Causes and Effects of World War I Term Paper

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1st World War (WWI) was a global scale military conflict, which erupted in 1914. Virtually, the whole of Europe was involved as well as countries and kingdoms from other regions of the globe (Strachan 9). It should however be noted that the countries that engaged in this war entered the said war at different times and joined different alliances. Essentially, the war was between two alliances - the Central Powers and the Allies. In addition to these two sides, there was a neutral group of nations that remained neutral to the war. However, some of the said groups later on started taking sides. The Allies according to Kelly consisted of Great Britain, Belgium, Ireland, Serbia, Montenegro, Russia, as well as France and they were later joined by some neutral nations including Romania, Greece, Italy, and Portugal. On the other hand, the Central Powers alliance included the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria -- which were initially neutral, and Austria-Hungary and Germany. The nations that maintained their neutrality included Spain, Albania, Switzerland, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Norway (Howard 2; Kelly).

Underlying Factors or Causes Contributing to World War One

As complicated as its genesis was, the First World War essentially emerged from the influence of multiple factors that aligned to create a condition conducive for war. While there was a chain of events characterized by multiple factors that led to WWI, the primary and immediate cause of the war was the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand Franz of Austria-Hungary. This was the trigger that made all the aligned factors to come into play. In June 1914, the Archduke and his wife were murdered while in Sarajevo Bosnia by a Serbian assassin. The assassination was in protest to Austria-Hungary's occupation of the Sarajevo region (Ross 6). Serbia had intended to take over Herzegovina and Bosnia. As a result of the assassination, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia and in response; Russia began to mobilize for military engagement because of its alliance with Serbia (Ross 7). Consequently, Germany declared war on Russia because of similar alliances (Ross 8). This expansion of the scope of the war marked the onset of the expansion of what would become WWI to include all forces that made the mutual alliances of WWI.

Notably, the events leading to the war would later emerge as the immediate cause, triggered by a number of underlying factors including but not limited to imperialism, nationalism, militarism, and mutual alliances of defence (Kelly). Concerns on security had led many European countries into mutual defence alliances within which they expected to get protection from allies in cases of war (Kelly). Prior to WWI, there were alliances between France and Russia, Japan and Britain, Serbia and Russia, Austria-Hungary and Germany, and Belgium, France and Britain. This web of alliances may not have been the primary cause, but it played a role of pulling individual, allied nations into the war (Kelly).

Apart from the alliances, nationalism also played a role as one of the underlying factors leading to WWI. Much of the initial sentiments that spurred the war originated from the desire of the Slavic people in Herzegovina and Bosnia to be part of the Serbian nation instead of Austria-Hungary. Notably, this was a common phenomenon during this period because the spirit of nationalism was still evolving in most regions of the world (Howard 19). As such, nationalism had directly contributed to the assassination of the Archduke, therefore prompting the primary cause of WWI. In a bid to prove their dominance, due to the nationalism spirit, most other European nations also joined the war. Therefore, nationalism can be termed as one of the most influential causes of WWI (Howard 19).

Militarism is also one of the underlying causes that led to WWI. On the onset of the 20th century, the first significant arms race began as technology in military equipment advanced (Kelly). Prior to 1914, Germany had the greatest build-up in military power. In what seems to have been a match-up response, Great Britain increased its naval power in the same period (Ross 13-14). Additionally, some nations such as Russia and Germany began having greater policy influence from military establishments whose ideological inclinations led to a greater push into war. In the end, the German desire for great influence and power through the enhancement of its military also led to a race with Britain, which culminated in arsenals that would grant the European powers courage to march into war (Ross 22).

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