Sie sind auf Seite 1von 9

Why did the War start on August 9th, 1914?

Cecilia Carbone
Professor Sabol
Global Connections
2/18/2015

World War I, also known as the Great War, put Europe into chaos. The numerous lives
lost, homes and land completely destroyed, and the turmoil put on surviving veterans was
extreme. This war was a heavy weight that all the people of Europe and many other parts of the
world had to endure. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28th, 1914 marks
the beginning of the madness. The decisions made by the great powers after this mans death
sparked a detrimental war with the entire continent that eventually engaged the rest of the world.
There are many different reasons that such a minor conflict would cause such catastrophe. There
are long term and short term causes. The main causes that started the war on July 28th, 1914 was
the rising sense of nationalism in central Europe and, Germany in particular, the secret alliance
systems, the ambitions of the Great Powers, and the way Austria-Hungary handled the murder of
the Archduke. The rise of revolution sparked countries pride and want for self-determination.

The new German state rising had an itch to expand and conquer. With Germany on the rise,
German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck made some enemies and with that he had to create
alliances to assure some protection. Some alliances were made with Germany and Austria, while
France and Russia paired up. These alliances split Europe into two and left a lingering sense of
mistrust and suspiciousness. Finally the need for the Great Powers to keep the balance in Europe
and maintain control created an atmosphere of frustration and anger. All these things made
Austria-Hungary respond the way they did to the Archdukes murder.
In 1815 Napoleon Bonaparte had upset the nice balance in Europe. His conquest to
broaden Frances boarders and possess power came to an end when the four other great powers,
Britain, Austria, Russia, and Prussia, intervened. The Congress of Vienna was meant to restore
all the damage Napoleon had caused and is where the German Confederation was created.
German nationalist hoped to bring together a strong and united German nation. Nationalism also
appeared in countries like Italy and Poland. This inflicted fear on the Austrian Empire who
thought that uniting of states would shrink and diminish their empire.1 The Congress of Vienna
made many obstacles for nationalist. In Italy they restored many of their states under Austrian
Rule2. The idea of the balance of power was also established, it was a diplomatic concept for the
Great Powers to get together and to fix and avoid arising conflicts. The want of many countries
to be independent sparked many revolutions throughout the 19th century3. The social and
economic divisions among the continent, along with degrading nature of the great powers set the
up an atmosphere full of tension, that was a ticking time bomb leading to the Great War.

1Lyons, World War I: a short, 1-3.

2 Lyons, World War I: a short, 3.


3 Sabol, January 12th,2015, Europe at its Zenith

The main eye opener for many countries deciding to revolt was the sick man of Europe,
or the Ottoman Empire. The empire was at an economic and military decline. The Greeks were
sick of being under Ottoman rule, they wanted independence. The Great Powers take notice to
this because the Greeks are merchants. Other countries like Poland, Finland, and Lithuania, see
the Greeks self-determination and start to realize their own rights4. Revolutions arise, first the
1820 Greek Revolution, then 1830s the Polish revolted, and in 1848 revolutions were occurring
all throughout Europe. This changed the face of Europe all the smaller, and less developed
countries wanted their own sovereignty. To maintain balance of power the Great Powers
attempted to control the national revolution. They started recognizing the smaller states like
Belgium5. This political ideology of right to self-determination stayed strong leading up to the
war.
Another one of the long term causes that lead to war was the secret alliance systems. In
1914 the alliances were clear and distinct.6 The first alliances started because of German
chancellor Otto Van Bismarck. During Napoleons reign in 1806 France fought against Prussia
and defeated them with ease in two months. After Napoleons defeat a humiliated Prussia rebuilt
their military to get rid of their weak reputation. Prussia also took control of the German
Confederation that was originally under Austrian rule. Bismarck, originally Prussian statesman,
led Prussia to take control of Demark which restored Prussias powerful reputation7. After
4 Sabol, January 12th,2015, Europe at its Zenith
5 Sabol, January 12th,2015, Europe at its Zenith
6 Top of FormSchmitt, Bernadotte E. 1924. "Triple Alliance and Triple Entente, 1902-1914". The American
Historical Review. 29 (3).

Turner, Edward Raymond. 1915. "The Causes of the Great War". The American Political Science Review. 9
(1): 16-35.

rebuilding Prussia Bismarck wanted to create a unified and powerful German Empire. His main
tools he used were force, fraud, and he was cunning. In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 to
1871 Prussia expands eastward to gain Bavaria and create the German Empire. France didnt
want to be neighboring a German state. Bismarck gets Napoleon the III to start a war. Prussia
defeats France and takes two French territories, Alsace and Lorraine, which had been a part of
France for decades. This forced surrender sparked an aggression towards Germany that never
ended8. France rebuilt up their military and recovered faster than anyone expected. In 1879,
Bismarck started an alliance between Germany, Russia, and Austria, as a way to isolate France.
Russia and Austria had a history of not getting along, but Germany acted as an impartial
mediator between the two countries. Russia was no longer part of the alliance after the Bulgarian
Crisis of 1885-69. To keep Austrian support Germany made a point to stick by Austrias side.
The dual alliance between Austria-Hungary and Germany meant that if Germany is
entered into an unprovoked war by a third aggressive power then Austria-Hungary would support
them. In 1882 Italy joins the alliance and they become the Triple Alliance after Germany
inflicted fear over a colonial rivalry between Italy and France10. Germany also gets Russia on
board with the Reassurance Treaty in 1887 which states that Russia stays neutral if France and
Germany go into war. It had to be renewed every three years11. In 1893 Bismarck retires and the
Reassurance Treaty wasnt resigned. When Russia needed workers and investments for the Tran
8 Sabol, , January 26th, 2015, Setting the Stage Continued
9

Medlicott, W. N. 1945. "Bismarck and the Three Emperors' Alliance, 1881-87".Transactions of the Royal
Historical Society. 27: 61.

10

Turner, Edward Raymond. 1915. "The Causes of the Great War". The American Political Science Review. 9
(1): 16-35

11 Sabol, January 28th, 2014, Assessing the Possible Origins

Siberian Railroad France offered to help. After this, plus Tsar Nicholass notice in Frances
diplomatic isolation, the two countries signed the Triple Entente12. All these alliances gave
comfort to the countries that feared each other. Austria was worried about Russia while Russia
was worried about Austria. France had much pent up anger towards Germany, while Germany
was prepared to fight for themselves. At this point Britain stayed out of all alliances.
Later in the earlier 1900s the dual alliance with France and Russia, and triple alliance
between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy was clear. Europe was at a state of peace for the
most part. The growth of the German empire disrupted this peace. Germany was expanding,
economically and their military was growing. By 1910 Germany was second to the United States
in shipping and second to Germany in manufacturing.13 Germany, France, and England were the
most industrialized countries at the time. The further East in Europe the more agrarian the
society was.14 Germany strong and aggressive due to the rise in population to the empire. They
built up their army and their navy. Britain was known for their strong navy so this intimidated
them. Britain grew cautious and made good relations with Italy and the United States and also
befriended France by settling some old disagreements. Soon Britain ended old disputes with
Russia because of their friendship with France and concern for power crazy Germany. The Triple
Entente was formed in 1912.15
The Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance both wanted to maintain peace. Although each
side each side had leaders who had intentions to master Europe. Both sides matched up pretty

12 Sabol, January 28th, 2014, Assessing the Possible Origins


13

Turner, Edward Raymond. 1915. "The Causes of the Great War". The American Political Science Review. 9
(1): 16-35

14 Sabol, January 28th, 2014, Assessing the Possible Origins


15

Turner, Edward Raymond. 1915. "The Causes of the Great War". The American Political Science Review. 9
(1): 16-35

well in terms of power and resources. The Triple Entente was superior in terms of location, size
of their military, and finances. While the Triple Alliance had cohesiveness, and organization on
standing on their side.16 With both alliances preparing for a fight the ticking time bomb just grew
closer to explosion.
The ambitions of the Great Powers created many conflicts in Europe. Germany wanted to
expand and grow powerful. While smaller countries like Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece wanted to
expand as well17. Russia was trying to get rid of their weak reputation after the Russo-Japanese
War of 1904-1905, where the Japanese sunk Russian ships. France is also concerned with
Russias weak appearance because Russias help is key if they go to war with Germany18. The
first Morocco crisis of 1905 came about because of Germany and Britains naval arms race.
Germany had a diplomatic defeat in this. Then came the Bosnian Crisis of 1908, which some
would say is a dress rehearsal for the start of World War I in 1914.19 This Crisis came about
from Izvolsky, a Russian minister, who wanted to remove Russias humiliation by removing the
Straits clause. Izvolsky agreed that Russia wouldnt oppose to the annexation of Bosnia if
Austrian foreign minister, Aehrenthal agreed to have the straits clause removed. Serbia also felt
that Bosnia should be under Serbian rule. There is some misinterpretation with the agreement
Izvolsky and Aehrenthral leaving Izvolsky feeling angry and betrayed. Russia almost goes into
war but France and Russia convince them its not worth going to war over. This leaves Russia
16 Turner, Edward Raymond. 1915. "The Causes of the Great War". The American Political Science Review. 9
(1): 16-35

17 Sabol, February 2nd, 2015 The Immediate Causes: Crises between 1905 and
1914
18 Sabol, February 2nd, 2015 The Immediate Causes: Crises between 1905 and
1914
19 Sabol, February 4th, 2015 The Immediate Causes Continued

humiliated again20. The second Morocco Crisis happed in 1911. Germany attempted to weaken
the Entente, which leads Italy to side more with Britain and France because of their interest with
northern Africa. The Balkan Wars was the next crisis that almost lead the Great Powers to a full
blown war. Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece all want to expand their territories. Theyre all in war,
and at the end no one none of states are satisfied with territorial ambition, especially Serbia.
Finally the last major crisis averted was the Liman Von Sanders in 1913. Turkey invite German
general Liman Von Sanders to help improve their military. This makes the Russians, British, and
French all angry. The British see it as Germany interfering with the Ottoman Empire21. No one
goes to war over this but with a combination of all the other crises a sensation off mistrust and
fear had been built up over the decade.
In 1914 the ticking time bomb was close to the brink of explosion. The spark that set off
this time bomb of the Great War was the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June
28th, 1914. With all the suspicion and mistrust lingering across Europe, no one was able to solve
this conflict in a civil fashion. After he was killed, Austria immediately blamed Serbia. The
assassination was made by a group of Serbian terrorist known as the Black Hand. 22 Serbia didnt
provoke World War I, it was the actions of the Black Hand that got the Great Powers involved.
Austria felt the need to punish Serbia. They were concerned about taking immediate action
because they knew Russia would stand by Serbia. Austria wants to confirm Germanys help so
Russia wont intervene. One week after the murder, Bethmann-Hollweg signs the Blank Check,
which guarantees Germanys full blown support. Germany keeps advising Austria to act as soon
as possible. Austria waits to act because of the dual monarchy with Hungary and they also wait
20 Sabol, February 4th, 2015 The Immediate Causes Continued
21 Sabol, February 9th, 2015 The Immediate Causes Continued
22

Schmitt, Bernadotte E. 1944. "July 1914: Thirty Years After". The Journal of Modern History. 16 (3).

for the prime minister of France to finish their visit with Russia July 20th to the 23rd. They wait
for this visit to end and send an ultimatum to Serbia. It had fourteen points and Serbia needed to
agree to all of them within twenty-four hours. This ultimatum was the cause of the crisis because
the points made were all very unreasonable.23 Serbia agreed to thirteen of the twenty-four points,
but couldnt accept the last one because theyd have to give up sovereignty. Austria delivers the
declaration of war by bombing Serbian capital, Belgrade on July 28th 1914. They were able to act
so aggressively because they knew they had Germanys support. The war was supposed to stay
localized but this failed because of Austrias wait to act which made Serbia able to rely on
Russian intervention24.
The Great War started because of many different reasons. The long term effects were the
outbreak of nationalism throughout Europe, the alliance system that split Europe into two sides,
and the ambitions of the Great Powers that lead to many crises. The short term effect was how
long Austria waited to respond to the assassination of the Archduke. An atmosphere full of
tension along with anger and the need for revenge created a war that led to catastrophes no one
could ever see coming.

Bibliography
"The Immediate Causes Continued." Speech, University of North Carolina at Charlotte,
Charlotte, NC, February 4, 2015.
Lyons, Michael J. World War I: a short story. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall,
2000.
23 Sabol, February 11th, 2015 A Review of the Explanations
24 Sabol, February 11th, 2015 A Review of the Explanations

Medlicott, W. N. 1945. "Bismarck and the Three Emperors' Alliance, 1881-87".Transactions of


the Royal Historical Society. 27: 61.
Sabol, Steven. "Accessing the Possible Origins." Speech, University of North Carolina at
Charlotte, Charlotte, NC, January 28, 2015.
. "Europe at its Zenith." Lecture, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte,
NC, January 12, 2015.
. "The Immediate Causes: Crises between 1905 and 1914." Speech, University of North
Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC, February 2, 2015.
. "A Review of the Explanations." Speech, University of North Carolina at Charlotte,
Charlotte, NC, February 11, 2015.
. "Setting the Stage Continued." Lecture, University of North Carolina at Charlotte,
Charlotte, NC, January 26, 2015.
Schmitt, Bernadotte E. 1924. "Triple Alliance and Triple Entente, 1902-1914". The American
Historical Review. 29 (3).
Schmitt, Bernadotte E. 1944. "July 1914: Thirty Years After". The Journal of Modern History. 16
(3).
Turner, Edward Raymond. 1915. "The Causes of the Great War". The American Political Science
Review. 9 (1): 16-35.