Why did World War One start in 1914 and not earlier?

Why did World War One start in 1914 and not earlier? 
From the November 2001 IB Paper III Exam

“What passing bells for those who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns
Only the stuttering rifles rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.”
– Wilfred Owen
There is no comparison to the horrors of World War I and the sheer stupidity behind this slaughter of mankind. As Siegfried Sassoon wrote, it was “the world’s worst wound”, that no amounts of memorials will ever be able to do proper justice. The question on each of these men’s mind was why and who had let this happen. They only knew what their governments had told them – so what were the driving forces behind the fatal decisions to go to war in 1914, and why had they been made?
On the 4th of August 1914, Great Britain finally declared war on Germany after German troops went through neutral Belgium as part of their Schlieffen Plan. The First Treaty of London in 1839 had agreed on perpetual Belgian neutrality and committed all other signatory powers, including Great Britain, to intervene in the event of a Belgian invasion. It was this act of British participation that truly launched the European conflicts into a fully escalated world war, as it pulled with it its colonies from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Only a day earlier, France had mobilised its troops after the German declaration of war, two days after Germany had declared war on Russia on the 1st. On the 30th of July, Germany had mobilised in support of Austria-Hungary, who had entered into war with Serbia on the 28th of July, supported by Russian mobilisation, exactly a month after the assassination of their Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo by the Serb nationalist Gavrilo Prinzip. The Great War determined the outcome of our world today – obviously, the resulting Treaty of Versailles was a major factor in Hitler’s rise to power and the Second World War. On a more recent note however, it would have averted the Cold War. Without Russia’s defeat and Lenin’s anti-war arguments, the October Revolution in 1917 may never have been successful and Russia wouldn’t have become a soviet state, while 1917 also marked the first active American involvement international scene, thanks to which it remains a dominating power today.
To understand the motives behind the war it is vital to know the history behind the history – to comprehend the existing tensions between countries, the mind-set of the time, and, most importantly, where the power actually lay. The Chinese philosopher Confucius wrote “There is deceit and cunning and from these wars arise”[1], whilst the American historian Howard Zinn argues that “historically, the most terrible things – war, genocide, and slavery – have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience”[2]. The outbreak of World War I cannot be put down to a simple line of unfortunate events or general European restlessness. One must remember the ambition-driven, autocratic rulers making all major decisions independent of their people, while the latter followed as generations under rulership had taught them. With the single exception of France, monarchies supported by a small group of wealthy individuals were the sole decision makers in the European powers. The power that could be exercised by such a monarch is often underestimated, in particular if they freely go against the wishes of their people. Almost all commonly mentioned causes of World War I, namely militarism, alliances and imperialism are purely autocratic decisions made by the leaders of the time. If one wanted to argue from a Marxist standpoint, you could say that the war was a prime example of the higher-classes telling workers what to do. My argument therefore, is that war broke out because of autocratic monarchs and their advisors, whose decisions were made by selfish motives in order to cling on to power. The poems written by those who had to suffer by their hands are proof of the leaders’ incompetence to see beyond their own personal interests.
The rising trend in militarism that had gripped the countries involved in conflict is often seen as a prime factor in the pre-war tensions. There is certainly no denying that Europe was growing increasingly militaristic in the years leading up to the outbreak – in August 1914, Russia had an army of 5,971,000 men, Germany 4,500,000, France 4,017,000, Austria-Hungary 3,000,000 and Great Britain 975,000. Such rapid militarisation, especially in the case of Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary, seems an obvious reason to believe that these countries were preparing for a major war, but in my opinion this was simply a misconception by those who felt threatened by it.  One must consider that essentially militarism embodied the pride and honour of a country. It was a method of propaganda to enforce the people’s faith in their leader. It is crucial to look at the leaders of Germany and Russia and the way they ruled their people to determine to what extent militarism influenced their decision to go to war – Kaiser Wilhelm in particular was an extremely militaristic man who wanted to make his military and navy Germany’s pride and glory. Proof of this is his announcement of Weltpolitik in 1897 and the start of the construction of the German fleet. As head of the military, the Kaiser saw the it as a symbol of national loyalty towards him and Germany, at a time where monarchies were being jeopardized by revolutionists even well after the end of the French Revolution in 1799 and, more recently, by growing Communist ideas. To illustrate truly in what narrow-minded hands the fatal war decision lay, Holger H. Herwig writes: “The 1914 decision first for mobilization and then for war was made by a small inner circle around the Kaiser: Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, War Minister Erich von Falkenhayn, and Chief of the General Staff Helmuth von Moltke, the Younger. Secretary of Foreign Affairs Gottlieb von Jagow and Secretary of the Navy Office Alfred von Tirpitz were temporarily absent from the capital early in July. The German crisis management team was beset by doubts, fears, shifts, and incompetence.”[3] 
The Russian Tsar Nicholas II was under a colossal amount of pressure to prove himself to his people after Russia’s humiliating defeat in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904 – 1905. His decision to militarise in Serbian support was therefore heavily influenced by his wish to regain the rapidly dwindling support of his people, so as to prove Russia strong and united under the God-chosen Tsar. Wielding “supreme autocratic power”[4] under the Russian constitution, the Tsar decided to prove himself worthy of his position with the input of a mere four of his advisors, and declared mobilisation. The problem is, however, that whilst I believe that militarisation was a method to distract the people from internal conflicts and was possibly even a clever idea to evoke some unity, the fact remains that the governments’ intense militarism eventually led to tensions between powers. While Britain may not have admitted it, the very idea that Germany may some day become a serious threat to their naval superiority was definitely on their mind when they declared war. 
With militarism comes nationalism, another commonly cited reason behind the outbreak of WWI. However, at first, this idea of such pride and devotion to your country that you are willing to die for it was very much a myth. The German unification of 1871 saw Bavaria put under the control of a Prussian king – an insult to any Bavarian. The idea of Bavaria enthusiastically fighting for a Prussian Kaiser was therefore equally as improbable as the Scots wanting to fight for England today. The Communist ideas sweeping both Western and Eastern Europe lead to a social divide between those who were willing to fight for their leaders and those who didn’t. Therefore, it was a central governmental strategy in the countries to spark nationalism. As previously discussed, militarism was used as a tool to evoke nationalism in the people and to unite them under their leader. In August 1914, Kaiser Wilhelm famously said in his speech “I do not recognize parties anymore, I only recognize Germans”, in an effort to diminish the political differences between the German people.
While it is true that nationalist independence movement in Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania caused a 3rd Balkan War, it cannot be the reason behind Austria-Hungary and Russia’s involvement in the regional conflict.  Serbia was a struggling country, and was a chance for Russia to find a stronghold in Eastern Europe. Russia’s support of the country was therefore a clever method to evoke Pan-Slavic nationalism in the people, finding faith in the Tsar, while of course this allowed him to gain the Balkans, over which Russia and Austria-Hungary had been fighting for years.  Nationalism was clearly a method of creating a war-willing nation, and was not something that came completely naturally – if the reasons for war were purely out of cultural background, such was supposedly the case between Russia and Serbia and Germany and Austria-Hungary, why did Italy join the Triple Alliance in 1882? 
Traditionally, Britain, France and Russia in particular had always been very powerful imperialist countries that prided themselves on their empire. As the head of a young German nation that now followed his concept of Weltpolitik, the Kaiser too was now itching to get his hands on colonies and earn Germany’s “place in the sun”. Meanwhile, as the Ottoman Empire’s control of the area diminished, Russia and Austria-Hungary were going head to head in their fight for the Balkans. While the Tsar may have branded it “Pan-Slavism”, their desire for the Balkan region was obvious, as Austria-Hungary tried its best to obstruct Serbian ambitions so as to avoid any Slavic movements in its own empire. Essentially, what they wanted were imperialist gains. As Lenin put it, “If it were necessary to give the briefest possible definition of imperialism, we should have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism.”[5] Imperialism embodied capitalism: it was a show of money, prestige and affluence for the country’s rulers, but it also created an immense amount of tension between the powers. The Moroccan Crises of 1905 and 1911 proved the stubbornness of the Kaiser, wanting to test the strength of the Entente Cordiale by stepping in for Moroccan independence and intervening with France’s plans to take over the region. 
That Wilhelm interfered solely for the purpose of supporting Morocco seems very unlikely and it is probable that he too was hoping to exercise his influence there. The outcome of the crises, in which Germany gained territory in the Middle Congo in return for allowing France to take Morocco, is an indication that Germany was willing to compete for colonies, even if he didn’t get exactly what he wanted.  The Moroccan Crises had a rather unexpected impact on the formation of the rigid Alliances that had previously been very flexible and unpredictable.  At the time, the American journalist Ambrose Bierce wrote, “alliance in international politics (is) the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other’s pockets that they cannot separately plunder a third”. [6] Alliances often contrasted harshly with the peoples’ views and were often made solely for economical reasons by the leaders, which they then had to keep in order to be able to collect the benefits. The Franco-Russian military alliance of 1892 made hardly any sense to its peoples – it seemed culturally illogical for such politically different states to suddenly come together. The French republic symbolised democracy and freedom of speech. It was a country of revolution that welcomed artistic expression on which their capital thrived. The fatalistic and deeply traditional Tsar Nicholas II meanwhile was determined to keep Russia under complete autocratic rule and made an effort to suppress the democratic thoughts of his people. France was therefore a natural enemy whose revolutionary ideas greatly jeopardized Nicholas’ rule – until 1891, it had even been a criminal offence to play La Marseillaise.
Thus, it was simply his desire for economic aid to finance his militarisation that led him to this unusual pact with France. The latter, meanwhile, purely sought protection from Germany and an end to the isolation Bismarck had condemned it to since 1870 – friendship had no place in this alliance. A further example is Russia’s support of Serbia under the idea of Pan-Slavism. This was, latest by the time of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, an unpopular idea. Similar to the 9/11 attacks on America, it was generally agreed in Europe that the perpetrator, in this case Serbia, was in the wrong. Just like America was seen as the obvious victim in 2001, Europe pitied Austria-Hungary for its loss and decided Serbia should be turned against, making the Tsar’s backing of it a major gamble. The Russo-Serbian alliance therefore is not necessarily an indication of cultural loyalty; it is proof of the Tsar’s imperialist desire.
  In 1920, David Lloyd George led many to believe that Europe had simply “slid” into war in 1914 as a result of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, a theory later backed up by Kissinger in 1976. I would argue with this – we have since gathered a lot more insight about the dealings that went on inside the governments and can determine that in the countries that first declared war, autocratic rulers and wealthy higher classes were the ones making definite, if irrational, decisions.  Complying with this is the view of historian Hew Strachan, who states that “by 1914 each power, conscious in a self absorbed way of its own potential weakness felt it was on its mettle that its status as a great power would be forfeit if it failed to act”.[7] War was not on the agenda of the great leaders, unless it was necessary to upkeep their honour. Subsequently, this is the reason why war broke out in 1914 and not before – put simply, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand put each leader on the spot. Austria-Hungary’s empire was already falling apart and it was vital that they showed power by confronting Serbia. Russia immediately saw the importance of taking a stand in order to retain its honour as an “older brother” figure of the Pan-Slav ideology, while Germany mobilised so as to upkeep its status as a loyal ally – even if this meant war.
Of course, it wouldn’t be right to claim that the countries’ people were always absolutely against their government’s decisions.  In Germany, for example, the Reichstag could easily have voted against the Kaiser’s war budget and stopped militarisation, but showed general agreement with the idea of war by not doing so. While it is difficult for my generation to imagine when asked why one would ever want war, at the time people were simply more willing to solve conflict with violence, and militarism had by then been so incorporated into their cultures that being in the military was a source of great personal pride. The enthusiasm with which the men first left to war is a clear indication that they couldn’t have been that miserable about fighting for their country. As already said, however, it is necessary to ask why there even was such a reason for people to believe that violence was unavoidable. Who had created this foundation for war? Tracing back to the events and decisions made before the actual outbreak of the war has little to nothing to do with the people, but with their leaders. 
One can conclude, therefore, that the outbreak of war was primarily the great ruler’s faults, whose desire for power led to the tensions and events that eventually resulted in the outbreak of WWI. Their failure to understand the essentials of good international diplomacy and the incompetence that resulted is backed up by the “Great Man” theory, which simply argues that for international relations to be successful, there must be at least one “great man” on whom all others can rely for advice. Previously, this great man had been the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who became known as the “honest broker” of Europe, and to whom leaders of all major European powers looked to solve their international disputes. After Bismarck’s dismissal in 1890, I fail to recognize any equivalent in the political scene. Consequently, this left the Tsars, Kaisers, Prime Ministers and Presidents to act on the advice of a small aristocratic group whose main focus was simply on their own country’s power, spending too little thought on the broad international impact of their decisions – of which the result is so painfully expressed in the war poetry. 
[1] WALTZ, K., “Man, the State and War: A Theoretical Analysis”, Columbia University Press 2001  [2] ZINN, H., “Declaration of Independence”, http://www.ecn.cz/PRIVATE/Piano/right_zin.htm  [3] HERWIG, H., “Military Doomsday Machine? The Decisions for War 1914”, Journal of Military and Strategic Studies Volume 13/Issue 4, 2011  [4] HERWIG, H., “Military Doomsday Machine? The Decisions for War 1914”, Journal of Military and Strategic Studies Volume 13/Issue 4, 2011  [5] LENIN, V., “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism” http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/imp-hsc/ch07.htm  [6] BIERCE, A., „Thoughts on the Business of Life“, Forbes.com http://thoughts.forbes.com/thoughts/politics-ambrose-bierce-alliance-in-international  [7] HERWIG, H., “Military Doomsday Machine? The Decisions for War 1914”, Journal of Military and Strategic Studies Volume 13/Issue 4, 2011

The first chancellor of the united German Empire Otto von Bismarck claimed: “One day the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans”. He correctly identified that the Balkans had for long been an unstable area affected by nationalism, rivalry and imperialistic conflicts. Furthermore, Bismarck was right in saying that this situation carries potential for a Great War, however, it was Germany, which acted as the catalyst in promoting its escalation and turned this former local crisis into a European one. When war broke out following the July crisis of 1914, Germany had not just prepared to back up her ethnic ally Austria-Hungary, which sparked of the war after her Archduke Franz-Ferdinand was assassinated on the 28th of June in the Bosnian city of Sarajevo by a Serbian nationalist, but to fight a war based on her own interests. After unification in 1871 Germany arose as a key figure in European diplomacy and emerged as a major European power next to Russia, Great Britain, Austria-Hungary and France creating an imbalance of power; urged to extend and more importantly sustain this newly acquired influence Germany followed an aggressively ambitious policy – at home and abroad - and, at the expense of European peace, preferred to merely paper over the differences in the Balkans to leverage the situation. By analysing sources written in both English and German it becomes apparent that the Deutsches Reich triggered the First World War in the short and in the long run.
According to the German historian Fritz Fischer Germany has to bare responsibility for the outbreak of the European War[1]. In his book “Griff nach der Weltmacht” he claims:  “Die Führung des Wilhelminischen Reiches habe 1914 eine aggressive "Kriegszielpolitik" verfolgt und Europa aus Hegemonie- und Weltmachtstreben vorsätzlich in den Weltkrieg getrieben“.[2]  In translation this thesis states that the Wilhelmine Empire intended to go to war; Fischer calls this policy “Kriegszielpolitk” (policy aiming for war). His book led to the eagerly discussed “Fischer Kontroverse” in the 1960s; basically all Germans disagreed with him at that time, however this has changed. Evidence from various sources support his claim.  The Kaiser’s and the wealthy Prussian Junkers’ willingness to fight a war increased dramatically, as their monarchical power started to cease away with the beginning of the new century. In the general elections of 1912 (Germany was a constitutional monarchy at that time) the Socialist Democrats received about 35% of the votes[3], hence providing the biggest ‘Fraktion’ to the Bundestag with 110 delegates. The democrats promoted an anti-war attitude, and proposed to cut military spending and instead enhance the well-fare system. The aristocrats believed that a heroic war could bring back their popularity by uniting the German peoples through nationalism. Anyway, by that time they assumed that a European war was inevitable[4] somehow or other.
Adding to this, on the 8th of December 1912 the German “War Council”, his Majesty Kaiser Wilhelm II, Chief of the General Staff Helmuth Johann Ludwig von Moltke, Admiral Tirpitz and Vice Admiral Heering, met to discuss further military planning. There General von Moltke, who would later be in charge of the German offensive strategies during war, expressed his opinion as follows:  “I consider a war inevitable—the sooner, the better. But we should do a better job of gaining popular support for a war against Russia, in line with the Kaiser’s remarks.”[5]  Tirpitz responded to von Moltke’s words with a request to delay a war by another one-and-a-half years[6], as the navy was not prepared for a full-scale war at this point. Looking at the historical calendar one realises that the requested period of time almost exactly fits: 19 months later Germany declared war in summer 1914.
 Germany displays a clear readiness and deliberateness to go to war. This state of mind of the Germans is affirmed by the ‘blanc cheque’, which was issued to the Austro-Hungarian government on the 5th of July during the crisis. Consequently the Austro-Hungarian ambassador in Berlin Graf Szögyény sent out Telegramm 237 to his partners, who have been awaiting a confirmation of unlimited German support, in Vienna:
„...ermächtigte mich (Graf Szögyény) seine Majestät, unserem allergnädigsten Herrn zu melden, daß wir auch in diesem Falle auf die volle Unterstützung Deutschlands rechnen können. Wie gesagt, müsse er vorerst die Meinung des Reichskanzlers anhören, doch zweifle er nicht im geringsten daran, daß Herr von Bethmann Hollweg vollkommen seiner Meinung zustimmen werde. Insbesondere gelte dies betreffend eine Aktion unsererseits gegenüber Serbien“[7]
Szögyény reports that “also in this case we can rely on full German support… In particular regarding any action taken on our behalf against Serbia”. The Kaiser, who could technically rule his Reich and conduct the Armee without any external intervention, gave his personal approval to back-up Austria-Hungary in any case. 
Moreover, Germany deliberately urged the multi-ethnical Habsburg Empire to act unreasonably following the assassination of the Archduke and his wife by manipulation of internal affairs. In Austria-Hungary there were ‘doves’ and ‘hawks’; when Serbia had accepted most of the terms of the ultimatum, which had been issued to Belgrade on the 23rd of July, the ‘doves’ seemed to have managed to dissolve the conflict. Yet, alarmed by the prospect of a peaceful resolution the German General Staff used all their connections to influence subsequent decision-making, and thereby immediately strengthened the position of the ‘hawks’.  
Not only did the Germans promote the escalations of the Austro-Serbian question – and through that create a European conflict – but also showed deliberate disinterest in reaching a solution in regards to the situation. Kaiser Wilhelm II went on holiday in Norway[8] a week after the terrorist attack in Sarajevo, but just before he ordered the German High Fleet to return to German ports[9]. It becomes highly visible that Germany was heading for a Great War.  Germany’s behaviour in the preceding decades further confirms this claim. The closest example for that is the third Balkan Crisis, which broke out in summer 1912, where Serbia increased her holdings in the Balkans after Turkey had been weakened by a conflict with Italy. Ultimately this caused the eruption of a war between Bulgaria and Serbia in 1913. The Russian Empire, pursuing her pan-Slavism policy, backed Serbia and likewise Bulgaria was helped by Austria-Hungary[10]. Germany tactically supported her alliance, to which she had committed herself officially already in 1879 (Dual Alliance).
The time leading up to the Bulgarian-Serbian war was the phase just before the aforementioned German ‘War Council’ met in December 1912, which sought an attack on Serbia. Before that, in October, the Kaiser demanded a further expansion of his military forces in the view of Austria-Hungary’s need to stand up against the newly strengthened Balkan states[11]. Clearly Germany was taking measures to fight a war, not to prevent, although deputies to the German Bundestag had already warned the Kaiser and his ministers of the rapidly growing war potential in the Balkan states as early as January 1912[12].  Adding to this, when Kaiser Wilhelm II had become Emperor of the Deutsche Reich in 1888[13], Germany developed a very ambitious imperialistic foreign policy called “Weltpolitik” (1897). As the attempt to annex the strategically important Samoan Islands in the South Pacific only partially succeeded in 1899 due to British and American intervention the Kaiser proclaimed:  “We have bitter need of a powerful German fleet… after twenty years, when the fleet is ready, I will adopt a different tone”[14]
The German government promoting the construction of the most advanced type of warship, the dreadnought, passed promptly two naval bills. In only fourteen years 17 battleships were built[15]. In comparison, Great Britain, which had always been the greatest naval power of the world, had increased her number to 29 battleships. However, it must not be forgotten that the British were ruling the largest Empire worldwide, which, adding to this, was spread out over the whole globe. They desperately needed the navy to pursue politics and secure a stable economy. Germany only ruled a colonial Empire hardly worth mentioning; they practically did not need a navy. While Great Britain’s navy was rather defensive, Germany’s ‘Marine’ was offensive. It can be seen as an indicator for German imperialistic war-desires.  Furthermore, unlike Britain, Germany had a vast army; conscription had for long been part of the German military system. In the ascending years of the war, between 1910 to 1914, the Kaiserreich’s military expenditure increased by 73%. German war-preparation was at its peek.  Also the development of German military strategies should be taken into consideration. Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister during the time of the First World War, observed after the war had been won:  “The nations slithered over the brink into the boiling cauldron of war without any trace of apprehension or dismay”[16]
Yet, it should be doubted that Germany simply “slithered” into a war. The Schlieffen Plan, the German strategic-offensive plan of a two-front war fought with Russia and France, had already been created in 1905[17]. The fact that it had been in existence almost ten years before war actually broke out further suggests German war ambitions. Moreover, the Armee was preparing for a war of encirclement, which indicates that the German Generals expected to be fighting in a European War, and not only to bail her ally Austria-Hungary out of another Balkan crisis.  Though, there are claims that other factors rather than Germany’s pure willingness to start a war caused the eruption of such. Egmund Zechlin states that chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg took a calculated risk in July 1914 to gain diplomatic victory, or if it failed, to fight a "defensive preventive war" with nearly no objectives[18]. He interprets German military expansion as a safety measurement, as Serbian and Russian influence led to a Slavic domination in the Balkans at the expense of Austrian influence. Zechlin argues that Germany was merely preparing for a protective war.
Adding to this, recalling the content of ambassador Szögyény’s telegram a lack of communication can be identified. Telegram 237 was based on the Kaiser’s promise for unlimited support of Austria-Hungary. And although he practically had complete rule over his Empire, politicians were generally involved in decision-making, in particular the Reichskanzler von Bethmann-Hollweg. Yet, in the case of the ‘Blank check’ the German government did not follow normal procedures and the Habsburg Empire was granted support based on merely the Kaiser’s personal opinion. The chancellor later even admitted that the cheque was extremely risky, as it was a vague and consequently insufficient document[19].  Looking from that perspective it seems, as if Germany did not intentionally work toward a general war. According to information distributed by the historian David Heath, Britain could be equally blamed. Great Britain apparently entered the war on the 3rd of August[20] as a result of the German invasion of Belgium. In a treaty of 1839 Britain affirms to safeguard Belgian neutrality in the case of war, however, in August 1914 the first British troops did not arrive at the Belgian ports, but instead in the city of Basra, Iraq. Heath argues that the British forces landed in the Middle East for imperialistic reasons; Great Britain wanted to protect her Empire and more importantly her oil resources.
Though in conclusion, evidence supporting the thesis that World War One broke out in 1914 because Germany directed Europe towards the escalation of a local conflict in the Balkans outweighs any counter-argument. On the 9th of September 1914 Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg put forward the so-called ‘Septemberprogramm[21]’, where he outlined German military and economic ambitions. Evaluating those it becomes apparent that Germany has for long sought an imperialistic war to consolidate and increase her new status. For example, in regards to France the chancellor suggested:  “…Kriegsentschädigung; sie muß so hoch sein, daß Frankreich nicht imstande ist, in den nächsten 15-20 Jahren erhebliche Mittel für Rüstungen aufzuwenden... Ein Handelsvertrag, der Frankreich in wirtschaftliche Abhängigkeit von Deutschland bringt…”  
The ‘Septemberprogramm’ aims to make France’s economy completely depending on Germany. In addition such high reparation costs would be imposed that France could not rearm for the next 15-20 years due to a lack of financial resources. Other states, such as Belgium or Luxemburg, would be annexed and either permanently integrated into the German Recih, or at least become externally governed as mandates:  “Luxemburg wird deutscher Bundesstaat...“  Moreover, von Bethmann-Hollweg planned even further ahead and discussed the colonial question. He vaguely outlined that the German Empire seeks a “mittelafrikanisches Kolonialreich”, a central-African colonial Empire.
This official government document seems to address all fundamental issues affecting Germany. The Balkans are not dealt with in the protocol; that is the case because clearly the Balkan states lie in the Austrian and Russian sphere of influence. Yet, Germany aims to control all of central Europe, also including Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Norway and possibly Italy.  Undeniably the Deutsche Reich under the rule of Kaiser Wilhelm II conducted - and at times neglected – important European affairs so, that Europe went to war with each other. Germany aimed for expansion, colonial pride and economical superiority in order to evolve into an economic world power next to the United States of America. Therefore, as Germany allowed for an escalation of the Balkan conflict in 1914, she is to be blamed for the outbreak of war.  Although I have to admit that is extremely difficult to conclude a balanced argument, as I am only living now a hundred years later after the war broke out, I believe I do have a connection to that question as a German. Recently I discovered my grandfather’s diary; he himself fought on the Western Front for the German Armee. In his anecdotes I came across one section that stands out particularly. In that extract he talks about the euphoria that flooded Germany in August 1914. He noted down: 
“Wir sind bereit, das Volk fühlt sich bereit! Unbedeutend von welcher Herkunft, von welchem Stand du bist – nun sind wir eins! Gemeinsam werden wir kämpfen, gemeinsam werden wir fallen!”  
He describes the feeling of unity that suddenly arose; in summer 1914 the German peoples felt ready for a war. For that reason the German government had not pushed for a war earlier, only now they had the full support of the people. An example for this is this striking “Kriegparole”:  “Jeder Schuss ein Russ’, jeder Stoss ein Franzos und jeder Kick ein Britt”
The Germans came up with war slogans to motivate each other. This particular one translates into “Every shot a Russian, every push a French and every kick a Brit”. To me this conveys a certain spirit that the German government could not have suppressed for much longer.

[1] http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/germanresponsibility.htm  [2] http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-15188929.html  [3] http://www.dhm.de/lemo/objekte/statistik/wa19122/index.html  [4] http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/germanresponsibility.htm  [5] http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/sub_document.cfm?document_id=799  [6] http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/sub_document.cfm?document_id=799  [7]http://wwi.lib.byu.edu/index.php/I,_6._Graf_Sz%C3%B6gy%C3%A9ny_an_Grafen_Berchtold,_5._Juli_1914  [8] http://wwi.lib.byu.edu/index.php/Wilhelm_II%27s_Account_of_Events  [9] http://net.lib.byu.edu/~rdh7/wwi/1914/wilnotes.html  [10] http://www.sparknotes.com/history/european/1871-1914/section9.rhtml  [11] http://cnparm.home.texas.net/Wars/BalkanCrises/BalkanCrises02.htm  [12] http://cnparm.home.texas.net/Wars/BalkanCrises/BalkanCrises02.htm  [13] http://www.wilhelm-der-zweite.de/einleitung/index.php  [14] http://books.google.de/books?id=2yy6NSBYKC8C&pg=PA154&lpg=PA154&dq=kaiser+wilhelm+imperial+ambitions&source=bl&ots=hApjNxuSLu&sig=Tvlni8qqG0UeTNjWMS8aHRNg4-0&hl=de#v=onepage&q=kaiser%20wilhelm%20imperial%20ambitions&f=false  [15] http://www.historyatfreeston.co.uk/fbechistorysite/Paper%201/KQ1-Arms%20Race.htm  [16] http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1984/mar/29/slithering-over-the-brink/?pagination=false  [17] http://www.deutsches-reich-1914-1918.de/schlieffenplan.html  [18] http://www.oppapers.com/essays/Origins-World-War-One/46327  [19] http://www.oppapers.com/essays/Origins-World-War-One/46327  [20] http://www.historyorb.com/events/date/1914?p=2  [21] http://www.dhm.de/lemo/html/dokumente/hollweg/

Why did war break out in 1914?
The First World War (1914-1918) was the culmination of complex political tension existing

across the globe. In Europe, the primary belligerents involved included the Triple Entente (Britain, France and Russia) and the Triple Alliance (Austria-Hungary, Italy and Germany). These groups formed under an alliance system which was designed to preserve peace by balancing power so that no camp would initiate a war with another. As an article in the British newspaper The Times declared, "the division of the Great Powers into two well-balanced groups with intimate relations between the members of each... is a twofold check upon inordinate ambitions or sudden outbreak of race hatred. (April 1914)" 1 However, the alliances did not manage to succeed in preventing these. Instead, the premise of an alliance system resulted in a passive style of diplomacy which, characterised by a distinct lack of communication, contributed to hostility between powers and acted as a major cause for the war. Whilst historians such as AJP Taylor claim that the alliance system was too fragile to act as a cause of war, it was this instability that impacted politics in a way that could have generated maximum conflict. The reason war broke out in 1914 as opposed to any other year was because it combined a history of strain with the assassination of Archduke Franz- Ferdinand, a sudden act of provocation. The eruption of war as a result of this event- when defined by the moment two major Powers enter a state of warfare - can be directly attributed to the alliance system as exemplified by the Franco-Russian agreement, the Triple Entente's effect on the Triple Alliance and the relationship between Russia and Serbia.
The Franco-Russian Alliance signed in 1894 was an important agreement in regards to the alliance system. The terms of the treaty encompassed mutual support in the case of a German attack on either France or Russia. Although the powers never assumed major roles in the same crises, the nature of this alliance would define certain political expectations: their alliance left Germany vulnerable as it was encircled by opposing nations. Russia opposed Germany's alliance with Austria-Hungary while France sought to avenge its loss of Alsace-Lorraine. Germany's response to the Franco-Russian Alliance was to devise a military tactic (the Schlieffen Plan) to help it win a costly and complicated two-front war. Although the alliance had mixed effectivity - while it was an agreement necessary to both countries, its loyalty was dubious as France did not voice much support for Russia during the Bosnian Crisis of 1908 - its stamp on German policy served to create an air of hostility. Between 1912 and 1914, however, neither France nor Russia had a pressing reason to attack Germany. The Moroccan and the Agadir crises had both resulted in Germany's diplomatic isolation in addition to the creation of the Triple Entente, which called for aid should Germany declare war on a member nation. The agreement remained defensive; although members may have anticipated a German attack they was not actively planning a war. During these years, Russia was preoccupied with observing the Second Balkan War and the improvement in Anglo- German relations following discussions regarding the naval race meant that France may have been isolated had it pursued aggression with Germany. However, in 1914, the anticipated result of the Franco-Russian alliance would provoke Germany into employing its Schlieffen Plan designed to win a war against France and Russia. Austria-Hungary's declaration of war on Serbia and Russia's subsequent mobilisation on German borders proved that the encirclement of Germany may take on a military rather than geopolitical role. Should Russia continue to ready its arms, Germany faced the possibility of engaging in the two-front war it wished to avoid. Therefore, Germany had to carry out the Schlieffen Plan in to promote self-defence. However, this could not cause a war until 1914 because no Balkan conflict had caused Russia to mobilise in support of Serbia or Germany to mobilise in support of Austria-Hungary. Earlier in the twentieth century, Russia had a close economic relationship with Germany "which in 1901 took 13 percent of the Russian exports and provided 35 percent of its imports3". As Russia required foreign investment in order to improve its economy and undergo an industrial revolution, targeting an investor without a feasible reason would not be a likely course of action. In 1914, Russia's mobilisation on German borders resulted in Germany declaring war on both France and Russia. The likelihood of such a development may have decreased had Germany never felt encircled by the Franco-Russian Alliance as its anticipation of a two-front war caused it to declare war on both nations. Thus, the alliance system caused the war in that it frightened Germany into declaring war on other Powers.
A second noteworthy point would be the impact the formation of the Triple Entente had on Central European alliances. Prior to its formation, Germany was concerned about the connection France and Britain shared under the 1904 Entente Cordiale. Despite the ongoing Anglo-German naval race, Germany was still willing to consider an alliance with Britain and certainly did not want its enemy, France, to gain in power. In order to break Franco-British relations, Germany intended to humiliate France. To do so, it challenged French authority in North Africa by sending the Kaiser to Morocco to advocate for Moroccan independence and called for a conference to be held. The Algeciras Conference, however, shocked Germany by proving Britain's loyalty to France. Germany's attempt at safeguarding itself from France culminated in antagonising Britain and pushing the Entente Cordiale closer together. This outcome was also the case following the 1911 Agadir Crisis also involving Morocco. When France disrupted a trade agreement between itself and Germany by deploying troops to curb a Moroccan uprising, Germany retaliated by sending a gunboat to Agadir. Again, Britain backed France, displaying that Germany's reckless tactics could not damage the Triple Entente and further isolating it within Europe. These developments caused Germany to realise that its only truly reliable ally was Austria-Hungary - in the words of Bethmann-Hollweg, Germany's main aim was to preserve their alliance: "Our primary interest calls for the unscathed preservation of Austria-Hungary(" (...) Unser Lebensinteresse erfordere die unversehrte Erhaltung Österreichs..." 4) The Moroccan Crises exemplify the poor communication and passive behaviour surrounding the diplomatic events. It was unclear how close Britain and France really were; up until the turn of the century they had been fierce rivals in matters regarding colonies. Hostility was apparent even in 1905 when it was believed that the French public would prefer Germany to its long-time enemy. This meant that efforts to shatter the Entente Cordiale were grounded in what had, up until this point, been the very real possibility that France and Britain would not be able to put aside their differences. No obvious amiability existed and Germany, not wishing to become even more isolated, saw this as an opportunity to weaken France. The later Agadir Crisis of 1911 again proved that Britain supported French interests. Instead of actively discussing relations immediately after crises occurred, diplomacy remained passive in the sense that it remained a series of reactions. This is exemplified by the As a result, conferences were held only in times of crisis when international hostility was at a high, restricting communication between two rapidly polarising groups. While Entente/German relations generated tension, they did not necessarily guarantee a world war as they featured not hot-blooded acts of hostility. AJP Taylor argues that "from the moment... the Algericas conference broke up European war was inevitable"5. However, this cannot be regarded as entirely correct. The British diplomat Sir Eyre Crowe commented in 1911 that:
"The fundamental fact of course is that the Entente is not an alliance. For purposes of ultimate emergencies it may be found to have no substance at all. For an Entente is nothing more than a frame of mind, a view of general policy which is shared by the governments of two countries, but which may be, or become, so vague as to lose all content."6
Even after an event supposed to cement the Entente as an important agreement, government officials disregarded the agreement to imply total obligation to other involved nations. However, Algericas did not make war inevitable; Germany mobilised in response to Russia's call to arms rather than to any cause directly related to the Entente Cordiale. While the conference suggested to Germany that Austria-Hungary was its only reliable ally, this did not guarantee a war involving Britain and France as Austria-Hungary's internal difficulties would have rendered it a poor ally against them. In addition, Britain and Germany attempted to slow the rate of the arms build up in a 1912 conference; although this was fruitless, relations between the two Powers eased until the outbreak of war. However, Germany's response to the Moroccan Crises served to push the France and Britain closer together as well as see the formation of the Triple Entente. On the whole, it caused the polarisation of a camp against Germany that could easily have blown into a more serious conflict had the assassination of a political figure occurred between France and Germany. Instead, it was the Serbian assassination of the Austro-Hungarian archduke that provided such an outlet. However, the nature of the Triple Entente's relationship with the Triple Alliance suggested that Europe had polarised into two camps and that communication between them was passive. Therefore, the alliance system contributed to tension culminating in 1914.
Another important alliance existed between Russia and Serbia. Following the assassination of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand at the hands of a Serbian nationalist group, Austria-Hungary's declaration of war on Serbia had Russia mobilising in its defence. Eventually, this resulted in Germany's declaration of war on Russia: this also marked the first moment at which two great European Powers were at war with one another. Russia's support of Serbia was motivated by pan- Slavic and geopolitical reasons which made Russian involvement inevitable. Due to their similar ethnic background, culture and religious views, Russia felt obligated to support Serbia in their endeavour for an Slav state independent of Austria-Hungary. The strength of their connection is apparent in the history of the Slavic anthem "Hey, Slavs": composed in 1834, it was inspired by the worry that the Balkan nations were threatened by germanisation and "became a widely known rallying song for Slav nationalism and Pan-Slavic sentiment, especially in Slavic lands governed by Austria"7. The pan-Slavic movement and its Russian support had existed for over 80 years prior to the outbreak of World War 1. This premise, combined with Russia's rivalry against Austria- Hungary/the Ottoman Empire regarding territory in the Black Sea and subsequent interest in influencing Serbia meant that any Serbo-Russian agreement would eventually bear an offensive nature. Known as a terrorist state, Serbia's military was allied with the Black Hand, an extremist pan-Slavic organisation later responsible for the assassination of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand in 1914. This premise, combined with Russia's rivalry against Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire regarding territory in the Black Sea and subsequent interest in influencing Serbia to monopolise their geopolitical position meant that any Serbo-Russian agreement would eventually bear an offensive nature. Serbia desired a war in order to see the formation of a Slavic state whereas Russia was concerned about Austro-Hungarian presence in the Black Sea. This was because Russia required a warm sea port in order to export a greater quantity of goods, promote economic growth and thus gain the resources to become an industrialised nation. Supporting Serbia and pan-Slavism also offered a means of gaining internal support for its struggling Tsarist regime. This led to the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 because Austria-Hungary's declaration of war against Serbia gave Russia an excuse to settle the Balkan affair once and for all while also fighting for a Slavic cause. In order to assess the importance of the year 1914, one must consider the Bosnian Crisis of 1908. At this time, Austria-Hungary wanted to annex its protectorate of Bosnia; however, in order to do so, it would require Russian support. A conference was called between the two nations in which Russia wished to bargain for unlimited use of the straits in the Black Sea in exchange for the annexation of the territory. When Austria-Hungary undertook this action, however, Russia felt it was too soon and demanded territorial compensation for the land that had been annexed. However, none of its allies backed it in its effort and Germany's support of Austria-Hungary forced Russia to back down as it did not have the means of sustaining a war. Humiliated, Russia vowed not to back down should the opportunity present itself again. At the same time, Germany affirmed Austria- Hungary that “at the moment Russia mobilises, Germany will also mobilise and mobilise its entire army.”8 Although AJP Taylor suggests that the lack of support within alliances meant that the system was ineffective and could thus not lead to a war, one must consider the change in attitudes marked by the conflict. Austria-Hungary was now more assured of German support whilst Russia's position of power in Europe was threatened because it was isolated. As Russia could not terminate its support of Serbia, it vowed not to back down again. However, war could not yet break out at this point because none of the involved Powers were directly threatened. This would not occur until 1914, when the actions of the Black Hand would directly offend Austria-Hungary. Compared to earlier times, 1914 was a significant year because it marked an explosion of tension: the assassination of the Austrian archduke by Serbian nationalists gave Austria-Hungary a reason to try and quell the nationalism detrimental to its dual monarchy, an opportunity for Slavs to fight for self- determination as well as a window for Russia to affirm its influence in the Balkans in order to dominate the Black Sea. While the Balkans had been a turbulent area for decades, this event seemed to jolt things into motion. Serbia had emerged as the victor of several local wars and was now a force to be reckoned with. Russia had vowed not to back down again and would support Serbia. Austria-Hungary had gained a guarantee of German support under the blank cheque which provoked Austria-Hungary's issue of a harsh ultimatum to be towards Serbia. Clauses were extreme; it was not a document designed to be complied with. Even when Serbia agreed with all but one point, Austria-Hungary refused to accept this and declared war. Russian mobilisation as Serbia's ally led to a German declaration of war on Russia and eventually France. Unlike the Franco-Russian Alliance, their bond was not defensive and both nations were willing to enter a brief war in the hope of achieving their aims. This is a clear example of how the alliance system caused local discord to escalate into a widespread conflict; thus, the assassination occurring in 1914 sparked a sudden war.
However, it is notable that no alliance was ever cited as an official declaration of war. For example, France sought to regain Alsace-Lorraine from Germany whereas Germany's military plans were based around Weltpolitik and defending itself from encirclement. The alliance system may have bridged conflicts, but could not possibly act as the main cause of the Great War. Much of the international tension predated the alliance system, indicating that the alliances were formed in response to previous tension rather than conflict being generated by the treaties themselves. This was apparent in the Franco-Russian Alliance as France sought an alliance to support itself in the light of its German grievance. Furthermore, the majority of treaties were defensive and would require an action relating to imperialism or to nationalism in order to see the alliance act. Most importantly, Austria-Hungary did not declare war on Serbia because of its alliances but because of its display of rampant nationalism which threatened the survival of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The sheer fragility of the treaties as suggested by AJP Taylor meant that not all conflicts would be faced with the intervention of an ally. However, it was exactly these qualities that meant that the alliance system could become so volatile and powerful. The exchanging moods of support and rejection caused fluctuations in which countries were aggressive due to confidence in its alliances and those who were hostile because they had been forced to back down. It seems that the conscious effort to avoid war or strengthen a defensive alignment by entering an alliance implied that such a conflict was imminent. Nations were expanding their armies and drafting tactics such as the Schlieffen Plan in order to safeguard their survival should. The passive style of government can be blamed on the accepted possibility of war; because some degree of conflict was widely anticipated Powers were waiting to see which country would act first. Most agreements contain a clause explicitly stating their desired procedure in the event of war with their enemy, furthering this theory. 1914 was the critical year for this because it marked an act of violence that was met with an eventual declaration of war - now that the conflict was out in the open, most countries wanted to settle the existing issues. This is demonstrated by Germany's declaration of war on the Franco- Russian Alliance as it assumed that it would have to enter the war as Austria-Hungary's ally anyway and wanted to gain the upper hand over France, which would target Germany for revenge. The multitude of alliances allowed tension to remain as it made action passive due to the fact that most countries would have to consider their ally before acting. Therefore, the alliance system was instrumental in the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
To conclude, the alliance system caused the outbreak of war in 1914 because it served to connect localised and international conflict. While tension had been growing between both major Powers and smaller nations, the alliances prevented them from remaining regional affairs. Although
balancing of power was intended to deter Powers from attacking each other, the manner in which it was executed made some alliances/rivalries very clear and some less transparent. This would negatively impact politics in that it caused confusion as to how each Power would be treated while simultaneously causing the polarisation of two separate camps, allowing for less diplomatic flexibility as each Power would be expected to support its allies in the even of a conflict. The assassination of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand in 1914 occurred at a point in history when many nations sought a local war with an other for personal reasons. It was the alliance system that allowed for the ignition of the Great War as it allowed a regional conflict to develop into the Great Powers of Russia and Germany to enter a state of war due to their respective alliances.. Thus, AJP Taylor's claim that the alliance system was too fragile to provoke a war in 1914 is invalid.
http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/agadir_crisis_1911.htm http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/history/world-war-100-1-july-the-agadir-crisis-1911

World War One broke out on the 1st August 1914 when Germany declared war on Russia due to the rising threat of their mobilisation. There were plenty of reasons for the outbreak of war in 1914 though. Most importantly these include the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, rising militarism and increased feeling for nationalism.
The assassination of Franz Ferdinand on the 28th June 1914 was a clear provocation of Serbia toward Austria-Hungary, which they had to react to. This assassination was organized by the organisation Black Hand and was intended to threaten Austria-Hungary and address the Slav minority, which wanted to liberate from Austria Hungary. The Black Hand was also not only a regular terrorist group but involved many politicians in Serbia, which made the assassination even more provocative. Franz Ferdinand himself wanted to join the Slav minorities in Austria-Hungary with the Austrians and have one big empire, which is of vital importance since he was heir apparent after the death of Franz Joseph. The Slavs though did not favour this policy at all and wanted to be independent from Austria-Hungary. The fact that he was heir apparent is also a reason for Austria-Hungary to react in a harsh way because this individual was of high importance to their country and determined the future of it. Additionally it was known that Serbia would be backed up by Russia since these were already humiliated in the first Balkan Crisis when supporting Bosnia-Herzigovina during the annexation by Austria Hungary. Russia would not allow another humiliation again. The date of the death of Franz Ferdinand was on a national celebration day of Serbia. So it could be argued that Austria-Hungary themselves who exactly knew that they were not on good terms with Serbia provoked them by the visit of Franz Ferdinand. This however does not justify the actions by the Black Hand to which Austria-Hungary had to react in order not to loose their authority in Europe.
Further more militarism was a central issue to why World War One broke out in 1914. First of all Kaiser Wilhelm introduced the so called Weltpolitik in 1897, which was intended to make Germany one of the most powerful nations in Europe besides France and Britain. Germany wanted to expand their territory and militarise. Of course France and Britain’s reaction to this German policy was that they would have to deal with a new aggressor in Europe, which created tension. This also and imprinted the Entente Cordiale and made relations between France and Britain much better. The actions France and especially Britain took were mostly defensive and they were preparing for the worst case scenario. In terms of militarisation Germans were especially concerned about their fleet, which ended up in the naval race between Germany and Britain. Both countries spent tonnes of money in building big Dreadnoughts, but in the end Britain is said to have won the naval race. Russia and Austria-Hungary though were countries in Europe that did not militarise for a long time. Russia as an example only mobilised shortly before the outbreak of war. This shows that not every big European power was militarising as early as Germany, Britain and France. However this is not of vital importance since certain countries as Germany, Britain and France militarised which was the majority. It must be added though that Britain and France militarised because of a German threat.
Adding to that nationalism grew more and more until 1914. France was humiliated by Germany in the 1871 when Alsace and Lorraine were annexed. The French population thus had hate against Germans and wanted revenge. Additionally France and Britain were also not always allies, but actually they were traditional enemies. There was a lot of competition with their colonies and they still tried to be more powerful then the other. The relations between these countries were reinforced by German aggression and failed politics. An example would be the the first and second Moroccan Crisis where Germany provoked these countries and tried to stand out as a powerful nation, which failed. In the first Moroccan Crisis they were humiliated in the Agadir conference where even their allies Austria-Hungary and at that time Italy voted against Moroccan independence. In the second Moroccan Crisis they were not humiliated but the submarine Panther was a clear act of aggression against the French. This helped to consolidate the French and British alliance and eventually resulted in the Entente Cordiale in 1904. Also concerning nationalism Austria-Hungary who had a huge problem with their Slav minority, that they where not able to control, reinforced the countries instability and made it very hard for Franz Joseph to control. This weakened Austria-Hungary to a very huge extent because they could not even control the population within their own borders. Further more Russia was also humiliated in the Balkan Crisis which they would not allow to happen again because of their national pride. To conclude tension in Europe arose because the European powers slowly started to get into conflicts of which they were afraid of and therefore had to take defensive measurements or they were humiliated which made them have an aggressive attitude towards others.
It could be argued that World War One broke out because of the failed alliances system that was very complex in 1914. This underlines that many nations as for example Britain went to war because of loyalty to their allies, in this case Belgium who was attacked by Germany. However this is not true since the alliances were not as important to countries as their own interests, which always come first. The whole alliance system was a defensive measurement that every great power in Europe wanted to have in order to feel save and not give the impression that they are weak, but in reality when war broke out in 1914 it was everybody for themselves. This also created tension but not to that extent that the great European powers would go to war. Additionally many countries as for example Britain and France did not take certain other alliances before World War One that serious. Also the real reason why Britain declared war on Germany as a response to them annexing Belgium was that they new exactly what was facing them. World War One was inevitable by the time of 1914 and Britain thought that they would gain victory very fast so they faced it.
In conclusion World War One broke out in 1914 due to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, increasing militarism and growing nationalism. These reasons made war inevitable in 1914 but it is of vital importance that these were based upon miscommunication of the great powers in Europe and failed politics.

Julius Cæsar once said Veni Vedi Vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered), a saying that comes well in context when describing the Great War. World War 1 was a devastating conflict involving European powers, the United States, and other nations across the world. World War 1 lasted from August 4th, 1914 until November 11th, 1918. The war was triggered by the assassination of the Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia in Sarajevo. This was done by a Bosnian Serb and also a member of the terrorist group “Black hand”. Consequently of the assassination, the “Blank check”, which was an agreement between Austria-Hungary and Germany, was signed, allowing Austria-Hungary to attack Serbia with the support of Germany. However these are only short-term causes of World War 1, as earlier assassinations did not lead to war and a murder alone could not have provoked a global war. Nonetheless there are numerous long-term causes, which led to the outbreak of World War 1. Looking back at what Julius Cæsar once said one could say that the war broke out in 1914 because of long-term causes such as imperialism. Each country gained an imperialistic aspiration by “coming”, “seeing” and “conquering” territories, creating rivalries amongst the countries. To include the wave of nationalism, imperialism, the dating alliance systems, the strong sense of militarism, imperialism, and the events before 1914 clearly lead up to the outbreak of World War 1.
The wave of nationalism within each country prophesied the foreseeable war. The role model of this nationalism was Kaiser Wilhelm with his desire for world power. Similarly to 1871, Germany wanted to enlarge by acquiring colonies. However strong supporters of France wanted to seek revenge over Alsace-Lorraine, which Germany gained by war,underlining the continuous French-German rivalry. Furthermore the pride of our nationalities defines our place in history. This is why one can say that the member of the Black Hand killed the archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife as a result of patriotism, showing his dedication to his Serbian nationality, demanding to break free from the empire.
Imperialism provided a general framework for the outbreak of World War 1. The sudden increase in gaining colonies from 1880 to 1914 in Africa and Asia showed a great competition between the countries and the desire for a powerful empire caused by nationalism. Each country was acquiring colonies due to the raw materials and in order to assure economic growth. This megalomaniacal principle of further development caused tensions between the great powers. “About 90 percent of all African territory” was “… brought under European rule.”[1] This shows that the countries were competing economically and politically.
Alliances or in other words agreements between one or more countries were formed between the time period of 1879 and 1914. This formation of alliances changed the balance of power; it divided Europe into two armed camps causing a rivalry between the great powers. On October 7th in 1879 Germany set up the Dual-Alliance with Austria-Hungary, which later was used as an aid for Austria-Hungary against Serbia in the event of war. Then in 1882 the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy was formed, which worried the countries France and Russia, as they feared that they could be attacked and beaten by these three powerful countries acting together. This is how the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1892 emerged. Later, in 1904 Britain decided to join France and Russia, creating the Entente Cordiale, which got Britain out its isolationism. In 1907 the Triple Entente between England, France and Russia was brought into existence due to their fear of Germany’s lust for domination and therefore growing economy and navy. By then, Europe was divided into two great powers, the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente. The historian A.J.P Taylor argues “The alliances created an excessively rigid diplomatic framework, within which relatively small detonators could produce huge explosions.”[2] This shows that the alliance systems created in Europe created complex, diplomatic situations for the countries in which a spark could easily ignite a fire. This is suggesting that the alliances contributed to the outbreak of the World War 1, dragging its ally into the war.
In 1897, Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) introduced his new policy of Weltpolitik. He had a firm belief in divine-right monarchy and he was very prone to adopt aggressive attitudes. Kaiser Wilhelm was so proud of his nation that he wanted it to be the richest and most important and to be recognized as such. This nationalism increased the tension and had an influence in causing World War 1. Kaiser Wilhelm was jealous of the mighty British Empire because he wanted Germany to become such a great world power as Britain. In order to achieve this, Kaiser Wilhelm needed a navy that could challenge Britain’s navy, the largest in the world. Germany’s aim was to frighten Britain by building a stronger navy. The Kaiser increased the defense expenditure to 73 million pounds between 1910 and 1914, however Britain responded by increasing its costs on the military as well. Germany provoked Britain and therefore a race for building more and better warships started, which created competition between the two nations. By 1914, Germany’s army consisted of 4,200,000 soldiers[3], showing that Germany is clearly preparing a strong attack. Fritz Fischer debates “Germany was responsible for World War 1 because of its aggressive pursuit of its Weltpolitik.”[4] This example of Kaiser Wilhelm’s aggressive foreign policy of Weltpolitik threatened the other European powers, as they were scared to lose their colonies, causing the outbreak of World War 1.
Numerous events occurring before 1914 are examples of long-term causes of the war. In the first Moroccan Crisis in 1905, France hoped to conquer Morocco in Africa. Germany provoked this imperial conflict with the aim to destroy the Entente Cordial and the Dual Alliance in order to form a Russo-German Alliance. Due to Britain’s imperialistic view, she wanted to secure the Egyption-Moroccon border. The Algeciras Conference as a result of the Moroccan Crisis in which Germany demanded a Russo-German Alliance, lead to Germany’s isolation. Instead of the Entente Cordiale falling apart, Britain and France grew closer. In addition Russia drops the clause of the Algeciras conference, giving France and Britain support. The British saw another attempt by Germany to create an empire to rival Britain. For this reason Britain started to plan ways of how to fight Germany in a war, which provoked the international crisis, leading to the outbreak of World War 1.
Then between 1908 and 1909 the Turkish Empire was declined and Austria-Hungary announced the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina under the Treaty of Berlin with German support. As a result Serbia was furious as Bosnia had the access to the Adriatic, for which Serbia has strived. Serbia wanted this access to the sea and this wish was supported by Russia. However Serbia was humiliated by the fact that they lost the opportunity to rule Bosnia. This increased tension and hatred between Serbia and Austria-Hungary. Furthermore Germany and Russia started to plan their mobilization. The Balkan War between 1912 and 1913 consisted of two wars in southeastern Europe. Territories of the Ottoman Empire were conquered by an alliance known as the Balkan League made up by Bulgaria, Montenegro, Greece and Serbia- As an effect this occupation of territory was a source of rivalry, which had shifted to the Balkans.
Another long-term cause of World War 1 is the second Moroccan Crisis in 1911. The uprising in Morocco allowed France to send its troops to Morocco. As Kaiser Wilhelm was seeking for revenge after failing its aim at the Algeciras Conference, he sent the gunboat Panther to Agadir, interfering with the situation and wanting to claim Agadir as a naval base. As an effect Germany was seen as a major aggressor and she had to agree to leave Morocco.
Even though the Schlieffen Plan, which was already planned in 1905 by General Count Alfred von Schlieffen failed, it was the last step to war. Germany declared war on France on August 3rd and one day later Germany invaded Belgium, trying to carry out the Schlieffen Plan. The plan was created to avoid a war on two fronts; nevertheless it was not aimed to avoid a war in general. The Schlieffen Plan was thought through for a long time. Although Russia had a big army, she was not advanced in roads and railways. Germany thought she could make use of this lack of transportation, as it they thought it would take Russia six weeks to mobilize fully. Therefore Germany would use her modernized rail system to invade France at high speed through Belgium. Having defeated France within six weeks, Germany would have had the time to transfer its soldiers who had been fighting in the successful French campaign to Russia to attack and defeat the Russians. However Germany was not aware that Russia could mobilize so fast. Furthermore Germany invaded the neutral country Belgium as an excuse for going into war. As a consequence the allies that were at war forced their allies into the war as well.
Some historians though such as A.J.P Taylor argue “The Austrian government was not much concerned to punish the crime of Sarajevo. They wanted to punish a different crime- the crime that Serbia committed by existing as a free national state.”[5] This suggests that the two Balkan crises caused the major tensions, which led the powers into war. Other historians like Ritter debate “Germany had no desire for world dominion; its main aim was to support its ally, Austria-Hungary”[6]Additionally other conflicts and events, which occurred before 1914 were partly resolved and are not responsible for the outbreak of war.
However this is wrong according to Sidney Bradshaw who says that Imperialism, nationalism, militarism and alliances- “all these things meshed together to create a collective impetus to war”. All of these factors come into consideration when thinking of the outbreak of the war. Disputes were created due to the events before 1914, and instead of them being resolved, the tensions between the powers increased until the war was no longer preventable. Furthermore in George F. Kennan’s opinion “alliance caused World War 1.” Also according to Fritz Fischers claim about Germany’s responsibility of the outbreak of World War 1,Germany competed with the European powers, challenged and provoked Britain’s navy and continued the Franco-German rivalry.
There were several events caused by all powers creating tensions, which led up to the Great War.
Many provocations created rivalry between the different alliances formed Alliances were one of the major war why the war turned into a World War. Every country dragged its ally into the war by signing several agreements stating that they would support each other in a case of war Additionally the strong sense of militarism and nationalism created a competition amongst the powers. The last step and short-term factor, which activated the war, was the assassination of archduke Franz Ferdinand.

[1] McDonough, Frank. The Origins of the First and Second World Wars. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997. Print.
[2] "Causes of the First World War." Gisele School. Web Design Leeds, n.d. Web. 4 Sept. 2012. .
[3] The Great Powers of Old Europe. N.p.: n.p., n.d. DOC.
[4] Heath, David. "Hakenkreuz Und Zirbelnuss : Augsburg Im 3. Reich." Traces of Evil: Historians and Quotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Sept. 2012. .
[5] Heath, David. "Hakenkreuz Und Zirbelnuss : Augsburg Im 3. Reich." Traces of Evil: Historians and Quotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Sept. 2012. .
[6] McDonough, Frank. The Origins of the First and Second World Wars. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997. Print.

Why war broke out on 28th July 1914 and not in 1913,1915 or even a month earlier, right after the assassination of archduke Franz-Ferdinand on the 28th June 1914, is because firstly Germany was ready for war more than she had been during earlier years and would be during later years and because of the agricultural background of many countries in Europe especially Germany and Austria-Hungary: they had to wait for harvest to be brought in to rely on those resources in terms of food and manpower to fight the war.
In 1914 many people in Germany and throughout Europe believed that war was coming. General Helmut von Moltke, chief of the German army staff from 1906-1914, believed that war was unavoidable and advised Kaiser Wilhelm II. to declare war on Russia rather sooner than later because other countries such as Russia, France and Britain were actually starting to overtake Germany in armament payments because Germany was running out of money. [1] Even more strengthening this argument is the fact that the chief of the Navy, General Tirpitz, claimed at a conference with the Kaiser and Moltke in 1912 that the Germany navy would be in the best position for a war in one and a half years, therefore towards the end of 1913 moving towards the beginning of 1914. The German army chiefs knew that if Germany would go to war, then the best time would be in 1914 during the crises between Austria-Hungary and Serbia.
After Franz-Ferdinand was assassinated on June 28th 1914, the Austrian-Hungarian government sent Serbia an Ultimatum on July 23th that was deliberately meant to be inacceptable, but should be accepted by Serbia after 48 hours. Although Serbia accepted most conditions on July 25, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia July 28 1914. Surprisingly it took Austria-Hungary almost a month to declare war on Serbia although they had full backing from Germany, who had issued the blank check just two days after the assassination on July 5th. This "missing month" can be related back to the agricultural background of both Germany and Austria-Hungary, especially Hungary whose economy was based on agriculture. The main time for bringing in the harvest is during June, July and May as I can tell from personal experience since I am living in Germany and have myself helped as an "Erntehelfer", which is the German word for a person who helps collecting the harvest.
There are also opposing historical views claiming that the complex alliance system helped to preserve peace, from the Vienna conference onwards, that was held almost a century before WWI, up to the beginning of WWI, but at the same time dragged countries into war that were not involved yet in 1914. This is only partially true: countries like Britain and France did not go to war over alliance partners like Belgium. Although it was officially claimed that the neutrality of "Little Belgium" should be preserved and therefore Britain should go to war with Germany, this was only to trick the public into believing in the good cause of entering a war. The British Empire itself had invaded neutral countries before such as America or India during its rise and from a German or non-British viewpoint the claim that Britain was protecting Belgium for the good cause seems rather ridiculous. Britain was actually pressured by Russia and France and additionally did not want a strong Germany dominating Europe. Russia only helped Serbia because Tsar Nicholas had not forgotten his face loss during the Balkan crises and was afraid to be seen as a weak Emperor by the Russian public; therefore he supported Serbia this time no matter what Britain and France were attempting to do. A good example from the later 20th century showing that the alliance system in 1914 worked in the way it was supposed to is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, that was originally aimed at Russia but has helped preventing wars successfully up to today because of collective security; this links back to the alliances: they were created to prevent war and did that successfully which is another reason why war did not break out earlier than 1914.
A common historical approach why World War one broke out on the 28th July 1914 is represented by the abbreviation M.A.I.N. This abbreviation represents the words Militarism, Alliances, Imperialism and Nationalism. All together, these added up to World War is a view that is commonly used to explain the outbreak of World War One. However this approach is to simplistic: There are far more reasons to the outbreak of The First World War than just those four words: Winston Churchill claimed that war came in 1914 because of general restlessness throughout Europe, suggesting that war broke out because of failed statesman and governments who accepted that war was coming and even saw war as a good opportunity to distract from problems at home. Marxist historians argue that the war was a result of competition between capitalist businessmen such as the historian Emil Ludwig. Many historians like Fritz Fischer blamed Germany as the aggressor who actually "planned for war". Additionally the people at the time were very enthusiastic about the outbreak of the war believing that it would be over soon.[2] Another big problem was also bad communication amongst the different governments that made any reverse or slowing down of the events impossible. Therefore it is very difficult, if not impossible, for people living today to understand the situation at the time and the mindset of the people at the time; this is where even with resources available to the public nowadays, knowledge and especially understanding are still limited. Therefore this essay is also limited to a certain approach since it cannot discuss all the different viewpoints mentioned above.
Coming to a conclusion, I would like to quote Lloyd George's memoirs in which he claims "We muddled into war". Written in 1934 he accepts that WWI broke out in 1914 because of failure of different statesmen and governments and that the general situation in Europe did result in a war in 1914. It is actually surprising that war did not break out earlier for example during the Moroccan or Balkan crises but that was probably caused by the alliance system that held the powers in Europe together. A combination of other factors such as the war-readiness of Germany or the harvest theory can be used to explain the date of the outbreak of World War One.

[1] GERMANY, 1858-1990 HOPE, TERROR AND REVIVAL, Oxford Advanced History, Alison Kitson, page 67.
[2] http://www.johndclare.net/causesWWI_Answer1.htm

The reasons why “war” broke out in 1914 are much different than the reasons that let it escalate into the world war it became. The reasons for the escalations are much more complex and involve a greater variety of nations. This essay though will discuss simply the reasons why the war between the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and Serbia started, as well as asses the main reasons of why this then turned out to be a world war. In the end this conflict turned to be a minor and unimportant issue with regards to the overall world war, but it undeniably was the first conflict in that time and the one event that sparked the Great War.
The beginnings of this tragic event date to the 28th of June 1914, when the Archduke Franz-Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary along with his wife was assassinated by Gavrilo Princip, an agent of the Black Hand. The Black Hand was a Terror organization made up of nationalistic Serbs, which was found in Serbia and was supported by high Military Officials from Serbia. The assassination has often been referred to as “the spark that lit the powder keg” which the situation in Europe was. Although some people argue that this action could be replaced by any other one, I believe that the assassination of this specific person, the Archduke, was truly the one spark needed to blow up Europe, or at least the Balkans. The reason being is that the Archduke was to be the next Emperor of the multicultural mixture called Austria-Hungary. The problem for many people, especially for such nationalistic Serbs as Princip, was that their plans of creating anger and hat towards Austria would only work if the Austrians would actually act in certain ways. The plans which Franz-Ferdinand had would only destroy their hopes for a Slavic country, since he wanted to integrate all cultures and nationalities more in the decision making of the Empire instead of only having the Austrians ruling them. This would most likely have appeased the majority of hate and unrest and thus crushed the Black Hands plans. Of course this assassination also had enormous effects on Austria, but it certainly wasn’t simply a cheap excuse. Which country would not have acted aggressively if their heir to the throne had been killed by another country? So although it did give Austria the perfect excuse to take action of any kind against the long disliked neighbour, I think it really had to be a person of that importance to set something of that scale of. And Germany might not even have given Austria the Blank Check if it hadn’t been for that particular assassination. So the assassination can truly be seen as the one event which got things rolling towards a war in 1914 and gave way to the aggressive policies Austria adapted after that.
The reasons of why such a local conflict ultimately caused most of the world to be at war go beyond the simple act of assassinating. How could all of Europe, and ultimately the world suddenly become involved in something which could have been simply another Balkan crisis/war? The answer sound simple but has to be elaborated: Alliances. Although the alliance system did not necessarily cause the war, it definitely did pull all the countries into it once the war had started. Why else should countries like France join a war originally between Austria and Serbia, if it hadn’t been for the triple entente?
The war, which by that point had only been a European war, only became a world war because one country joined: Great Britain.