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History

The First World War

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Causes

A number of different things contributed to a situation where the First World War could break out.

The Threat of Germany

Germany became a united 'empire' in 1871, by defeating and humiliating France.

  • After 1900 Germany built up its navy – this frightened the British.

  • In 1901, Kaiser Wilhelm II demanded an overseas empire for Germany – this frightened Britain and France.

  • Germany wanted to build a railway through the Balkans to Baghdad – this alarmed the Russians, who said they were the protectors of the Balkans.

  • Germany's military defence plan – the Schlieffen Plan – involved attacking France.

The Balkans

The Turkish Empire in the Balkans collapsed:

  • Nationalist interests became clear when the new aggressive nation of Serbia clashed with Austria.

  • Austria and Russia clashed because they both wanted more power in the Balkans.

The System of alliances

Two opposing groups had grown up by 1914, believing that a 'balance of power' would prevent war:

  • The Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy (1882).

  • The Triple Entente of France, Russia and Great Britain (1907).

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