Could World War I have been avoided?   

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To determine if World War I could have been avoided, I will explain the causes of the war. From the explanation, you should be able to develop an answer to this question.

There were many causes of World War I. One cause was imperialism. Countries like Germany and Italy, which unified around 1870, were unable to secure colonies because most of the land available for colonies was already taken. There was a “have” and a “have not” system regarding colonies. Countries like Spain, Great Britain and France were the “have” countries while Germany and Italy were the “have not” countries. It would be difficult for the “have not” countries to get colonies without a major event occurring.

Another cause of World War I was nationalism. People in various countries became very proud of their way of life, culture, and government. These people believed there was no other country better than their own country. Thus, if a war did occur, people were very confident that they would win a war.

The third cause of World War I was militarism. Countries began to build up the army and/or navy. The building of these big powerful militaries was done for a reason. This was an ominous sign for maintaining a peaceful world.

A fourth cause was the issue of self-determination. People wanted to be ruled by their own ethnic group. Different ethnic groups were ruling many people. A group of Serbians wanted all Serbians to be ruled by Serbians. They weren’t happy that some Serbians were ruled by Austria-Hungary. When Austria-Hungary refused to give some land in their country where many Serbians lived to Serbia, a group of Serbian nationals launched a plan to force Austria-Hungary to give this land to Serbia. This plan involved the killing of Franz Ferdinand, the next king of Austria-Hungary, and it led to the start of the war.

Finally, the system of alliances contributed to the start of World War I. When one member of the Triple Alliance declared war on one member of the Triple Entente, it started a chain reaction where members of each alliance declared war on each other. Thus, the conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia quickly escalated into World War I.

Looking at these causes, do you think there was a way to avoid World War I? You should be able to build a case for your answer with the information provided.