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Road to war


This bite will help you to revise some of the factors that lead to the First World War.

Four underlying causes of war

Although the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand signalled the rapid slide into world war, this event alone was not to blame. In fact, there were underlying causes that had existed for many years in the run-up to the First World War.

You need to think about these causes carefully, when trying to determine who or what was to blame for the war.

In the 1930s, historians such as Sydney Bradshaw Fay argued that there were four underlying long-term causes of the First World War:

  • Nationalism - the belief that your country is better than others. This meant nations were assertive and aggressive.
  • Imperialism - the desire to conquer colonies, especially in Africa. This brought the powers into conflict - especially Germany, which wanted an empire, against France and Britain, which both already had empires.
  • Militarism (Arms Race) - where military concerns influence a country's policy, especially the attempt to build up a strong army and navy. This gave the nations the means and the will to make war.
  • Alliances - in 1882, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy formed the Triple Alliance. Alarmed, France and Britain in 1904, then Russia in 1907, formed the Triple Entente. Thus Europe was divided into two armed camps, obliged to help each other if there was a war.


Video clip - Four MAIN causes of the First World War

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German army recruits marching.

Class Clips

Video clip about the four main causes of World War One


Struggle surrounding the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Class Clips

The assasination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

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