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- For each of the following arguments select the evidence or historiography and the
corresponding analysis.

- Once you have completed the essay’s outline, write your own conclusion to the prompt.

PROMPT: Long-term causes were more important than short-term causes in explaining the
outbreak of the World War I. To what extent do you agree with this statement?

I. Introduction
A. Thesis: Long-term causes were, to a great extent, of vastly greater significance than short-term
causes in the onset of World War I, in which a combination of imperialism, nationalism, militarism,
and alliance system served to bring the nations of Europe to the brink of war without any
immediate that crises. However, it could be argued that, as a short-term cause, the assassination
of Archduke Franz Ferdinand overshadowed the long-term causes in triggering war because it
explicitly resulted in a chain of mass mobilizations and declarations of war.

Argument I: Imperialism / Nationalism

Assertion: Of utmost importance in prompting World War I was a heightened sense of imperialism
and nationalism, in which international conflicts contributed to a focus on a national identity (rather
than international cooperation), laying the foundation for large-scale diplomatic hostility;
imperialism and nationalism resulted in nations serving their own interests following the
assassination rather than uniting under a diplomatic solution.

Argument II: Militarism / Alliance System

Assertion: A salient long term cause for World War I consisted of the rapid militarization of
countries in response to their rival nations' industrialization; paranoid of the growing militant
strength, countries quickly created alliance systems as early as 1879, resulting in increased
tensions amongst allies and rivals, enough to prompt a global war.

Counter-Argument: Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Assertion: On the contrary, although it may be argued that the long term causes of imperialism,
nationalism, militarism, and alliance systems were indeed more significant in causing war in
Europe, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand proved to be the only legitimate event that
could be associated with the declaration of war whereas the policies and ideologies which were
existent for a long time prior had not provided enough substance and reason for an official
declaration of formal military conflict.

Argument I: Imperialism / Nationalism

Evidence / Historiography Analysis

Argument II: Militarism / Alliance System

Evidence / Historiography Analysis

Counter-Argument: Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Evidence / Historiography Analysis

At its peak, Britain was the largest empire in history,
amassing control of 23% of the world’s population
(412 million people) and 24% of the total land on

By 1913, Britain’s vast superiority in regards to imperialism

resulted in their own language, ethics, and culture dominating
the globe, resulting in general sentiments of inferiority among
other colonial nations, prompting hostile conflicts over
colonial empires, straining diplomacy among the large
powers of the world. This specifically contributed to the
outbreak of World War I as the strained diplomacy between
nations resulted in an increase of political tensions that
defined the early 20th century leading towards war.

Kaiser Wilhelm demanded Germany seek a “place in

the sun”, and to this end developed Weltpolitik to
claim colonial control over Africa.

The underlying imperialism behind Wilhelm’s Weltpolitik

ultimately came to a head when, in 1905, a conference was
called to discuss Morrocco’s status. Germany’s own attempts
at imperialism resulted in only a strengthening of the Anglo-
French alliance and a scrutinization of Germany’s designs on
a global platform, thus adding great tensions and conflict
among the nations of Europe.
“The German bid for continental supremacy was certainly
decisive in bringing on the European War”

A.J.P. Taylor - Anti-Revisionist Perspective

In regards to nationalistic attitudes, by the turn of the century

France had never gotten over the loss of Alsace-Lorraine in
the Franco-Prussian War (1870), a region that held immense
cultural significance for the French people.

In 1908 Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina,

enraging the Serbs and convincing them that all pan-Slavic
peoples must unite in the formation of Greater Serbia.

Taylor’s anti-revisionist perspective on the decisive cause of

World War I asserts that the long-term policies of
imperialism among the nations of Europe were critical in
prompting a large-scale European war. By interfering with
the colonial designs of other nations, Taylor claims that
Germany significantly raised international hostility and
pulled the world towards war.
The territorial dispute over Alsace-Lorraine resulted in
hostile attitudes in the foreign policies of France and
Germany; the conflicting senses of national pride prompted
the formation of intricate alliances throughout the late 19th
and early 20th centuries to compete with each other and the
development of military plans to swiftly conquer each other
in the result of a war.

Nationalism in the Balkans served as one of the most

significant long-term causes of World War I. In Serbia’s
nationalist quest to seize control of the Balkans from Austria-
Hungary, they constantly risked dragging the entirety of
Europe into war, making the region the “powder keg” of
Europe. Nationalism endowed each country with a
superiority complex and the necessity to outperform each
other serving as a critical cause for the outbreak of World
War I.

By 1907, Britain formed the Triple Entente with Russia and

France, creating the two combatant groups that would set up
the war, as both groups would antagonize the other.

These binding alliances grouped the European nations under

2 brackets, and immediately made the outlook of a war that
much simpler; rather than political reasons, the combatants
would justify their militant actions as aiding their allies,
resulting higher tensions, and making it easier for a
provocation of global war.
Although the assassination sparked war in Europe, if it had been
the most significant cause of war, conflict would have been much
more limited to Serbia and Austria-Hungary. The assassination of
the Austro-Hungarian Archduke by a Serbian ultranationalist group
alone should have only caused conflict between the two nations
involved. The fact that this event resulted in global war conveys
the significance of the alliance systems that had been established
after 1871. Furthermore, the involvement of several other nations
also portrays how each nation was simply using the conflict as a
way to further pursue its own interests.

Austria-Hungary’s merciless ultimatum for a self-conducted

investigation of the government’s affiliation with the
assassination followed by Serbia’s rejection to comply
furthered tensions to unbearable heights and therefore caused
the outbreak of war between the two nations in July 1914.

“The greatest single underlying cause of the War was the

system of secret alliances which developed after the Franco-
Prussian War. It gradually divided Europe into two hostile
groups of Powers who were increasingly suspicious of one
another and who steadily built up greater and greater armies
and navies...the system made it inevitable that if war did
come, it would involve all the Great Powers of Europe.”
Sidney Bradshaw Fay - Structuralist Perspective

Fay’s structuralist perspective on one of the underlying

causes of World War I is that ideal military structures present
within each country escalated uncontrollably. Fay asserts that
by making clear enemies, European nations only needed a
petty reason to initiate war as it was “inevitable”.
“None of the rulers really knew what they were fighting
about in August 1914… the crisis gathered pace and the
calculations of statesmen were overwhelmed by the rapid
succession of events, the tide of emotion in the various
capitals, and the demands of military planning.”

L.C.F Turner - Modernist Perspective

The assassination of the Archduke who proved to be the only

hope for peace in Europe destabilized the relationships
between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. Austria-Hungary used
this opportunity to provide an ultimatum that was impossible
to reach, only to provoke Serbia into war. As was expected,
Serbia failed to satisfy the means of the issued ultimatum and
this short term cause justified Austria-Hungary’s advances
toward war.

The modern perspective is significant because it displays how the

assassination of the Archduke proved to be a spark to the
war. Turner claims that, immediately following the assassination,
crisis rapidly spread throughout Europe, resulting in brash actions
of overwhelmed statesmen, highlighting the significance of the
assassination as a cause for war itself. However, Turner implies
that other long-term factors were greatly significant, stating that
each nation was simply caught up in the emotions of the events
rather than the logistics of the ongoing phenomena that had been
existent since 1871.

Gavrilo Princip’s assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

on June 28, 1914 was actually a manifestation of Serbian
nationalism and the only legitimate event that could be
associated with the declaration of war as the years between
1871 and 1914 were simply times of imperialistic
competition (Scramble for Africa). It is for this reason that
this assassination is regarded as the “spark” of the Great War.
In the years prior to 1914, no concrete event manifested
nationalism while also allowing a declaration of war to be
associated with it in the way the assassination did. Any
declaration in the time between the (1870 and 1914) Franco-
Prussian War and the assassination would seem uncaused for
and out of the blue due to the fact that all that was occurring
were imperialistic and militaristic rivalries between nations.

Examples of these rivalries were the race to establish a

fortified navy (most prevalent in Great Britain and Germany)
as well as the strife to acquire more lands for the purpose of
using the materials available in these lands. This race,
coupled with the assassination, gave the rivals a collective
reason to overcome each other in war.

The Archduke was assassinated on June 28, 1914 and a

month later, Austria-Hungary was at war with Serbia. In the
months following, 16 declarations of war between a variety
of European countries in 1914 alone, undeniably portraying
the mass international intervention that took place after the

Although the initial effect of this agreement was to isolate

France from the rest of Europe, the repercussion of the
alliance guaranteed that should one of the 3 countries become
attacked, the other two would pledge military support in the
defense of their ally; with countries with large armies such as
Germany, this would culminate in a full scale World War, the
first war of such a grand scale.
With the Dual Alliance of 1879 between Germany and
Austria-Hungary, and later involving Italy, the formation of
the Triple Alliance was established, cementing one group of
combatants at the brink of war.

The growing armaments of each nation throughout the early

1900s only increased paranoia, as each country was adding
more destructive weapons to their arsenal. These countries,
such as Britain and Germany, would later find themselves in
an arms race to produce even more innovative weapons to
deter the opponent. Their deadly rivalry clearly provided each
respective country a motive for retaliation as was
demonstrated at the advent of World War I.

By 1914, modern industrial methods guaranteed arms that

proved many dozen times more devastating than previous
incarnations, such as rifles being outclassed by machine guns.

The superiority complex held by each nation directly resulted in

the expansion of the military. As each nation increased its own
military, this provoked other nations to expand theirs as well in
fear of being outdone. Such a large expansion of military was
frightening enough to strain relations between other nations in fear
of provocation as they make states suspicious with each other. The
lead up to World War I saw the largest armies amassed in Europe’s
history, which increased the likelihood of a large scale war
erupting by 1914.
The Arms Race of the early 20th century resulted in a
collective 197% increase of naval sizes between 1900 and
1914, demonstrating the desire for militarism to deter
opposing nations.