What was the causes of World War I?

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Answered by: Janis, An Expert in the 20th Century History - General Category
In earlier wars, Austria was given provenance over Bosnia and Herzegovina which they hated and so began a great festering and fermenting time which threatened the peace in Europe. Most of the area spoke the same language or a dialect of the same language and had been governed for centuries by Austrians, Hungarians or Turks and they felt a cultural relationship with each other and Russia. They longed to become one nation governed by no one else.

The result is that the European countries were making treaties with one another that stated if they got attacked by another country they had to fight with them as allies. So in the middle of all this drama and unrest, a young Bosnian nationalist shot and killed the Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife as they drive through the capital of Bosnia, Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. This young Bosnian was a member of a radial group called “The Black Hand” and in fact, the chief of the Serbian intelligence had helped plan the assassination.

Everyone was angry with Serbia and Austria finally declared war on them on July 28th, although they couldn't mobilize an army until the middle of August. Russia then began to mobilize an army against Austria. This forced Germany to declare war against Russia, although they were planning on attacking France first.

On July 30, Austria began getting ready to invade Russia. Russia was beginning to invade Germany and on August 1st, the Germans invaded Luxembourg and on August 3rd they invaded Belgium. Germany then invaded France and Britain declared war against Germany on August 4th. The Great War had begun. Throughout Europe, people were elated at the news of war. There had not been a big war since the time of Napoleon and people thought it would be over in a short amount of time. They had not realized the strides that had been made in weaponry.

At the beginning of the war, the United States planned on being neutral. Most Americans did not want to fight in a war that was across the Atlantic Ocean. We were allies of Great Britain and France and knew they needed food and weapons and so we sent food and weapons to our friends to help them in the war. Germany did not want us to help their enemies and so they sent their submarines to attack American ships. Many our our ships were sunk and many American lives were lost. In April 1917, Congress voted to declare war on Germany.

World War I finally ended on November 11, 1918. The Allies had won at the cost of more than 100,000 American soldiers who died. President Woodrow Wilson went to France to help write a peace treaty. The Allies made Germany pay billions of dollars to the countries it had attacked during the war. This caused a major depression in Germany. People were starving and didn't have jobs. Eventually the German people became angry at the European countries that were making them pay these huge amounts of money and this led to the mindset that led to World War II.

It is hard to describe all the things that led to World War I. When you read about it, it seems almost like a badly written overly dramatic play. One of the major things that led up to the war was greed and power struggles, which I guess is what leads to war in any generation.


Bernstein, V. (2001). America's Story Book Two Since 1865. Steck-Vaughn Company, Austin,      TX.

Craig, A. M., Graham, W. A., Kagan, D., Ozment, S., & Turner, F. M. (2009). The Heritage of      World Civilizations: Combined (8th ed.).

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