It’s probably the single most pondered question in history – what caused people War One? it wasn’t, like in human being War Two, a instance of a solitary belligerent pushing others to take it a armed forces stand. The didn’t have the ethical vindication that resisting a tyrant.

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Rather, a delicate yet toxic balance of structural forces created a dried tinder that was lit by the assassination the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. That occasion precipitated the July Crisis, which experienced the major European strength hurtle toward open conflict.


The M-A-I-N acronym – militarism, alliances, imperialism and also nationalism – is often used to analyse the war, and each that these factors are cited to be the 4 main causes of human being War One. That simplistic but provides a helpful framework.


The so late nineteenth century was an era of armed forces competition, specifically between the significant European powers. The plan of structure a stronger army was judged family member to neighbours, producing a society of paranoia the heightened the find for alliances. It to be fed by the cultural belief that battle is great for nations.


A brothers dreadnought – the structure of these ships to be a resource of anxiety between good Britain and also Germany.

Image Credit: new York time Paris bureau Collection

Germany in details looked to broaden its navy. However, the ‘naval race’ was never ever a real challenge – the British always s kept naval superiority. Yet the brother obsession through naval dominance was strong. Government rhetoric exaggerated military expansionism. A basic naivety in the potential scale and also bloodshed the a European battle prevented several federal governments from checking their aggression.

Dan interviews the brilliant chronicler Nick Lloyd, author of The west Front who tells a much more nuanced account of the western Front.
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A net of alliances developed in Europe in between 1870 and also 1914, effectively developing two camps bound by commitments to preserve sovereignty or intervene militarily – the Triple Entente and also the Triple Alliance.

The Triple Alliance that 1882 connected Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy.The Triple Entente that 1907 attached France, Britain and Russia.

A historic allude of conflict in between Austria Hungary and also Russia to be over their incompatible Balkan interests, and France had a deep uncertainty of Germany rooted in your defeat in the 1870 war.


A brother cartoon the Europe in 1914.

The alliance system primarily came around because ~ 1870 Germany, under Bismarck, collection a criterion by play its neighbours’ imperial endeavours turn off one another, in bespeak to preserve a balance of power within Europe


Imperial competition also pushed the nations towards adopting alliances. Swarms were units of exchange that might be bargained without significantly affecting the metro-pole. They also brought countries who would certainly otherwise not interact into conflict and also agreement. For example, the Russo-Japanese battle (1905) over aspirations in China, helped carry the Triple Entente into being.

It has been said that Germany was urged by imperial ambitions to invade Belgium and also France. Absolutely the expansion of the British and French empires, fired through the rise of industrialism and also the search of brand-new markets, brought about some resentment in Germany, and also the search of a short, aborted royal policy in the so late nineteenth century.

However the tip that Germany wanted to create a European empire in 1914 is not sustained by the pre-war rhetoric and strategy.


Nationalism was additionally a brand-new and powerful source of stress in Europe. It was tied to militarism, and clashed v the interests of the royal powers in Europe. Nationalism created brand-new areas of attention over i beg your pardon nations might compete.


Margaret MacMillan talks to she nephew Dan around the roadway to 1914. They comment on the role that masculine insecurity played in the build up come the war and additionally examine the build of and also myths neighboring nationalistic emotion in the pre-war years.
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For example, The Habsburg realm was tottering agglomeration of 11 different nationalities, with large slavic populations in Galicia and also the Balkans who nationalist aspirations ran counter to royal cohesion. Nationalism in the Balkan’s also piqued Russia’s historical interest in the region.

Indeed, Serbian nationalism created the trigger cause of the dispute – the assassination of the heir come the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

The spark: the assassination

Ferdinand and also his wife were murdered in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a member the the Bosnian Serbian conference terrorist organization the ‘Black Hand Gang.’ Ferdinand’s death, which was taken as a product of official Serbian policy, developed the July situation – a month the diplomatic and also governmental miscalculations that saw a domino impact of battle declarations initiated.

The historical dialogue ~ above this worry is huge and distorted by an extensive biases. Vague and also undefined schemes of reckless expansion were imputed come the German management in the immediate aftermath of the war through the ‘war-guilt’ clause. The concept that Germany was bursting through newfound strength, proud of her abilities and eager to showcase them, to be overplayed.

The virtually laughable rationalization the British royal power together ‘necessary’ or ‘civilizing’ didn’t analyze to German imperialism, which to be ‘aggressive’ and also ‘expansionist.’ There is an on-going historical discussion on who if anyone was most culpable.

Blame has actually been directed at every single combatant in ~ one suggest or another, and some have actually said the all the major governments taken into consideration a gold opportunity for raising popularity in ~ home.

The Schlieffen plan could be blamed for bringing Britain right into the war, the scale of the war might be blamed top top Russia together the an initial big country to mobilise, natural rivalries between imperialism and capitalism could be blamed because that polarising the combatants. AJP Taylor’s ‘timetable theory’ emphasises the delicate, highly complicated plans connected in mobilization which triggered ostensibly aggressive armed forces preparations.

The German Schlieffen setup required Germany to defeat France easily to prevent a two front war.

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Every suggest has some merit, yet in the end what confirmed most disastrous was the mix of an alliance network with the widespread, misguided id that battle is an excellent for nations, and that the best means to struggle a contemporary war to be to attack. That the war was unpreventable is questionable, however certainly the notion of glorious war, of war as a an excellent for nation-building, was strong pre-1914. By the end of the war, it to be dead.