World War I Unit Test- Essay Response:
The Causes of World War I
Oftentimes wars start for reasons that are not worth all the damage they cause. Such was the case with the First World
War. There is not one specific reason that World War I began, but rather an amalgamation of the forces of militarism and imperialism, nationalism and the alliance systems, and the
assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand. Indirect causes built up tension between nations for several years before one specific event sparked the outbreak of the First World War.
Militarism and imperialism were two of the first indirect causes of the war. Militarism was the political policy of investing in and strengthening a country’s army, navy and air
force. Militarists believed that a nation’s military and navy had the power to decide issues, and that the only way to guarantee peace was to prepare for war. It was also believed that a
country with a strong military would not be attacked, and that if they were attacked they would be able to defend themselves. The problem with militarism was that it led to an arms race,
creating tension among nations and instilling the temptation in countries to ‘flex their muscles’ and show off their powerful militaries. Imperialism was the extension of one’s country’s
authority over other countries or territories. In this respect, the British Empire was the envy of all others. It was said that the sun never set on the British Empire. Competition
for colonies created high levels of tension among nations. Both militarism and imperialism made countries more aggressive-minded; a stepping-stone for war.
Nationalism also inspired aggression and violence within and between countries, and the alliance systems emboldened them. Nationalists were people who were fiercely proud of their country, and
who would take any action, even resort to violence, to defend their nation, regardless of the consequences. They saw themselves as patriots, but essentially what they became was
terrorists. The nationalism they fought for went beyond patriotism and almost into the realms of obsession. The alliance systems made countries feel more protected. They felt that,
if they had allies, they would be safe in the event of war, and so countries were bolder in their political actions and movements to claim colonies than they might have been on their own. An
alliance was formed when two countries shared similar beliefs and interests, and agreed to assist one another in the event of war. The two opposing alliances during the First World War were
the Triple Alliance, consisting of Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary, and the Triple Entente, consisting of France, Britain, and Russia. Being a colony of the British Empire, Canada was
automatically a part of the Triple Entente and had to go to war when Britain did. Nationalism and the alliance systems were adding to the formula that was slowly brewing a war.
The final straw came on June 28, 1914, with the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand. While visiting Sarajevo with his wife, Sophia, both the
Arch Duke and Sophia were shot to death. The assassin, 19-year-old Gavrillo Princip, was arrested. He was found to be a member of the Serbian terrorist group called the Black
Hand. Austria-Hungary was furious, and gave Serbia and ultimatum: hand over the person responsible for ordering the assassination, or go to war. Serbia refused to comply, so on July 28,
1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. World War I was about to begin.
After several years of tension build-up among countries due to militarism, imperialism, nationalism and the alliance systems, there was finally a reason to go to war. The events that followed
Arch Duke Ferdinand’s assassination became known as the July Crisis: July 28- Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia
July 29- Russia declares war on Austria-Hungary
August 1- Germany declares war on Russia
August 3- Germany declares war on France
August 4- Britain declares war on Germany
Canada automatically entered the war when Britain declared war on Germany, in a war that would distinguish them as a nation separate from Britain. And the rest, as they say, is history.
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