two million trained soldiers by 1914. During this time, both the United Kingdom and Germany significantly expanded their warships. Furthermore, the military establishment began to exert a stronger impact on public policy, particularly in Germany and Russia. This rise in militarism aided the countries involved in the conflict.
The desire of the Slavic peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina to no longer be a part of Austria-Hungary and instead become a part of Serbia was at the root of the war. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, which tipped the scales to war, was precipitated by this primarily nationalistic and ethnic insurrection.
However, nationalism in many European countries contributed not only to the start of the war, but also to its extension throughout Europe and into Asia. The war became increasingly intricate and lengthy as each country attempted to demonstrate its supremacy and power.
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was the immediate cause of World War I, which brought the aforementioned items into play (alliances, imperialism, militarism, and nationalism). The Archduke was assassinated by the Black Hand, a Serbian nationalist terrorist organisation, in June 1914. When a driver escaped a grenade hurled at their car, their first attempt failed. However, later that day, while travelling through Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, a Serbian nationalist called Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Archduke and his wife. They died as a result of their injuries.
Serbia planned to take over Bosnia and Herzegovina, hence the assassination was in protest of Austria-dominance Hungary's of the territory. Following Ferdinand's assassination, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Germany declared war on Russia when Russia began mobilising to protect its alliance with Serbia. As a result, the battle began to expand to include everyone involved in the mutual defence alliances.
During World War I, warfare shifted from hand-to-hand fighting to the employment of weaponry that relied on technology and separated individuals from close conflict. The battle claimed the lives of about 15 million people and injured another 20 million. Warfare would never be the same after that.
Kelly, M., 2020. The Top 5 Causes That Led to World War I. [online] ThoughtCo. Available at: <https://www.thoughtco.com/causes-that-led-to-world-war-i-105515> [Accessed 3 April 2022].