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Long and Short Term Causes of World War One

The First World War was a result of many different factors occurring at the same time
it was not due to one single factor. The causes of World War One can be broadly
divided into two categories. The long term effects which are those that occurred a
long time before the war such as the war between Germany and France in 1871 and
short term effects that occurred immediately before the war began such as the
assassination of Arch Duke Frans Ferdinand.

Long Term Causes:

Alliances - Two camps

- Triple Alliance
(Germany, AustriaHungary, Italy) Versus
Triple Entente (France,
Russia, Great Britain)
Over crises in Balkans
and Morocco and later
after the assassination
led countries to end up
in stand offs. Which
created tensions and
Long Term

Militarism - build up of
armed forces - armies
grew in size. Britain and
Germany were rivals
over dreadnought
battleships which
increased tensions
between the two

Causes of WWI

Nationalism - all
countries thought they
were the best - and they
believed in nineteenth
century idea of Social
Darwinism (strongest
country, survival of the

Imperialism - countries
empire building Austria-Hungary in the
Balkans (Bosnia 190809) France/Germany
over Morocco in 1905-06
and 1911. This created
tensions and rivalries.

Short Term Causes for World War One

Germany declaring
war on France

The Assasination of
Arch Duke Frans

Short Term
Causes of
Most countries were
Autocracies and
therefore the people
had no say in how
the country was run

declaring war on
Serbia in response to
the assassination of
Arch Duke Frans

Background to World War One

The causes of World War One are complex and historians still debate the true origins
of the conflict. The combination of militarism, nationalism, imperialism and the
various alliances of the European powers combined with the assassination of Arch
Duke Frans Ferdinand and his wife by Gavrillo Princip brought Europe to the brink of
one of the biggest conflicts that Europe had known. However, it was the inability of
the generals and statesmen to make any definite decisions during the July crisis that
exasperated events.
It was during this period that a long series of diplomatic disputes between the main
European powers (Italy, Britain, France, the Austrian-Hungary Empire and Russia)
came to a head. These disputes can be traced to the change shift in power that
occurred in Europe during the late 19th and early 20th Century.

Balkans Crisis
The most immediate cause of the war was the competition between Russia, Serbia
and the Austrian-Hungry Empire for territory in the Balkans. Russia, Serbia and
Austria-Hungary were all trying to expand their empires and in the process dragged
the other major powers into the conflict. Austria-Hungary already controlled a large
area of Serb populated
territory which they wanted
to keep. However, Serbia
had expanded its territory
at the expense of the
Ottoman Empire and
Bulgaria due to the signing
of the Treaty of Bucharest
in 1913 which ended the
third Balkan War.
In order to prevent Serbia
from expanding her
territory and posing a
threat to Austria-Hungary
domination of the region
the Austrian General Chief
of staff suggested a
preventative war against
Serbia. The aim of this
war was to ensure that
Serbia was weakened or
destroyed and therefore
unable to expand their
territory. As a result of this
Russia announces a restructuring of its military.

Map showing the gains made by Serbia after the Treaty of Bucharest

Germany felt threatened by this as it meant that it was surrounded by hostile forces
and would have to fight on two fronts. The Germans then pledge to support AustriaHungary which tips the balance of power in Europe.
The cartoon below depicts the main European powers trying to keep the Balkans
troubles from boiling over. The countries represented are France, Germany, Britain,
Russia and Austria-Hungary Empire.