Ingredients for War NationalismAlliancesArms RaceImperialismLack of Fear
Nationalism All ethnic groups in Europe were nationalistic (extremely proud of their culture and heritage). France wanted to start a war with Germany because it had lost two provinces (Alsace and Lorraine) in its last war against Germany. Ethnic groups living within crumbling empires wanted to break away and form their own countries. Austria-Hungary was ethnically and religiously divided – all these groups wanted independence.
Germany had taken Alsace and Lorraine from France after a war in 1871.
Imperialism (Colonization) The Great Powers (Britain, France, Germany...) wanted to acquire as many colonies as possible. Colonies would ensure access to resources and a market for all the goods produced in the home country. Result: There was increasing competition for colonies in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Problem: Germany had had the most powerful military and economy, but very few colonies!
Alliances European powers had been divided into two allied camps: The Triple Alliance (Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary) The Triple Entente (Britain, France, Russia) This made war more likely because now they all knew that they had “backup”.
Lack of Fear In 1914, most people were not afraid of war. Most believed that a war would be short, and that victory for their side was a certainty.
Arms Race (Militarism) The division into two allied camps led to an arms race. All Great Powers adopted universal conscription, creating large reserves of manpower. Armies and navies had been expanded tremendously. Both sides were expanding their armed forces in order to maintain the balance of power. Example: The French and German armies doubled in size between 1871 and 1914. Example: There was a naval competition between Britain and Germany as a result of the building of the first Dreadnought. This type of ship was so powerful that it made all older ships obsolete.
So how did WWI actually begin? In 1908, Austria-Hungary annexed a region named Bosnia. This was a problem because Bosnia was populated by Slavs, including many Serbs. Result: The Russians and the Serbs were very upset. A terrorist organization called “ The Black Hand ” was formed. Its goal was to cause a war so that Bosnia could be taken over by Serbia. In 1914, the Austrian Archduke (heir to the throne), Franz Ferdinand, decided to tour the capital of Bosnia, Sarajevo, with his wife. The members of the Black Hand decided that this was the time to act. They planned to assassinate the Archduke during his tour of Sarajevo!
Bosnia: Right between Serbia and Austria-Hungary