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The World War I, abbreviated as WWI, was a result of a number of causes. Despite the fact that there was a series of events that in one way or the other directly led to the fighting, there were actual root causes, which played the main role of the war. The main causes that are considered to be the principal ones were: the system of secret alliances, nationalism, militarism, economic imperialism, and assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife (Harmilton and Herwig 9). The instantaneous ground of the World War I was assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. On the 28th of June 1914, a Bosnian Serb student- Gavrilo Princip- shot to death the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, as well as his wife while in Sarajevo in Bosnia at a time, when the Black Hand group was pushing for the independence of Serbia from Austria-Hungary (Harmilton and Herwig 17). Following the assassination, Serbia was obliged by Austria-Hungary to punish the assassins, but Serbia on her part failed to comply. This forced Austria-Hungary to declare war against Serbia, but since the latter was a member of the Allied powers, the Allied Powers reciprocated. This resulted to the declaration of the war against the so termed Central Powers (Ralph 201). It is thus Ferdinand’s assassination, which sparked the chain of reactions that led to the Great War.
The second cause of this Great War was the system of secret alliances, also referred to as mutual defense alliances. Countries all over Europe had come to agreement and involved themselves in mutual defense treaties. Most of these alliances were formed between 1879 and 1914. Prior to this Great War, the existent alliances included Russia and Serbia, France and Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary, Japan and Britain, and Britain, France and Belgium. Seemingly, the agreements had the potential of pulling the associate member counries into battle. As a result and in the event that a member country was attacked, the other countries allied to the attacked were under obligation to defend it (Harmilton and Herwig 21). This alliance system is presumed to have determined the choices of the August 1914. This became clear in the case, where Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia and Russia came to the defense of Serbia, while at the same time Germany made a war declaration on Russia after having seen the mobilization against Austria-Hungary that was going on in Russia. As such war declarations unfolded, France was drawn in to rise against both Austria-Hungary and Germany. On her part, Britain was drawn into the war following the attack that Germany made on France via Belgium (Sheffield 1). Later on, Italy, Japan and the United States of America entered the war, each country side of the allies. It is, therefore, clear that these alliances aggravated the Great War instead of containing it within Europe such that it spread to become an international affair.
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Another cause of WWI was economic imperialism. By the year 1921, the Great Britain had control over most of the world’s countries. Together with France, Britain upheld its domestic economy via this control as well as trade with other foreign colonies. Germany and Austria-Hungary, on the other hand, had fewer foreign colonies; with most of them being small and commercially marginal (Harmilton and Herwig 25). Moreover, their domestic resources were on a daily basis running out at a rapid rate. This necessitated Germany to look for more resources in efforts to maintain its domestic economy. Germany had to actually expand its territories, a move that was challenging, since the Great Britain and France had taken control over most of the countries in the Southern Asia and Africa. Due to this competition for expansion in efforts to boost their domestic economies, the relations between the Europe powers grew hostile. In ddominating the overseas trade, Britain made use of its navy and the merchant navy thus causing an irritation to the Germans; who had to embark on a massive naval spending program so as to challenge Britain (Karpilovsky, Fogel and Kobelt 1). The climax was reached at when Franz was assassinated with both countries resulting in a naval arms race.
Militarism had also widely spread during this time. Dictators, military elites and aristocrats possessed too much control over Austria, Germany and Russia. This war was among the consequences of their craving for power in military fields. Factually, the Royal Navy of Britain was stronger than a combination of Germany’s and Austria-Hungary’s navies in terms of ships, personnel and carrying capacity. This made both Germany and Austria-Hungary to declare war against Britain in attempts to be at par with the Royal Navy (Karpilovsky Fogel & Kobelt 1). Nationalism equally contributed to WWI. This is because the war was grounded on the yearning of the Slavic people in Bosnia as well as Herzegovina to be part of Serbia and not Austria-Hungary. Likewise, the nationalist effort by countries in Europe to prove both their power and dominance made an extension of the war (Hogg 58).
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In my own opinion, the system of alliances in Europe had the most impact in the occurrence of the war. It can be argued that in the event that these alliances were not formed during this time, each country would have fought for itself and as thus the war would have been remained only within countries, which were compelled to go to war against one another. However, the alliances led to obligatory participation in war as an alliance thus causing the overwhelming war. The other factors, which espoused economic and military rivalry between the nations and conflicts, were arising due to the assassination of the heir of Hungary and nationalism played into the system of alliances.
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