For the article on the war itself, see World War I.
Personifications of Germany, France, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and the United Kingdom attempting to keep the lid on the simmering cauldron of imperialist and nationalist tensions in the Balkans to prevent a general European war. They were successful in 1912 and 1913 but did not succeed in in 1914. The causes of World War I, which began in central Europe in late July 1914 and finished in 1918, included many factors, such as the conflicts and hostility of the four decades leading up to the war. Militarism, alliances, imperialism, and nationalism played major roles in the conflict as well. The immediate origins of the war, however, lay in the decisions taken by statesmen and generals during the Crisis of 1914, casus belli for which was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (the Archduke of Austria Hungary) and his wife Sophie by Gavrilo Princip, an irredentist Serb. The crisis came after a long and difficult series of diplomatic clashes between the Great Powers (Italy, France, Germany, the British Empire, the Austria-Hungarian Empire and Russia) over European and colonial issues in the decade before 1914 that had left tensions high. In turn these diplomatic clashes can be traced to changes in the balance of power in Europe since 1867. The more immediate cause for the war was tensions over territory in the Balkans. Austria-Hungary competed with Serbia and Russia for territory and influence in the region and they pulled the rest of the Great Powers into the conflict through their various alliances and treaties. Although the chain of events unleashed by the assassination triggered the war, the war's origins go deeper, involving national politics, cultures, economics, and a complex web of alliances and counterbalances that had developed between the various European powers since 1870. Some of the most important long term or structural causes are: the growth of nationalism across Europe, unresolved territorial disputes, an intricate system of alliances, the perceived breakdown of the balance of power in Europe, convoluted and fragmented governance, the arms races of the previous decades, previous military planning, imperial and colonial rivalry for wealth, power and prestige, and economic and military rivalry in industry and trade – e.g., the Pig War between Austria and Serbia. Other causes that came into play during the diplomatic crisis that preceded the war included misperceptions of intent (e.g., the German belief that the United Kingdom would remain neutral) and delays and misunderstandings in diplomatic communications. The various categories of explanation for World War I correspond to different historians' overall methods. Most historians and popular commentators include causes from more than one category of explanation to provide a rounded account of the causes of the war. The deepest distinction among these accounts is between stories that see it as the inevitable and predictable outcome of certain factors, and those that describe it as an arbitrary and unfortunate mistake. In attributing causes for the war, historians and academics had to deal with an unprecedented flood of memoirs and official documents, released as each country involved tried to avoid blame for starting the war. Early releases of information by governments, particularly those released for use by the "Commission on the Responsibility of the Authors of the War" were shown to be incomplete and biased. In addition some documents, especially diplomatic cables between Russia and France, were found to have been doctored. Even in later decades however, when much more information had been released, historians from the same culture have been shown to come to differing conclusions on the causes of the war. Contents [hide]
2 Domestic political factors
2.1 German domestic politics
2.2 French domestic politics
2.3 Changes in Austria
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