DBQ: Causes of World War I
World War I—or the Great War as it was known at the time—was the result of a series of events between several nations around the world. The war was massively destructive for all involved, civilians and soldiers alike, and there were very few who were not affected by the worldwide conflict. The war has been considered a mass genocide, taking millions of lives and leaving many nations in shambles. The new, more advanced weaponry provided by the recently industrialized world resulted in one of the deadliest wars in history. There was no single cause of the event. Numerous conflicts and hostile relations between several nations around the globe escalated into a full-blown war that had devastating results.
There were three key factors that ultimately led to the outbreak of the war: nationalism, colonial disputes, and a rigid alliance system. Raymond Aron, author of The Century of Total War, wrote that he believed it was the alliance system that brought on the war. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Europe dominated much of the world both economically and politically. In the early 1900s, colonial disputes caused the balance of power to shift. Nationalist movements among ethnic minority groups caused tension with the region, weakening European empires and threatening Europe’s balance of power. The same disputes between ethnic groups were occurring in Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman empires. Clashes between Austria-Hungary and Serbia significantly affected the outbreak of the war. In the 1800s, the Ottoman Empire began to weaken and lost control of many territories. Austria-Hungary and Russia took advantage of the Ottoman’s weakness and took control of some of those territories, while others became independent nations. This further threatened Europe’s balance of power. The tensions among these regions led to the Balkan War in 1912-1913, causing increased hostility among European powers and disrupting diplomatic relations. Meanwhile, European countries still strived to imperialize other nations for economic gain and to establish superiority throughout the region. Nationalism with these nations fueled citizen support for dominating others, which further exasperated tensions in Europe. At the same time, Germany was beginning to rise to power and they were eager to assert their supremacy. To do so, they began to engage in aggressive maneuvers at home and abroad in an attempt to weaken Britain and France. The combination of these skirmishes between nations largely contributed to the war that was soon to come.
A key event in the start of World War I was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand—the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne—in 1914 by a Bosnian Serb. The assassination was meant to be a protest against Austro-Hungarian having control of Bosnia. Norman Lowe, a modern scholar, believed that the Austrian’s annexation of Bosnia was a deliberate blow to Serbia, who had been hoping to acquire the region seeing as it contained about 3 million Serbs among its population (Doc 7). Similarly, Ferdinand’s assassination was viewed as a direct insult to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They chose to aggressively confront Serbia, presenting them with a list of demands that they were to agree to or go to war. Five days before the war started, Austria-Hungary gave Serbia an ultimatum, saying that Serbia has done nothing to put an end to the nationalist movements within the region, which attempted to undermine the authority of the Austro-Hungarian government. They demanded that the Royal Serbian Government put a stop to the propaganda against their monarchy. The Austrian Government urged Serbia to allow their collaboration in helping to suppress the “subversive” groups (Doc 8). When Serbia refused to respond to the demands, Austria-Hungary declared war. The conflict between the two ultimately began World War I because it pulled several larger nations into the fight. This event proved how mutual...
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