Background to World War One

Background to World War One

The long term causes of World One began at the end of the 19th century. The background to the conflict features alliances,  German naval expansion, the Bosnian Crisis and imperialist ambitions. These issues turned Europe into a ‘powder keg’, which was then ignited by the assassination of Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo.

1882 In May Austria-Hungry, Italy and Germany signed the Triple Alliance. This document that promised they would give each other military support in case of a war.
1883 In October, Romania made a secret treaty with the Triple Alliance which meant that Romania would be obliged to go to war if the Austro-Hungarian Empire was attacked.
1890 Germany refused to renew Russia’s Reinsurance Treaty. This was a defensive alliance whereby Germany promised to stay neutral if Russia was attacked by Austria and Russia would stay neutral if France attacked Germany.
1894 Franco-Russian Alliance signed between France and Russia. This became one of the basic European alignments of the pre-World War I era.
1896 Kaiser Wilhelm II telegrammed Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger, president of the Transvaal Republic, to congratulate him on suppressing a sortie by 600 British irregulars from Cape Colony. Wilhelm’s response heightened tensions between Germany and Britain.

In March, Germany introduced its first Naval Law to aid the expansion of the German Navy.

In March and April talks broke down between Germany and Britain on how to best resist Russian expansion in the Far East

1899 In May and June the First Hague Peace Conference took place, but it failed to meet its primary objective - limitations on armaments.
1900 In June Germany introduced its second Naval Law
1901 Between 1898 and 1901 there were three rounds of British-German talks about a possible alliance. Britain decided not to join the Triple Alliance, broke off the negotiations with Berlin, and revived the idea of a British-French alliance.
1902 In January, Japan and Britain signed a defensive alliance.
1904 In April, France and Britain signed the 'Entente Cordiale - a series of agreements signed on 8 April 1904 between the United Kingdom and France, marking the start of the aliiance against Germany and Austria-Hungary.
1905 After nine years of planning, Germany finalised the Schlieffen Plan. It outlined a strategy for an attack on France through Belgium.
1906 The first Morocco Crisis was settled by the Algeciras Conference

From June to October the second Hague Peace Conference took place. But hopes of disarmament were dashed when Germany rejected the plan.

In July, The Triple Alliance was renewed for another six years

Britain and Russia signed an agreement called the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907

1908 The Bosnian Crisis erupted in October following Austra-Hungary's annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. This fueled Serbian nationalism and is considered one cause of World War One.
1911 The Agadir Crisis is peacefully resolved by France and Germany

In Febuary Haldane launched a mission to quell the friction between Britain and Germany. However, it failed when Germany announced the expansion to their navy program.

In March, Germany introduced its third Naval Law


In June, Germany brought in a new taz in order to finance an expansion of its army.

In August, as tensions rose across Europe, the French government in creased its military service from two to three years.

The treaty of Constantinople, ended the Second Balkan War


On 29 June, Franz Ferdinand and his wife were killed in Sarajevo. This event triggered a chain of events that would lead to the outbreak of war.

On 23 July, Austria-Hungary issued Serbia with an ultimatum in response to the assassination.

On 24 July, the Russians pledged their support to Serbia in a conflict against Austria-Hungary

Austria-Hungary was eager for an excuse to go to war with Serbia and refused to accept Serbia's reply to its ultimatum. On 25 July it ordered mobilisation against Serbia.

On 28 July, Austria'HUngary declared war on Serbia.

On 30 July, Russia began a general mobilisation.

On 31 July Germany presented Russia with an ultimatum, demanding that she stop all movement of military on the border between Russia and Germany.

In London the news sparked a financial crisis and the Stock Exchange closed.

Having received no reply, Germany declared war on Russia on 1 August.

On 3 August, Germany invaded Belgium and declared war on France.

On 4 August, Britain declared war on Germany.

On 6 August, Serbia declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia.

MLA Citation/Reference

"Background to World War One". 2023. Web.