Causes of World War One

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World War One or ‘The Great War' as it became known, occurred due to many causes, some of which still remain unexposed today. The obvious trigger for the war was the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie on 28th June 1914. The assassination occurred during the Archduke's visit to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Archduke was targeted due to the general feeling amongst Serbians that, once appointed to the throne, Ferdinand would continue the persecution of Serbs living within the borders of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Just moments after the two had been shot; authorities arrested the culprit, Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian student, who was believed to have been linked to the Serbian terrorist organization, The Black Hand.

Causes of the war also dealt with such ideologies as Nationalism, Imperialism and militarism along with the prominent alliance systems in Europe all strongly affected the outbreak of the war. All of these factors where established in many of Europe's ‘Great Powers' which consisted of Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia.

During the late nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries, Nationalism was a prominent movement that had spread itself across Europe. All major powers had strong feelings toward the concepts of supporting their own nation. Nationalists believed that their own nation's needs must be met before that of other nations. These strong beliefs sometimes became obsessive as nationalists became so proud of their nation that they strived for it to become richer and more powerful than any other.

This wave of national pride became a major problem for the Austro-Hungarian Empire as they attempted to maintain a form of order and control within the annexed area of Bosnia. This power was placed under threat due to the Slavonic peoples dislike of their Austro-Hungarian superiors and there desire to attach themselves to Serbia and create an independent state to be known as Yugoslavia, or ‘The Land of the South Slavs.' This was seen as the reason for the assassination of Ferdinand and his wife.

The assassination gave Austria-Hungary the ideal excuse to declare war against Serbia. An ultimatum was issued to Serbia stating that it must agree to all terms described in the ultimatum in order to avoid war. Austria-Hungary gave Serbia 48 hours to reply and clearly stated that all terms must be met and complied with. Serbia agreed to all terms of the ultimatum bar one. This concerned Austro-Hungarian officials entering Serbia to perform an investigation into the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and his wife. As the Serbians denied this request, it is believed by some historians that the young operatives sent to kill Ferdinand were not only nationalistic students but also as scapegoats used by the Serbian government to carry out their dirty work.

Imperialism was present in Europe for some time before the war broke out, as each of the great powers aimed to expand theirs boundaries into new areas in order to exploit the opportunities that the new land held. Just as England had done for centuries, it had become desirable to seek out new land to rule under the laws and cultural beliefs of the ‘mother' country.

The numerous conflicts raging within the confines of the Balkans since March 1912 had many historians, such as Remak, believing that the First World War was simply the Balkan War that had raged out of control and spread across Europe. The Balkans had been a problem in Europe for over a century as it was ruled by the Turkish ‘Ottoman Empire.' This empire had become so dilapidated that the many different ethnic groups within the area wanted to break away becoming free of Turkish rule, and create their own independent nations.

This particular theory is supported by the fact that all of the Great Powers in Europe had a vested interest in this...
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