What is/are the primary cause(s) of WWI?I've just read the historical WWI novel, "All Quiet on the Western Front". Although it was a highly detailed account of WWI through the eyes of the soldiers,...

What is/are the primary cause(s) of WWI?

I've just read the historical WWI novel, "All Quiet on the Western Front". Although it was a highly detailed account of WWI through the eyes of the soldiers, I would like to be enlightened to the political side of WWI. How long before the war was actually declared was this hostility boiling up and over what? Thank you!

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saintfester eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although the main cause of World War I was the secret system of alliances that was activated by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, how the system of alliances was set into place is very important to understanding how the war came about.

The alliance system itself had many different causes. The growth of nationalism across Europe resulted in heightened tension during the decades before the war. Along with this, there were several unresolved territorial disputes, both in mainland Europe and between colonial possessions. The scramble for colonies, especially in Europe, produced a lot of additional tension between countries like France and Germany as tried to outmaneuver each other for control of the imperial possessions. There was also a perceived imbalance of power in Europe, which Germany especially felt threatened by. With Russia and France effectively surrounding the country on two sides, any cordial l relationship that these countries had would be interpreted as a threat to Germany’s security and prompt it to seek its own allies.

Ineffective communication proved disastrous as well. Great Britain especially should have made their intensions clearer because when the war finally began Germany was confident that Britain would not enter on the Allies side.

Also, due to more than 30 years of conflict in Europe, there had been a prodigious build up in the amount of munitions and armaments around Europe. This allowed countries that otherwise may have been reticent to declare war added confidence since they felt more prepared. Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “The only thing you can’t do with bayonets is sit on them” showing how military arms embolden those who own them.

liljack68 | Student

Hostilities had been building up at least since the 1890's. By that time England, Russia, and France had signed alliances in case either was attacked by another European country. Germany had an alliance with Austria-Hungary, Serbia and Italy.

The late 19th and early 20th centuries was a tense period between the "haves, and have nots", concerning European colonization of foreign lands. England and France were two of the "haves", and Germany and Hungary the "have nots". It was a tinderbox waiting to be lit.

Serbian Gravilo Principe assisnated Hungarian Archduke Ferdinand and his wife when they visited Serbia in June of 1914. Austro-Hungary controlled Serbia then. After the assassination Hungary declared war on Serbia, Russia, long involved in Balkan politics, declared war on Hungary. Then Germany, who was really chomping at the bit to attack the western allies declared war on France! From there all bets were off, until the US entered and helped end it in favor of the Allies.

Hope that was helpful.

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