The Causes of World War One

The Causes of World War One
Some people believe that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was the primary cause of World War I, but it was just one event that triggered the conflict. Many other events and political beliefs combined to lead thirty-two nations into war. Resentments from earlier wars, advances in technology and military strength and a chain of alliances all contributed to the first ?Great War? of the Twentieth Century. The United States tried to remain neutral, but it was pulled into the Great War, and changed America forever.
In the years before the war, Europe was very unstable. Nationalism, the belief that loyalty to a person?s nation and its political and economic goals come first, was growing. People of the same heritage, language, culture and political beliefs wanted to form their own independent nations or states. During the 1800?s many groups were separated and angry. The Congress of Vienna had caused Germany to be divided into many parts. Italy was also divided with some parts under foreign control and the Belgians were under Dutch rule. Belgium won its independence in 1830, Italy became unified in 1861 and Germany united in 1871. This led Germany and Italy to become two great world powers.
But in the early 1900?s, the Balkan Peninsula was the ?Powder Keg of Europe.? Many different groups were under the control of the Turks of the Ottoman Empire, and they wanted to be independent. In 1912 and 1913 the Balkan Wars took place. In the first war, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro took control away from the Turks. In the second war, Serbia, Greece, Romania and Turkey forced Bulgaria to give up a large part of Macedonia to the other four countries (?Army?). These wars made Serbia even more determined to take over the parts of Austria-Hungary where many Serbian people lived. At the same time, both Bulgaria and Turkey, who lost land in the Balkan Wars, wanted revenge.
Meanwhile, other countries of Europe were busy building military strength. The nations of Europe did not trust each other. Some people believe that Germany was most responsible for World War I, because it wanted to become the strongest power in Europe (Ruggenberg). By the early 1900?s Germany had the best army in the world and was building a strong navy. This made other nations nervous, and the British developed the Dreadnought, the first modern battleship. Germany began building ships to defeat the Dreadnought and developed submarines (U-boats). France worked to build a stronger army and increased the time people had to serve in the military from two to three years. All the other nations of Europe began to spend much more money to make their armies extremely powerful. During the four years between 1910 and 1914, Germany and Austria both doubled the amount of money they spent on their militaries (Craig, 484). Technology made it possible to develop new weapons such as the machine gun. This made it possible to kill more enemies at one time and fight longer and harder than ever before. Another development was that the military had a bigger effect on government policies, and sometimes military leaders were more powerful than civilian leaders (Craig, 485).
At the same time, the countries of Europe were competing with one another for foreign trade. Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, they could make more goods than they could sell at home. Many wanted to control parts of Africa because there was a lot of business to be had there, so they worked to colonize different parts of the continent. France controlled Morocco and Algeria. Italy controlled Libya, the British controlled Egypt, and they were competing with the Dutch for South Africa. Germany wanted to control Morocco and other areas, so it was constantly arguing with France and Great Britain over African soil. Because of the bickering in Africa, the nations of Europe had even more reason not to trust each other.
In 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary made a visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina, a part of Austria-Hungary where many Serbian people lived. Franz Ferdinand was the heir to the Habsburg throne ? some day he would become the emperor of Austria-Hungary. He happened to visit on the anniversary of the Battle of Kossovo, June 28, 1914. The Serbs celebrate the Battle of Kossovo as a day of liberation, because it was the day an invading Turkish Sultan had been killed.
The Serbian people did not trust Franz Ferdinand. He had a plan for a dual monarchy which would have taken power from the Serbs killed their hope for a Serbian nation. At the time of Franz Ferdinand?s visit, there was a lot of anger towards Austria, and a member of the Black Hand, a Serbian terrorist group, killed the Archduke and his wife on the day of Serbian celebration. Their murder caused the whole world to be shocked and angry.
The Habsburg government in Vienna decided to use the murder as a reason to declare war against the Serbs and stamp out their revolution to eliminate Serbia as a political power in the Balkans. The Austrian emperor, Franz Josef, sent a letter to his ally, the German emperor, and asked for German support to wipe out the Serbian threat.
Germany was allied with Austria-Hungary and Italy to form the Triple Alliance. Britain, France and Russia were allies, called the Triple Entente. Serbia was also allied with Russia, but the Austrians and Germans didn?t think Russia was ready for war. So, on July 28th, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Russia agreed to help the Serbs, so Germany declared war on Russia on August 1, 1914. Two days later, Germany declared war on France and began to march through Belgium. When the Germans entered Belgium, Great Britain declared war on Germany. Suddenly the world was at war.
The United States was shocked by the war in Europe. When the war started, a third of the people in the United States were either born or had parents who were born in the countries that were fighting and nearly 10 million came from Germany and Austria-Hungary. Americans didn?t want to be involved with the war and Woodrow Wilson declared that the U.S. was neutral. When the British ship Lusitania was sunk, 128 Americans on board were killed. And, the war hurt American shipping when U-boats attacked ships headed for Britain. The last straw came when a telegram from the German foreign minister, Arthur Zimmermann, to Mexico was discovered. The telegram asked Mexico to join forces with Germany against the United States. On April 6, 1917, America declared war on Germany.
World War I caused a lot of changes in America. The government passed the Selective Service Act in 1917. This gave U.S. government the power to draft men to serve in the armed forces and even today, we have to register for the draft. During the war about 1 million women went to work outside the home while the men were overseas. This helped change politics because, after the war, women gained the right to vote. Another change in America caused by labor shortages during the war was that hundreds of thousands of African-Americans moved from the South to cities in the north to work in factories. When so many blacks moved to cities like Chicago, New York and St. Louis, racial distrust became a problem. Some of these problems still continue today.
I have learned that World War I was a very important event that changed the world forever. It made us a part of the world powers and strengthened our army, making us ready for things to come. Little did we know that in just about twenty years we would be fighting in Europe again. It?s interesting that even today there are still conflicts in Bosnia-Hercegovina and the world hasn?t learned its lesson from World War I.

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