The assassination of Fraz Ferdinard and his wife was what triggered the first world war to begin but in the years leading up to the war there were many other events that caused tension between the countries. One of the leading causes was the two Alliances, the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy) and the Triple Entente (France, Russia and Great Britain). These alliances helped contribute as one of the leading causes of the war also along with imperialism. Imperialism was seen mostly in the late 19th century when European countries fought to gain empires in areas such as the Upper Nile, South Africa and China. Another key cause was militarism which was evident through the Anglo-German naval rivalry and the arms race between the two alliances.
The two different alliances of world war 1 were significant aspects of the cause of the war because they built tension between the two opposing sides and it divided the main European powers into rivals. What might have been a small war between two local countries, became a whole world war because of the alliances that forced other countries to become involved. If there had not been any alliances there may not have been a war or it would have been a war between Austria and Serbia, but because of the alliances, Russia, Germany, France and Britain also became involved. This led to many more countries getting involved then was needed. Both sides became less willing to settle disputes peacefully as they both believed that their allies would give them military support if war broke out which also helped build up the tension between most of Europe. Also both alliances wanted to have a stronger military which also leads into militarism. In Source A from Chapter 3 War and Peace: International Relations, it shows the terms of the alliance between France and Russia which is that if either of them are attacked by the Triple Alliance then the other will employ forces to attack Germany. This put pressure on Germany because they had enemies on either side of their country and Britain refused to join the Triple Alliance so they were mainly dependent on Austria as their ally. The assassination of Fraz Ferdinard put the alliances into play because it caused Austria to declare war on Serbia who brought in Russia to help and Austria had Germany who declared war on Russia. Because Russia and Germany were now involved it caused France, Britain and Italy to also become involved. Alliances were a key cause of World War 1 and they created tension between all the countries involved during the lead up to the war.
Nationalism was another important cause during the lead up to the first world war because each country felt that they were better and more important than the other countries. This made the tension between the two sides even greater which resulted in a more violent war. Nationalism gave citizens confidence in their nation and their governments and also in their military. Countries would demonise other nations, calling them uncivilised, destructive and threatening. This led to anger between each alliance which only created strain between them. Nationalism also led to a lot of arrogance of the civilians within each country as they each thought they were much more superior than everyone else and it assured them that their country was fair, righteous and without blame and that if there was a war their country would come out victorious. Nationalism can be connected to the assassination of Fraz Ferdinard because Serbia would have been confident in their nation and their alliances when they assassinated Fraz Ferdinard and Austria would have also been confident that they could win a war when they declared war on Serbia. Nationalism can also lead to imperialism because as each country believed that theirs was better then all others, they wanted to expand it. By 1900 the British Empire had colonies in five different continents and France was in control of many areas in Africa. Empires needed to colonise new areas because there was a rise in industrialism so they needed new markets. As Britain and France gained more land, Germany also wanted more and began to try and colonise new areas but they had started too late and was only able to colonise small areas of Africa. Germany wanted to build up its international image and gain more respect from other countries by also building up wealth and power. Areas that were colonised by the European Powers were Asia, Africa, China and the Pacific, and the reason why these areas were being fought over was because the European Powers wanted raw materials, power, territory, and foreign markets and trading. Imperialism leading up the the first world war is quite similar to nationalism as they both contributed by causing more tension between the two sides but imperialism also allowed them to gain more materials and land to help them prepare for the war.
Another leading cause of World War 1 was militarism. Militarism mainly involved an arms race between the two sides as they both thought that having a strong military made them great and powerful. All the armies set out to build a bigger army and Germany increased their army by 29,000 men in 1912 and then another 117,000 men a year later. France had a smaller population so they extended the conscription time from two years to three years and modernised their military equipment. The arms race began around 1891 as all countries involved began to increase their production of military equipment in preparation of a war. By 1914 Germany had the biggest increase in military spending and Britain and Germany had a naval race as both tried to have the biggest navy. As shown in source C from Chapter 3 War and Peace: International Relations, it shows a naval chart of Germany’s new ships since 1893. This drawing shows the different types of ships Germany was producing and how many each year. When Britain found out that Germany had begun construction of a navy they felt that they had to retain control of the seas, so they built up their navy and this led to Britain building the new Dreadnought battleship. During the arms race countries raced to try and mobilise their armies as they believed whoever started to mobilise first would have an advantage when war came. The arms race was a major cause of World War 1 because it pushed each country to try and build a bigger military which made war a matter of when instead of if it would happen.