World War I

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How did the Alliance System help cause WW1?

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There were two main alliances in Europe prior to WWI: the Triple Alliance—Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy—and the opposing Triple Entente—the Soviet Union, Britain, and France. These alliances are what caused the war to escalate from what should have only been regional conflict into a war throughout Europe and more. 


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The other answers here do a good job of explaining how the alliance system made a major conflict all but avoidable. One detail that made the alliance system between the European powers particularly dangerous was that some of it was conducted in secret. In particular, Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire had a secret treaty in place that assured Germany would come to the aid of its southern neighbor in case of an attack by Russia and vice-versa. This arrangement had been made in 1879 but was not tested until Russia attacked the Austro-Hungarians in 1914.

While the existence of this alliance was leaked in 1883, the details of it remained secret. This might...

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