Causes of WWI


The causes of the First World War



·      Franco-Prussian War (1870-71)

·      France was at disadvantage - weaker

o   lost

o   terms: Germany took Alsace & Lorraine (iron ore, agriculture)

·      led to the unification of Germany! - now a major power

·      Bismarck (first German Chancellor)

·      Germany was heavily industrialized - dominant in Europe

·      goal: to isolate France


·     between Austria-Hungary (option to expand into the South - 43% Slavs), Germany and Russia (wanted control over Balkans, Dardanelle Straits - passage to Black Seas, same ethnicity)


·      defensive alliance between Austria-Hungary and Germany

·      if Russia attacks A-H (since both were interested in the Balkans), Germany would help A-H

·      if anyone attacks Germany, A-H would not help the attacker


·      after France took Tunis from Italy in 1881

·      Italy joined the Dual Alliance

REINSURANCE TREATY (1887) - Not renewed after 3 years! (under Wilhelm II)

·      between Germany and Russia, against France and A-H

·      Russia would remain neutral if Germany did not attack France directly

·      Russia would remain neutral if France attacked Germany

·      if Russia attacked A-H, Germany would intervene

·      but if A-H attacked Russia, Germany would not intervene


·      Wilhelm II becomes Kaiser in 1888

o   dismisses Bismarck

o   introduces Weltpolitik - extend and expand Germany's power!

o   aims to increase the Navy

o   introduced a plan for "Mittelafrika"


·      defensive pact between France and Russia

·      if France is attacked by Germany/Italy, Russia would help

·      if Russia is attacked by Germany/A-H, France would help

·      Britain - "splendid isolation"

o   had colonies and a large navy as protection


·      not a military agreement between Britain and France

·      but they agreed on spheres of influence

o   France - Morocco, Central Africa

o   Britain - Egypt, West Africa

·      surprising, because they had been longstanding enemies!


·      Japanese Russian war ended in 1905

o   showed Russian military deficiencies, but Britain still wanted another ally against Germany

o   both countries feared Germany


All countries were showing signs of prepping for war!

·      Germany

o   Schlieffen Plan (- attack France through Belgium in 6 weeks)

o   increased army by 170,000 to 791,000 in 1913

§  Army Size: 4,200,000 (BUT best army)



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