What Caused World War 1 (Essay Sample)

What Caused World War 1

Great War, also referred as World War 1, lasted for 4 years from 1914 to 1918 (Fay, 2010). It brought forth great growth of war techniques as well as armaments. Diverse nations had taken part in the World War 1 compared to any earlier war. It entailed the enrollment of the entire countries, not only a huge army, which converted the war to a “total war” (Fay, 2010). In the United States, it was originally referred as the European War. Around nine million soldiers were murdered; a casualty degree intensified through the belligerents’ industrial as well as technological sophistication, and strategic stalemate (Fay, 2010). It was among the lethal conflicts in history, led to main political changes such as revolutions in diverse countries involved. The main causes were nationalism, militarism, imperialism, and alliance. Accordingly, it is imperative to have a deep understanding of the causes of World War 1.

Causes of World War 1


Nationalism was among the main reason for triggering the Great War (Fay, 2010). Nationalism during the 19th century entailed a belief as well as the wish of different groups of individuals for independence (Fay, 2010). Nonetheless, nationalism is a dedication, besides, pride in a nation. The emergence of nationalism caused rivalry and hatred among the major countries, who desired to show the globe how superior their country was. Germany was both hungry and desperate to show how superior their nation was. Wilhelm II was extremely determined towards making Germany known as a superior country and craved an empire across the globe (Hewitson, 2014). The Russian leader, Tsar Nicholas II, was likewise very nationalistic. He was determined towards making Russia strong, moreover did not wish his nation to be viewed as “weak giant” (Hewitson, 2014). Nonetheless, this was impossible since Russia was not economically well off and that is among the many reasons why Germany needed to be on Russia’s opposition side. A few historians assumed that the emergence of the Great War was largely contributed by the Germans since they had performed diverse things which contributed to the start of the Great War, for instance, beginning the alliance system as well as extreme nationalism that made their wish to form treaty with Austria-Hungary fruitful and became a superior German nation.  Additionally, nationalism gave rise to imperialism as numerous nations during the 19th century thought they were the great race, besides, have the absolute right to colonize other nations (Hewitson, 2014).


Imperialism is whenever a nation intensifies their power as well as wealth through bringing additional countries under their governance (McMeekin, 2013). Before the Great War, Africa and some regions of Asia were vital areas of conflict amid the European nations. Since these regions could provide raw materials, tension around these regions increased. The intensifying competition alongside desire on behalf of greater empires resulted in a rise in a confrontation which assisted push the globe into Great War. By the 19th century, the British Empire stretched over 5 continents and France controlled large regions of Africa (McMeekin, 2013). With the increase of industrialism, nations required new markets. The lands owned by France as well as Britain intensified the conflict with Germany who also had shown interest towards acquiring colonies and had minor regions of Africa.


Also, militarism was a contributing factor in the Great War (Kelly, 2017). Nations would train a lot of men to prepare for war. Utilizing this would make different nations build more weapons, aeroplanes, and cars. Till it became an element of doubt making other nations eradicate the risks. For instance, the Anglo-German Naval Race began when Germany needed a big as well as great navy, however, Britain was conscious of their deeds and invested a lot of cash into constructing Dreadnoughts that are large battleships. In 1914 Britain had twenty-nine Dreadnoughts, whereas Germany had only seventeen (Hewitson, 2014). Moreover, in Russia and Germany especially, the military formation started towards having a tremendous effect upon public programme. This intensification in militarism assisted to trigger nations to participate in war.


An alliance refers to an agreement made amid two or more nations to give one another help whenever it is required (McMeekin, 2013). Whenever a treaty is signed, those nations are referred as Allies. Over time, nations all through Europe made joint protection contracts which would come through them in periods of war. These treaties implied whenever one nation was under attack, the associated nations were obliged towards defending them. In advance of First World War, diverse treaties existed such as Russia and Serbia, Austria-Hungary and Germany, Russia and France, Japan and Britain, and so on.

Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia; Russia became engaged with an aim of defending Serbia. Germany realizing Russia mobilizing attacked Russia (Hewitson, 2014). France was later involved against Austria-Hungary and Germany. Germany attacked France via Belgium forcing Britain to join the battle. Then Japan got involved with the combat. Later, U.S. and Italy would enter to defend the allies. Nonetheless, with the absence of the alliances, there would be only a small war among Serbia and Austria Hungary.

Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

The direct source of Great War which made the above-mentioned causes arise was the killing of Archduke of the Austria-Hungary. In 1914, a Serbian assassin team known as Black Hand guided teams to murder Franz Ferdinand (Kelly, 2017). Their initial attempt was unproductive when a car driver dodged a bomb directed towards their vehicle. Nonetheless, before the end of the day, Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian-nationalist assassinated him together with his wife despite the fact they were in the region of Sarajevo, Bosnia. Generally, this was as a result of objection towards Austria-Hungary due to controlling this area. Serbia craved towards taking control Bosnia. This assassination resulted in Austria-Hungary attacking Serbia (Kelly, 2017). Later once Russia started to rally because of the treaty it had with Serbia, Germany attacked Russia. Therefore, this started the intensification of the warfare to comprise every nation involved within the defense alliances.

Invasion of Belgium by Germany

The last cause was the time when Germany attacked Belgium as Belgium had an alliance with Britain since 1839 known as The Treaty of London and Britain had promised towards getting involved in all challenges Belgium encountered (Hewitson, 2014). Germany was naïve assuming Britain would not honor this old treaty, however they miscalculated. Germany had entered Belgium so as to save distance, moreover, make it less strenuous for its soldiers to arrive in France. Britain was considering joining the warfare anyway since they were scared Germany was becoming extremely powerful. Britain demanded Germany to leave Belgium, however, Germany refused and Britain declared warfare. Now, it was the Great War


The start of the Great War was as a result of a sequence of incident, furthermore, present historians are disagreeing some of the factors that triggered First World War since some things are yet unclear. Imperialism, militarism, alliances, and nationalism are the significant ideas of what transpired; there are yet a number of things we may not have recognized or have not been identified yet. All points have some merits, however, in the long haul what proved towards being most upsetting was the amalgamation of alliances with the extensive, mistaken belief that warfare is good for countries, and that the utmost manner towards fighting a contemporary war was to attack.


  • Kelly, M. (2017). 5 Key Causes of World War I. Retrieved from: https://www.thoughtco.com/causes-that-led-to-world-war-i-105515
  • Hewitson, M. (2014). Germany and the Causes of the First World War. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
  • McMeekin, S. (2013). July 1914: Countdown to war. New York: Basic Books.
  • Fay, S. B. (2010). The origins of the world war. New York: Ishi Press International.
related articles