There were many causes of the First World War. In this essay I am trying to see how much impact the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand had in the run up to war. On June the 28th 1914, Gavirilo Princip along with two other students living in Serbia were waiting in the crowd, watching Franz Ferdinand, who was to be the future ruler of Austria-Hungary. One of the students threw a bomb, which was then deflected by Franz Ferdinand. They rushed to the town hall and cancelled their visit. When they were about to leave, their chauffeur accidentally took a wrong turn and by chance Gavirilio Princip was on that road with a pistol, and shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand in the throat and his wife Sophie in the stomach. The chauffeur drove them to the Bosnian Governors’ residence where they suspected a doctor would be, but they died shortly after they had arrived. The assassination then sparked Austria-Hungary into a war against Serbia. Austria-Hungary gave Serbia an unacceptable ultimatum, asking for Serbia to take action on removing anti Austria-Hungary groups, such as the Black Hand. King Peter agreed with this, however the ultimatum also asked them to allow Austria-Hungarian investigators to supervise Serbia, which King Peter refused as it would put an end to Serbia’s independence. When Austria-Hungary received King Peter’s reply, they decided to start shelling Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, which was near the border. Russia then got involved and started mobilizing their army, as they had agreed to back Serbia. Russia wanted to go for a war against Austria-Hungary too because then they would get a port on the Mediterranean, meaning that their navy could not be bottled up in the Black Sea. Russia mobilizing then sparked Germany to send an ultimatum to Russia, telling them to step down. When Tsar Nicholas, the ruler of Russia, refused, Germany declared war on Russia and started to mobilize their army. France, as an ally of Russia eagerly joined the war in the hope of getting back Alsace Lorraine. Britain then joined in to help France and Russia, and also fulfil its agreement with Belgium that it would protect its neutrality, as Germany had breached Belgium neutrality by marching through it as a way to get into France without being under pressure from the French fortress towns (the schlieffen plan). The assassination probably would not have done anything major on its own. The other causes multiplied the effect, especially the alliance system in place meant that the war got out of hand, and turned into a world war. For example, if Russia was not backing Serbia, then Russia would have never mobilized, meaning all the other countries would not have in turn joined the war, also mostly due to the alliances then.
Similarly, it was Germanys fault for giving the ‘blank cheque’ to Austria-Hungary. They allowed Austria-Hungary a sense of security and they knew if they got into big trouble with Russia, Germany would come and help them out. Had they not issued it, Austria-Hungary would most likely have backed down from a war with Russia, which probably meant the Triple Entente too, which would easily tear apart the Austria-Hungarian empire. At the time Germany seemed like it wanted to go to war, especially as the idea of a preventive war was probably in consideration. Germany was worried that Russia’s upgrade program for its army, finishing in 1918, would mean they would be too weak to fight a war at a later date. Due to militarism and Germanys Weltpolitik policy, Germany joined into a naval race with Britain, struggling to build as many dreadnoughts (or German equivalents) as possible. This also was Britain’s fault. Britain was winning at the time, which added to the plausibility of a preventive war because if Britain got too far ahead, Germany would lose and be vulnerable to Britain. The tests of strength by the Kaiser also seemed to be very provocative, which were testing in case of war what would happen - mainly if Britain would really help out France. They then during the war breached Belgian neutrality, which pulled Britain in. Imperialism also played a part in Germany, because they wanted a Central European or large colonial empire. They attacked Britain territory in Africa and the Pacific, claiming it should be theirs. This in turn made Britain look for allies as it was worried, strengthening the relationship with Russia and France especially. Without this German hostility and had they not decided to join the war against Russia fulfilling their agreement with Austria-Hungary, the war would probably be contained to around the Balkans. Nationalism also meant the war went for so long as people were much more determined to continue it, thinking that their country was the best and the others were wrong. For example, France wanted revenge on Germany for taking Alsace Lorraine, and Britain had a large number of recruits because of propaganda saying that Germans were terrible. This also meant people were more determined to kill and also stick at it for so long. This also probably caused the assassination in the first place, with Serb nationalism at an extreme peak, as it had been boosted up by Russia. Russia had also created the Balkan League to try to get the countries in the Balkans to fight against Austria-Hungary, to break up their empire so Russia could gain territory for a naval base on the Mediterranean, so that their ships could not be bottled up in the Black Sea. This plan backfired and instead they took more land off the Ottoman Empire. The problems in the Balkans also amplified the effect of the assassination. Austria-Hungary wanted an excuse to crush the rebellious Slavs in Serbia, so the assassination was probably just used as an excuse for the unacceptable ultimatum, as many important figures are assassinated, however they do not start wars. Germany also might have been hoping for the war and wanting to support Austria-Hungary so they could build their railway from Berlin to Bagdad to grow their empire, possible due to their imperialistic attitude. Italy refrained from the way until a year later, however they switched sides and fought with the Triple Entente. This could have been for their hope to get land on the other side of the Adriatic Sea, which was currently Austria-Hungary’s. In conclusion, I think the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was a reasonably important cause of world war one and I agree with the statement partly. However, I do not think that the assassination itself was the cause of the war, the alliance system and the relationships between the countries was the most important cause. The assassination was like lighting a match in a room full of gunpowder – it was an excuse for Austria to go to war, and that was an excuse for Russia, and then Germany, France. However, Britain would not gain much from this war, except for helping out its allies and keeping its reputation. In the worst case, had Germany and Austria-Hungary won the war it is a risk that they would start a Central European empire, and could pose a large threat to Britain.