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History 101: What Are The 4 Causes of World War 1?

What are the Four causes of World War 1?

An international conflict during the 1910’s, World War 1, was contributed by not one factor but numerous factors that led to its extensive atrocity. The aggressive rise and continuation of nationalism throughout countries greatly contributed to the start and four-year length of the war. In addition, the heightened race of militarism and its advanced trench warfare also contributed to the massive scale of the war, including the appalling losses of men as well as the elongated duration. Therefore, both the rise of nationalism, the patriotic feelings of countries’ people to fight, and the pursuit of militarism, advancements of armies, weaponry, and warfare style, played key roles in the contribution of the international conflict World War 1.

In this simple-to-learn history lesson, we go over the four main causes of World War 1.

What are the four main causes of World War One? World War 1 started because of 4 main causes: Militarism, Alliances, Imperialism, and Nationalism. A fifth main cause of WW1 includes Assassination, specifically the assassination of Austria-Hungary’s Archduke Francis Ferdinand , which triggered the start of World War One.

4 Main Causes of World War 1 (WW1): Militarism, Alliances, Imperialism, and Nationalism

WW1 Cause #1 Nationalism and #2 Imperialism

            One of the major contributing factors of World War 1 was the intense rise of nationalism, fueling rivalry in many of the participating countries of the war. The growth of nationalism created fierce competition among many countries to seek more power, land, or even revenge, especially the European nations: Germany, Great Britain, Austria-Hungary, Russia, France, and Serbia.  The people of France were especially bitter over their Franco-Prussian war loss of the territories Alsace and Lorraine to Germany and wanted to take any chance to seek revenge. Meanwhile, Germany’s industry and military forces were increasing and improving, but Great Britain felt threatened that their industry was lacking behind and their navy forces competed with that of Germany’s. Germany also despised its lack of received respect and with a rise of patriotic feelings, thus continued to expand both economically and militarily, increasing the suspicion and hatred of its opponents, France and Britain (Doc 2). Serbia and Russia, with a rise of Pan-Slavism, a deep devotion to unite all Slavs, disputed with Austria-Hungary over Bosnia, a Slavic area. The aggressive nationalism fueled anti-enemy feelings towards countries in which the country itself was competing with, whether it was land or economy. These beginning tensions between these nations contributed to the fray of the rope of the war’s start. In other words, nationalism amplified the tensions among countries and their urge to achieve their ambitions or wishes. If the people of their own country had not cared for their country and its goals as much, the urge to accomplish for their country would not be as high and crucial to them, consequently lowering the rivalry and the possible chance of war among nations. Specifically, Austria-Hungary had a rivalry with Serbia over its land of Bosnia. When Austria-Hungary’s Archduke Francis Ferdinand was assassinated, Austria-Hungary ordered an ultimatum for no more agitation of its government. When Serbia refused to allow Austrian officials to investigate in their country, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Austria-Hungary’s nationalism was so strong, intensifying the rivalry between its country and Serbia, that Austria-Hungary did not even consider alleviating its ultimatum to a reasonable request. Countries each with their own goals and anti-enemy feelings were eager to join in the war to seek the accomplishments of their wishes. Likewise, past and present conflicts brought countries to join in the war due to the massive tensions, thus setting the war at a large scale with the sheer number of the participating nations. Each nation’s nationalism helped push their anti-enemy feelings to the edge and the brink of World War 1. If Ferdinand was not assassinated and the nations did not have as strong previous tensions and patriotic feelings, the war may not have occurred as massively, lengthily, and violently as it did. Nationalism did not only fuel the start of the war but also contributed to its length of four years with the use of propaganda, the purposeful communication of ideas and perspectives to people. The rise of propaganda use during the war effectively persuaded countries’ people to help fight for their country and promoted nationalism as well as sparked hatred towards enemies in the countries’ people. Propaganda techniques such as demonization and half-truths and half-lies helped strengthen nationalism and unify the country. By increasing nationalism in the country, the use of propaganda also helped bring finance for war as well as conservatives of resources and recruiting of soldiers (Doc 7). The elimination of dissent and increase in the help of home-front organizations from propaganda allowed possibility of total war, a country’s full-out effort of channeling resources for war. This increase of nationalism made more people persevere to help their country in the war. It also caused the enlarged efforts in fighting in the war, lengthening the duration of the war. Thus, aggressive nationalism, causing furious rivalry, whether due to pursuit of achieving land or resources, was a major factor of World War 1.

WW1 Cause #3: Militarism and #4 Alliances

            Furthermore, the quest for militarism and weaponry led to the stage of the war, and the new trench warfare left the international conflict mushroom into a devastating and seemingly endless clash. Even before the war started, military was greatly glorified, which caused young men to be eager to go to war and led to the race for arms (Doc 3). The arms race especially induced suspicion of other countries as well as fear. Britain and Germany, for example, furiously raced to increase their naval armies, aggravating the rivalry and mistrust between the two.  The pursuit of militarism, like the rise of nationalism, raised tensions between enemy countries and led to inevitable enmity that soon peaked to an extreme level of rivalry of no return. This extreme rivalry eventually led to the start of the war with these two countries fighting each other. Also, by glorifying militarism, countries easily recruited many young men to join armies and navies, increasing tensions of enemies for race of bigger armies as well as set countries in a highly prepared state of entering war. This glorification of militarism as well as race for arms increased countries’ state of readiness and ability to enter war at any time, tipping the peak of the World War 1’s start even more.  Moreover, advanced weapons and military accessories added to the long duration and many men losses in the war. Automatic machine guns were created, allowing soldiers to kill many men in seconds; poisonous gas was also a new type of weapon used (Doc 6). These advanced equipment and weapon use thus played a major role in World War 1’s agonizing amount of lost lives. They also contributed to the war’s duration because since there were a lot of soldiers killed on both sides, neither side was winning or losing, so it was harder for the war’s result of winning countries to be determined. Trench warfare, a new style of fighting of the military, also was a factor to the length and atrocity of the war. Trench warfare included soldiers fighting enemies and digging trenches to advance lines. However, with the advanced weaponry, trench warfare often led to stalemate, a deadlock of no win or no lose on either side. Countries often only advanced a couple hundred yards to each other’s trench line. The area between trench lines was known as the “No Man’s Land,” due to the difficulty to advance forward and the lost of many lives. Because this warfare often had stalemates, the war could not end quickly with no determined result of who was the main winner; continuing fighting would eventually allow the determination of the true victories of certain countries. Consequently, trench warfare also contributed to the longer length of World War 1.  Therefore, the race of militarism and its advanced warfare contributed to the intensity of this first world war.

Conclusion on WW1: 4 Main Causes

            Both the rise and continuation of nationalism and the race and advancements of militarism’ weapons and armies contributed to the notorious World War 1, from beginning to end. Aggressive nationalism was hot on the rise in countries, sparking and furthering the hatred of enemies, and thus set nations into a hostile war that was also lengthened due to the continuation of these patriotic feelings for one’s country. Militarism’s pursuit of arms and expansions on warfare style and weaponry led to the war’s immense scale of lost lives and extended duration. Due to these factors, World War 1 has become one of the world’s most infamous war events in history. Unfortunately, after the first war had ended, nationalism and militarism continued to contribute to the rise of the later notorious World War 2.

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