Courses of World War One Essay

On the 28th of July 1914 a war broke out which involved Europe’s biggest countries including Britain, France and Germany. They were all involved some way or another due to them being connected which ended up with several reasons why the war started and why these countries got involved. The reasons I’m going to discuss are the alliance system, the Military Rivalry, War Plans, the Colonial Rivalry and Nationalism and show you how they connected.

Alliance System

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In Triple Alliance also known as the central powers were made up of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. Each country promised to support each other if any of these countries got attacked by great powers such as France and Britain.

In 1870 France lost the Franco-Prussian war which meant France lost Alsace Lorraine which made them upset. They wanted to protect this land so they created an alliance with Austria Hungary. Germany wanted a bigger navy and a bigger empire and thought this would get them this.

Austria-Hungary was made up of different states, different cultures and languages which made it hard to rule. Many of the stated wanted to be independent including the Czechs and the most powerful state, the Serbs. The Serbs wanted to join a neighbouring country, Serbia. Russia supported the Serbs and wanted them to be independent.

Italy was also made of small states. There main concern was getting its government established. Like other European countries Italy wanted to set up colonies and build up an overseas empire. In this in mind Italy joined Germany and Austria-Hungary in the Triple Alliance.

There rivalry alliance was the Triple Entente. Entente in French means agreement. The countries that were part of the Triple Entente are Great Britain, France and Russia.

For a while Britain didn’t bother with European politics therefore they spent a period in isolation. In the 19th Century they started to feel threatened by Russia and France. In 1904 they signed an agreement with France over North Africa and in 1907 Britain became allies with Russia. This made Germany worried.

In 1870 France lost Alsace-Lorraine to Germany in the Franco-Prussian. They were friend with Russia. They wanted there land back and wanted to protect itself from Germany.

Russia was the largest country of all the allies. They were largely agricultural. They were rivals with Austria-Hungary. After a war with Japan in 1904 they realised they needed to build up a strong army.

Military Rivalry

Warships were being developed by both alliances. At the time Britain had the largest navy in the world. Germany started increasing their navy which created suspicion. Britain wondered why they needed it as Germany didn’t have a big empire to protect. Germany wanted to protect their growing trade. Germany and Britain started building up there nave. Both sides wanted a rotating gun, armour plating and an improved engine. They started making ships called dreadnought which had all these features. During 1906 and 1914 Britain built 29 and Germany built 17. This built up the tension between these two countries.

On land countries started building up there armies. Most countries remained stable apart from Germany who increased there army incredibly. In 1900 their army had a capacity of 0.5 million and in 1914 they had an army of 1.5 million. Kaiser Wilhelm II glorified war and militarism.

This increased the suspicion between them and there was more tension. Many countries thought a war was bound to happen so they began to make detailed plans for what to do if it happened. This created more suspicion.

Plans for War

As the tension increased between the countries started making plans for more. The Germans created the Schlieffen plan, the French created Plan 17 and the Brits relied on the B.E.F

The Germans thought a war had to happen and they wanted to defeat France and then Russia. They created the Schlieffen plan. It was to move through Belgium, get behind France and towards Paris using the element of surprise. They thought Russia would be slow to attack them. Austria-Hungary relied on the Schlieffen Plan and thought Russia would be defeated. The Schlieffen plan relied on speed so if it was delayed it would have lead to failure.

Russia was badly equipped but they had a huge army. They relied on having a bigger army to overwhelm the Germans.

France created something called plan 17. It was to capture Alsace Lorraine which they lost to the Germans. They had a well equipped army. Plan 17 was to not wait for the Germans to attack and attack Germany in their own land. It was similar to the Schlieffen Plan.

The British had the B.E.F. It stood for the British Expeditionary Force. There plan was to send 150,000 well equipped and trained men to France quickly and immediately.

Colonial Rivalry

In 1905 the French had plans to take control over Morocco. Kaiser Wilhelm II made a speech supporting the independence for Morocco. These lies made France angry. Then in 1906 there was an international conference which was help in Algeciras. Other countries ignored the views of the Germans which left Kaiser bitter and humiliated by France as France and Britain stuck together.

In 1911 France tried to take over Morocco again and said they would give Germany land in central Africa as compensation. Germany sent a gunboat called the panther to Agadir. Due to this Britain thought that Germany was trying to set up a naval. There was another conference held and Britain and France stood firm against France and Britain stood firm against Germany. France took over Morocco and gave the land to Germany as compensation. This made Germany bitter which made him feel surrounded (encirclement).

In 1908 Austria-Hungary took over the provinces Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Germans supported Austria. Serbia, the strongest stated was not prepared to risk war. Austria-Hungary thought that Germany will always back them up. Russia was determined not to back down and they started building up arms.

In 1912-13 there was a lot a local war’s. Serbia was the most powerful which made Austria-Hungary scared as Serbia was allies with Russia. By 1914 Austria were looking for an excuse to crush Serbia which lead to the trigger event.


Nationalism has two meanings. The first one is desire for independence by the people occupies by the largest power. This is the position Serbia were in. The second meaning is to regain nation greatness. France wanted to do this as Alsace-Lorraine was taken from them.

The French wanted to recover from national greatness after they lost the Franco-Prussian war in 1870 and lost Alsace-Lorraine. France was upset and humiliated and by this and wanted they wanted there land back and to regain power.

Serbia didn’t want to be apart of Austria-Hungary. They wanted to be apart of Serbia, a country which is a neighbour to them. Due to Serbia’s desire to have this lead to the trigger event.

On Sunday 28th June 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie went to Sarajevo. A terrorist group called the Black Hand wanted the Archduke dead and thought this was the ideal opportunity. Seven men were stationed on Archdukes car route ready to kill him. The first two terrorist were unable to throw their grenades. The third terrorist was called Cabrinovic. He threw his grenade which exploded under the car. The Archduke and his wife came out unhurt. Some of the crowd was hurt in the attack and had to go to hospital. Franz Ferdinand insisted on visiting the hurt in hospital. On the war to hospital the driver took a wrong turn. Realising his mistake he stopped the car and made a turn. Another terrorist called Gavrilo Princip stepped forward, firing two shots. The first hit his wife who was pregnant. She dies instantly and the second hit the Archduke in his neck. He died shortly after.

How Everything Linked Up

The assassination of Franz Ferdinand caused Austria-Hungary to start a war with Serbia. Serbia’s allies Russia would defend them and start a war with Austria-Hungary. Germany then would help Austria-Hungary which would of lead to Britain and France helping Russia. This tells us that the trigger event was linked up with the alliance system.

The colonial Rivalry linked up with the alliance system. When Germany wag humiliated it caused them to form an alliance with two of Europe’s strongest countries.

Why Did WWI Begin

People say that the war began when Franz Ferdinand was killed but I think different. I think that just made it worse. The tension rose in this rivalry when the alliances were made and from then onwards it just got worst. In my opinion if he didn’t die there would of still of been a war. The tension kept rising after the alliances were made after the countries started making war plans, and due to the Military Rivalry. I think the colonial rivalry just made it even worse as Germany got humiliated and they wanted revenge on Britain and France. Frances desire to get Alsace-Lorraine would of cause a war as they wanted it back and when Franz Ferdinand dies all these countries got dragged in due to the Alliance System.


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