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The Causes of World War One

By Reuben Pierrepoint, Frances Dowle, Bethan Fuse & Garth Davies

Frances Dowle

on 6 June 2012

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Transcript of The Causes of World War One

The Causes of the First World War The First World War saw horrific battles and terrible waste of life, but how did this come about? What were the causes? The causes of the First World War can be split up into different categories. Some of the causes were long term, as in the problem had been ongoing, and its origins lay a couple of decades before the outbreak of war. Or there's short term, where the event happened only a few years, or even months before the start of the Great War. Even within these catagories there is still more and more ways to define these events. Were they political? Military? Ideological? Social? It is best to begin with the long term causes. This is Europe at the dawn of the 20th Century Europe had been in a very delicate balance of power, with several major nations with large colonial Empires vied for domination of the continent. These nations included: This is Germany in 1815 Britain at the turn of the 20th Century was a powerful colonial power. The Industrial Revolution had left Britain with a modern economy and a huge Empire Ruled by George V, Britain at this time preferred not to get involved in European Affairs, they called this their 'Glorious Isolation' When the war broke the French head of state was President Armand Fallières. 1872- The Dreikaiserbund 1879- The Dual Alliance 1882- Triple Alliance 1894- Dual Entente 1904- The Entente Cordiale 1907- Anglo-Russian Entente 1907- Triple Entente 1902- Anglo-Japanese Naval Agreement The Dreikaiserbund 1872 -- Between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Ottoman Turkey Who was the alliance between? Why was the alliance formed? -- Germany was afraid France would take revenge for the Franco-Prussian war (1870-71) The Entene Cordiale 1904 -- Britain and France Who was the alliance between? Why was the alliance formed? -- Following the 'Scramble for Africa', Britain and France divide North Africa between them. Germany is angered by this, so Britain and France agree to work together in the event of German retaliation. The Dual Alliance 1879 -- Between Germany and Austria-Hungary Who was the alliance between? Why was the alliance formed? -- After the Bulgarian Crisis of '76-'78, Austria-Hungary felt threatened, and sought German help. The Anglo-Russian Entente 1907 -- Britain and Russia Who was the alliance between? Why was the alliance formed? -- Britain and Russia nearly go to war over the Middle-East, but dimplomacy wins out and it is shared between them. This leads to the Entente. The Triple Alliance 1872 -- Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. Who was the alliance between? Why was the alliance formed? -- Italy felt threatened by France, and wanted to improve relations with Austria-Hungary The Triple Entente 1907 -- France, Britain and Russia Who was the alliance between? Why was the alliance formed? -- It was an amalgamation of Dual Entente, Entente Cordiale and Anglo-Russian Entente. Later becomes known as the 'ring of steel'. Perceived as anti-German, but this was not the intention. The Dual Entente 1894 -- France and Russia Who was the alliance between? Why was the alliance formed? -- In 1891, France and Russia agreed to consult each other if agression was shown to either of them. This followed after Germany allowed the reinsurance treaty with Russia to laps in 1890. It became a formal agreement in 1894. The Anglo-Japanese Naval Agreement 1902 -- Britain and Japan Who was the alliance between? Why was the alliance formed? -- The Autumn before, Anglo-German alliance negotiations collapsed. In 1902, Britain strengthened its position in the Far East. Britain wanted extra naval power and Japan was in a strategic position. Japan agreed because of the help it received from Britain to develop its own navy. For the past century France had been the greatest power in Europe, but this status was being challenged by Prussia, and its ambitions to unify the smaller German states. France, angry at Prussian attempts to see a German prince on the Spanish throne, and their success in stopping the French from purchasing Luxembourg from the Netherlands, declared war on Prussia and its allies on 19 July 1870. Within weeks of declaring war, France was in a bad way. A series of Prussian victories saw the French army put to disarray. At the Battle of Sedan, the French suffered a catastrophic defeat. Encircled, the French suffered 3,000 dead, 14,000 wounded, and an entire Army surrendered (the Army of Chalons) with 83,000 French becoming prisoners. The Emperor of France, Emperor Napoleon III was also captured. The defeat at Sedan meant the dissolution of the Second Empire and the establishment of the Third Republic. France had to endure a three year German occupation, Napoleon III was exiled to Britain, and the French were stripped of their territory in Alsace and Lorraine. It was a bitter pill to swallow. This is Alsace-Lorraine, the territory France lost at Sedan The Franco-Prussian war left a huge amount of resentment and anger in France towards Prussia, as well as fear of their superior military force, and their own decline. This was increased by the unification of the German states by Otto von Bismark. France was very eager to strike back at Prussia, and so there was a lot of tension between the two countries The Austrian-Hungarian Empire was the result of the dissolution of the Austrian Empire and the result of the Austro-Hungarian compromise of 1867 The Austrian Empire, ruled by the Habsburgs, was a major European power, being vital in the toppling of Napoleon, but now the lands were split, with the royal family sharing power with the Hungarian government. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was so split that those whom lived in the northern half were considered of different nationality than those that lived in the Hungarian part of the Empire. The Empire was made up of many different nationalities, which can be shown by the amount of languages spoken in the Empire, these languages were:
Official languages:
Unofficial minority languages:
Yiddish With so many nationalities there was a lot of division in the Empire, with internal power struggles and tension between the Austrian royalty and Hungarian Government. The Austro-Prussian War of 1866 has asserted the dominance of the Prussians in northern Europe, and the Empire's dominance in Italy was no more. At the beginning of the 20th century both Russia and Austria-Hungary were trying to seize the lands of the declining Ottoman Empire The decline of the Ottoman Empire also brought new determination to the long-oppressed Balkan people to gain their own independence. Austria faced new tensions with the Ottomans and Russians, as well as the chance that their constitute nations might seek independence A summary of these Alliances and relations: Russia, the land of the tsars, casts a great shadow over Europe. The Russian Empire at the time of the war could field the largest Army in the world However, this army was not in the best of conditions. It was under equipped, badly trained and in need of modernization The state of the military was highlighted in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. The Japanese navy laid siege to, and captured the Russian Pacific Port Arthur, destroying the fleet there. Nicholas II then decided to send his Baltic Fleet 33,336 kilometers around Africa to take on the Japanese fleet. Although the Russian Fleet was larger in numbers, the ships were old, and commanded by aristocrats that had never seen combat The Japanese fleet was commanded by a very able man named Admiral Togo, his fleet included 4 very modern battleships The 2 navies clashed at a place called Tsushima Admiral Togo sent a message out to his fleet on 27 May just after 13:00 saying 'The fate of the Empire depends upon the outcome of this battle, Let every man do his utmost duty', strangely reminiscent of Nelson's order at Trafalgar. The Japanese fleet made a very risky turn, but it meant that the Japanese could cross the Russian 'T' and bring all their guns to bear against just half of the Russians' guns The Russian navy was absolutely decimated, on the first day the Russians lost 4 battleships, and during the night the cruisers protecting the rest of the navy were sunk by torpedo boats. Overall the Russian lost 34 ships. 4830 Russians were killed and 5917 wounded and captured. The commander was taken prisoner. The Japanese lost 3 torpedo boats, 110 Japanese were killed and 590 wounded. The battle of Tsushima sent reverberations throughout the world, a European power had been defeated by an Eastern country! The war ended with major concessions from the Russians in terms of territory. Things in Russia went from bad to worse. For years the people of the country had been asking for reform, for democracy and for freedom of the serfs. When the people heard of the battle of Tsushima they decided to take action, in St. Petersburg, the people organized a peaceful protest appealing to the Tsar to start making reforms. 'Bloody Sunday', as it was called, went down in infamy, and set the scene for revolutions, and dissidence against the Tsar that was to come Russia was indeed a troubled place There is another country, and this is: Germany, previously made up of smaller states, was unified, mainly by the will of German chancellor, Otto von Bismark The journey to unification was long and hard, it took 'blood and iron', as the German states were all very independent and wanted to stay that way. Bismark started by training up the Prussian forces, and forging an alliance with Austria to the south. In 1864 both Prussia and Austria declared war on Denmark in order to capture the regions of: And Schleiswig, Prussia took Schleiswig , and Austria Holstein. This situation couldn't last long, as the Austrian Holstein was surrounded by Prussian lands. Bismark, aiming to isolate Austria, denied support to Poland in its uprising against Russia, as well as forming an alliance with Italy, that if Austria attacked Prussia, they would join them. Bismark took the opportunity of a border dispute to declare war on Austria, in the ensuing 'Seven Weeks War' Prussia took Holstein, as well as other north German states that were allied to Austria, the result was the formation of the North German Confederation. The North German Confederation had been formed, although there was still many matters to be settled, Bismark's dream was getting closer. The NGC then sought to isolate the French, Bismark did this by allying with Italy and Russia, and he knew that Britain would never support France As a result of the war, Austria promised to stay out of Prussian affairs. Bismark started the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 by forging a note stating the the French ambassador, the media of both countries were enraged, and the peoples of both countries demanded war, and that's what they got. What followed was the debacle at Sedan. After the war, the southern German states decided to join the Northern German Confederation, the German Empire was born The proclamation of the German Empire Bismark's dream had been achieved Of course the other countries reacted to the German unification. Many felt threatened by the new supremacy of Germany The delicate balance of power that had existed in Europe since Napoleonic times had been destroyed. The Balkan Crisis Why did so many countries become involved in the war? Answer: A complicated web of alliances. Alliances This area is known as The Balkans For most of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, it was controlled by the Ottoman Empire. But Balkan states now wanted independence. The demise of the Ottoman Empire left many feeling that independence was within their grasp. This made Austria-Hungary worried. Would the ethnic minorities of its empire want independence too? Russia saw it as a chance to gain influence in the Mediterranean. In 1875, Herzegovina revolted... The Dreikaiserbund tried and failed to persuade the Ottomans to grant reforms. Demise of the Ottoman Empire The Ottoman Empire was not an old Empire, created in the early 14th Century, the Ottoman empire was thrust into European affairs, with the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, thus bringing an end to the 1,000 year old Byzantine Empire A series of very effective Sultans brought more and more of the Middle East under Ottoman control, including Syria, Palestine, Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula, as well as large parts of North Africa. This map shows the Ottoman Empire's boundaries at different points in its existence Under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire reached its greatest extent, under his rule the Ottomans took Cyprus, Nice, Rhodes, Tunis. He also reduced Hungary, Moldavia, Transylvania and Wallachia to vassal states , he even managed to get to Vienna, but never took it He was also a great lover of the arts and made the Ottomans advanced technologically, and made the Empire rich by controlling the trades routes and building up a huge and powerful navy. Inspired by the Herzegovina rebellion, Montenegro and Serbia also rebelled. They declared war on the Ottoman Empire in June 1876. By the Autumn, the Balkan armies had been defeated. Russia was an ally of Montenegro and Serbia, so despite the defeat they joined the war on 13th April 1877. Surprisingly, Austria-Hungary remained neutral. Ottoman troops suffered a series of defeats and requested armistice on the 31st of January 1978. The resulting treaty is known as The Treaty of Berlin. Bosnia and Herzegovina was occupied by Austria-Hungary; Bulgaria lost Macedonia to the Ottoman empire and became a principality; Serbia and Montenegro gained independence. But Ottoman Supremacy couldn't last for long. The Renaissance in Italy brought huge new technological, social, military and political innovations to the rest of Europe, The Turks, whom viewed the Europeans as 'infidels' or unbelievers, failed to modernize their armies. In 1571, the Ottomans experienced a huge defeat at the naval battle of Lepanto in 1571 due to the better of tactics of the Christian Holy League (set up to combat the Ottomans) which greatly reduced the Ottoman's power in the Mediterranean The Ottoman's then experienced internal revolts within the Empire between 1640 and 1656, with no Sultan in command until 1656. In this time, Austria, Russia and Venice took the opportunity to take back lands that they had lost Bad leadership, and far superior enemy technology meant that by the early 18th century the Ottomans had lost many of their Balkan territories, their fleet destroyed and the Black Sea in Russian hands. In 1832, the Ottomans lost Egypt, and then in 1878 the Russians overran the Empire, almost taking Constantinople, in the following Treaty of Berlin the Ottomans ceded most of their European holdings. A Sultan called Abd al-Hamid tried to stabilize the country by dismissing the government and creating autocracy, this backfired when a group called the 'Young Turks' took charge in a successful coup in 1908, their modernization program failed to revive the dying Empire. In the Balkan War of 1912-1913 saw the last of Ottoman possessions in Europe destroyed, and the Empire in tatters, all that was needed was a war to finish it off. The Spark On 28th June 1914, the Austro-Hungarian heir apparent was on a tour in Sarajevo, Serbia, to try and restore order there, after he had seen the cries for independence in the country The Balkan Wars There were two Balkan wars... The first was in 1912. Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and Montenegro declared war on the Ottomans in October. Ottoman Turkey was unprepared. By December, armistice was achieved. Big powers avoided getting involved in the conflict, but tried to influence the outcome. Britain helped to broker the treaty that ended the war. The treaty has become known as the Treaty of London. The second was in 1913. In June, a Bulgarian military commander ordered an attack without official consent, causing Serbia and Greece to declare war on Bulgaria. This happens despite the fact that the Bulgarian government disowned the action. Greece, Montenegro, Serbia and Bulgaria formed the Balkan league in May 1912. Tensions are still very high in the Balkans, and war breaks out over the gained lands. Turkey and Romania (no longer neutral due to a land dispute with Bulgaria) join the war on Serbia's side. Turkey began to regain territory lost to Bulgaria during the First Balkan war. In the resulting Treaty of Bucharest, Bulgaria lost most of the land they gained in the First Balkan War. How is this a cause of World War One? The territory disputes in the Balkans created a lot of tension among the bigger powers because they disagreed over polices. One example of this is when the Dreikaiserbund tried and failed to persuade the Ottomans to grant reforms. The tensions eventually led to the breakdown of this alliance. Many of the Balkan armies grew in size or improved in quality. This meant that it made more of a difference when they became allies with sides during the war. Austria-Hungary ended up competing for Balkan lands with Russia. This increased the tensions between the two rival alliances.
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