GCSE History Revision: First World War: Long term causes of WW1!

9th May 2018

GCSE History Revision: First World War: Long term causes of WW1!

GCSE History Revision - Made Easy!

Everything you need to know about First World War: Long term causes of WW1!

There are several causes that led to the First World War.  The biggest is arguably the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in 1914.  Tensions were already high between Austria-Hungry and Serbia and both were ready and willing to go to war, knowing they had alliances to back them.  There were territory disputes with Morocco and the Agadir Crisis in 1911 and the battle over the Balklans which began with the Bosnian Crisis (where the Treaty of Berlin allowed Austria-Hungry to occupy Bosnia-Herzegovia).  Austria-Hungry began annexing the country without the support of the other Treaty members which caused anger and upset Serbia, who wanted control.  This treaty dragged the world into the beginnings of war as it led to Germany’s declaration to support Austria ‘no matter what they do’.

Some 1930 Historians argue the causes could be split into four categories. Nationalism, Imperialism, Militarism and alliances.

Nationalism was the mentality of ‘my country is better than yours’ made countries assertive and aggressive and eager to ‘show off’.

Imperialism played a large role.  Germany had a desire to conquer colonies and expand their Empire.  In 1914, Britain was the largest Empire with approx. 14.7million square miles of land, almost ¼ of the entire world map.  Russia was second and France was third.  These powerful empires controlled most of the trade routes around the world and Germany wanted to expand their empire and economic strength.  They increased their steel making and dye, surpassing all other countries in production but needed access to foreign powers to access the foreign market.  Between 1890-1914 Germany grew quicker industrially than economically and the population of towns such as Berlin and Munich doubled.

Militarism caused fear amongst the countries.  Each building armies and navies to protect their country, symbolise power and ‘balance’ their might against others. During 1898 Germany’s Admiral Von Tirpitz began expanding their Navy under the Weltpolitik policy and new naval laws.  By 1900 38 battleships, 20 armoured cruisers, 12 large and 38 light cruisers had been commissioned and expected to be competed in 1904.  As a result of this Britain commissioned the building of the Dreadnoughts, far superior ships to those Germany had made, and by the end of 1914 Britain commanded the largest naval fleet in the world.

Alliances.  In 1907 the ‘Triple Entente’ was formed between Britain, France and Russia. At the same time, there was a ‘Triple Alliance’ formed back in 1882, with Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungry.  Countries were bound to these alliances and when war was declared, Europe divided into two armies.  Previous alliances made in the Treaty of Berlin years earlier also caused friction and animosity between Austria-Hungry and Serbia which led to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.


SUMMARY: The assassination of Franz Ferdinand in 1914 s said to be the spark that’s started the war but there were many long term causes that led to the outbreak of the First World War. Historians argue they can be split into four categories: Imperialism; Nationalism; Militarism; and Alliances. 

Make sure to check out our music video on "First World War: Long term causes of WW1", try to remember every lyric, and then have a go at our test!


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