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World War I: Causes of World War I


Source: ThoughtCo

In 1914, tensions were high across Europe and much of Asia. Growing movements for independence were threatening the power of major Empires, and alliances were being challenged. On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife were assassinated by a Serbian-backed terrorist. During the crisis that followed, Europe's leaders made a series of political, diplomatic and military decisions that would turn a localised conflict in south-east Europe into a global war. Read through the resources below to learn more about what events led to the start of the first truly global war.

How the world went to war in 1914 (Imperial War Memorial, n.d.)

This resource looks at alliances and tensions that existed in Europe prior to the outbreak of war, and how the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand set these tensions alight. It includes links to excellent primary sources.

Six causes of World War I (Norwich University, 2017, August 1)

The First World War began in the summer of 1914, shortly after the assassination of Austria’s Archduke, Franz Ferdinand, and lasted more than four years, ending in 1918. The Great War left more than 20 million soldiers dead and 21 million more wounded, which can be attributed to trench warfare and the number of countries involved in the war. For aspiring historians, understanding the causes of World War I are equally as important as understanding the conflict’s devastating effects. Though the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was the direct precipitating event leading to the declaration of war, there were many other factors that also played a role in leading up to World War I (WWI).

Causes of World War I (Ducksters, n.d.)

There were many factors that led up to the start of World War I in Europe. A lot of these factors were rooted in the deep history of the old powers of Europe including Russia, Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Britain. The real causes of World War I included politics, secret alliances, imperialism, and nationalistic pride. Read through this website to find a simple explanation of the causes of World War I.

World War I - causes (History on the Net, n.d.)

The first world war began in August 1914. It was directly triggered by the assassination of the Austrian archduke, Franz Ferdinand and his wife, on 28th June 1914 by Bosnian revolutionary, Gavrilo Princip. This event was, however, simply the trigger that set off declarations of war. The actual causes of the war are more complicated and are still debated by historians today. Read through this website to learn about some of the suggested causes.

What were the causes of World War I? (BBC, n.d.)

On 4 August 1914, Britain declared war on Germany. It became known as The Great War because it affected people all over the world. Read through this website to understand how the war started.

Origins of World War I (Department of Veteran Affairs, n.d.)

On 28 June 1914, a Bosnian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Sophie. This event is described as the catalyst for World War I, but it wasn't the sole cause of the war.

Several interconnected factors caused the outbreak of war, which on their own, might not have led to large-scale war. Many events during July 1914 led to war. As a member of the British Empire, Australia went to war to support the United Kingdom (UK). The war eventually involved countries outside of the European empires, such as Japan and the United States of America. Read through this website to learn more.

European Brawling 1914

In this poster is a map of Europe, with the boundary lines of each country containing caricatured portraits of soldiers of each nation. The Central Powers' soldiers are armed with bayonets, swords or spears and attack the cowering Entente Powers' soldiers.


The text reads: European brawling 1914. At one time one spoke a lot of European concerts, and everything was in wonderful harmony, until one day the Serb destroyed it, the Russian immediately gave him his support. Swiftly came along John Bull and Marianne too, they agreed with their friend Ivan. For that they have now got into big trouble - it goes badly for them now. All four, together with the parasites who had the audacity to threaten Michel, he will read them the riot act, until they lose their sight and hearing and at last they all have their punch-up, each one just as much as he deserves. Then it only takes a little while and the concert is introduced again; and Michel will from now on hold the conducting baton, and everyone will have to follow him – large and small, neither resistance nor coyness will be any good.