World War 1 which began in 1914 was different from all the other previous wars. It was fought by several nations and affected almost all countries. New methods of defense and destruction were used in it. Because of the extent of the spread of the war, damages caused by it, and the total impact of the war was till now unprecedented in history, it came to be known as World War 1.
Causes of the World War 1
Aggressive and Militant Nationalism
- Aggressive nationalism means to love one’s country to such an extent that it results in the hatred of other countries. Militant nationalism was the consequence of the aggressive nationalism which included the building of a huge army and appointing of a powerful class of military and naval officers. For example, France wanted the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine back from Germany and Serbia wanted all the Balkan states to unite. This created tensions among the other nations.
- Aggressive nationalism also led to the development of expansionist policies. France and Britain built large colonial empires in Asia and Africa. Many other nations such as Germany, Italy and Japan competed with other powers to establish their colonies. Building of colonies became essential at this time as they not only provided raw materials and minerals for industries but also had great potential to become markets for European manufactured goods.
- Colonies also added to the power and prestige of the European nations. This led to a clash of interests among these countries. This filled the political atmosphere of Europe with hatred and fear.
Race for Armament
- Because of aggressive nationalism and in the name of self-defence, almost every European nation began to pile arms and ammunitions.
- Germany began to build a powerful navy to protect her colonies in Asia and Africa. She built one of the largest ships, ‘The Imperator’, in 1912. Britain and France were suspicious of the growing military strength of Germany.
- Stockpiling of arms gave rise to stiff competition among the European nations which resulted in the outbreak of World War 1.
- Also read Rise of Dictatorship
Division of Europe into Two Hostile Camps
- In the early 20th century, there were basically two kinds of states in Europe. While some were single nation states such as Britain and France, others were imperial states such as Austria and Hungary. The latter had Hungarian, Serbian, Bosnian and Croats who spoke different languages and cultural traditions.
- To secure their interests, nations entered various alliances. Germany formed an alliance with Austria and Hungary which was later joined by Italy in 1882. The alliance came to be known as the Triple Alliance.
- France, England and Russia formed the Triple Entente in 1907 to counter the effects of the formation of the Triple Alliance. It was later joined by Japan. Formation of these alliances divided Europe into two hostile camps.
Murder of Archduke Francis Ferdinand (Immediate Cause)
- Archduke Francis Ferdinand was the heir to the throne of Austria and Hungary. He was assassinated at the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo on 28 June 1914.
- The assassination was planned by a secret society named ‘Black Hand’ which aimed at uniting all Serbians into a single Serbian state.
- After his assassination, Austria served an ultimatum to Serbia making eleven demands. Serbia accepted most demands but refused some.
- As a result, Austria declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914. Russia supported Serbia and started making preparations for war. On 1 August 1914, Germany declared war on Russia. On 4 August, Britain declared war on Germany.
- Soon afterwards, many other countries joined the war. Japan declared war on Germany with an aim of conquering German territories in the Far East. Turkey and Bulgaria joined the war on the side of Germany. Italy remained neutral for some time and then declared war on Germany (broke the Triple Alliance).
- While Britain, France, Russia and their allies came to be known as the Allied Powers, Germany, Austria–Hungary and their allies came to be known as the Central Powers.
- Also read The United Nations