It’s perhaps the solitary most pondered inquiry in history – what caused civilization War One? it wasn’t, favor in people War Two, a case of a single belligerent pushing rather to take it a military stand. It didn’t have actually the moral vindication the resisting a tyrant.

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Rather, a delicate however toxic balance of structural forces created a dry tinder the was lit by the assassination the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. That occasion precipitated the July Crisis, which witnessed the significant European strength hurtle toward open conflict.


The M-A-I-N acronym – militarism, alliances, imperialism and also nationalism – is frequently used come analyse the war, and also each the these factors are cited to it is in the 4 main causes of people War One. That simplistic but provides a useful framework.


The so late nineteenth century was an era of army competition, particularly between the significant European powers. The plan of building a stronger armed forces was judged loved one to neighbours, producing a society of paranoia that heightened the find for alliances. It was fed by the social belief that war is an excellent for nations.


A brother dreadnought – the building of these ships to be a resource of stress and anxiety between good Britain and Germany.

Image Credit: new York time Paris bureau Collection

Germany in certain looked to expand its navy. However, the ‘naval race’ was never ever a real challenge – the British always s maintained naval superiority. However the brother obsession with naval prominence was strong. Federal government rhetoric exaggerated military expansionism. A an easy naivety in the potential scale and bloodshed the a European war prevented several governments from checking your aggression.

Dan interviews the brilliant chronicler Nick Lloyd, writer of The west Front who tells a much much more nuanced account that the west Front.
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A web of partnerships developed in Europe between 1870 and 1914, effectively producing two camps bound by commitments to maintain sovereignty or intervene militarily – the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance.

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

A historic suggest of conflict between Austria Hungary and also Russia was over their incompatible Balkan interests, and also France had a deep skepticism of Germany rooted in their defeat in the 1870 war.


A british cartoon of Europe in 1914.

The alliance system primarily came about because ~ 1870 Germany, under Bismarck, set a precedent by play its neighbours’ royal endeavours turn off one another, in order to keep a balance of strength within Europe


Imperial competition additionally pushed the countries towards adopting alliances. Colonies were devices of exchange that could be bargained without considerably affecting the metro-pole. They also brought countries who would certainly otherwise not communicate into conflict and agreement. Because that example, the Russo-Japanese war (1905) end aspirations in China, helped carry the Triple Entente right into being.

It has been suggested that Germany was motivated by imperial ambitions to invade Belgium and also France. Certainly the growth of the British and also French empires, fired by the rise of industrialism and also the search of brand-new markets, caused some resentment in Germany, and the quest of a short, aborted royal policy in the 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 also strategy.


Nationalism was also a brand-new and powerful source of tension in Europe. It was tied to militarism, and clashed through the interests of the royal powers in Europe. Nationalism created brand-new areas of interest over which nations might compete.


Margaret MacMillan talks to she nephew Dan around the road to 1914. They talk about the function that mrs insecurity play in the construct up to the war and also examine the build of and myths bordering nationalistic emotion in the pre-war years.
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For example, The Habsburg realm was tottering agglomeration that 11 various nationalities, with big slavic populations in Galicia and also the Balkans who nationalist aspirations ran counter to imperial cohesion. Nationalism in the Balkan’s likewise piqued Russia’s historical interest in the region.

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

The spark: the assassination

Ferdinand and his mam were murdered in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Bosnian Serbian nationalist terrorist company the ‘Black Hand Gang.’ Ferdinand’s death, i beg your pardon was understood as a product of official Serbian policy, created the July dilemm – a month of diplomatic and also governmental miscalculations that witnessed a domino result of battle declarations initiated.

The historical dialogue top top this concern is huge and distorted by an extensive biases. Vague and also undefined schemes the reckless growth were imputed to 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 she abilities and eager come showcase them, to be overplayed.

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

Blame has been directed at every solitary combatant at one allude or another, and also some have actually said that all the major governments considered a golden opportunity for enhancing popularity in ~ home.

The Schlieffen plan could be blamed because that bringing Britain right into the war, the scale of the war might be blamed top top Russia together the first big nation to mobilise, innate rivalries in between imperialism and also capitalism might be blamed for polarising the combatants. AJP Taylor’s ‘timetable theory’ emphasises the delicate, highly facility plans involved in mobilization which prompted ostensibly aggressive army preparations.

The German Schlieffen setup required Germany to loss France conveniently to avoid a 2 front war.

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Every point has some merit, however in the end what proved most destructive was the combination of one alliance network with the widespread, misguided id that battle is good for nations, and also that the best way to hit a modern war to be to attack. That the battle was unpreventable is questionable, but certainly the concept of glorious war, of war as a good for nation-building, was solid pre-1914. By the end of the war, it was dead.