The incident that “started” the first World War, as you may know, was the assassination of the Austrian crown prince, Franz Ferdinand.
But the real causes were many. Below I have stated some.
Some great powers grew weak, whilst some grew strong. This put the “Balance of Power” out of balance, essentially disrupting the European king’s reign.
The Balance of Power was disrupted in 1914 by the development of European politics, the main issues highlighted here:
- The emergence of Germany (unified in 1871) as a Great Power on the continent.
- The gradual weakening of the Ottoman Empire, which started when Greece became independent in 1830 and Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria in 1878. The term the sick man of Europe for the Ottoman Empire derived from this decay.
Also, socialist movements and their growth was a threat to the ruling elites of Germany. The aristocracy including Wilhelm II wanted to keep the growing number of industrial workers from supporting the socialist movement.
Instead, they wanted to rally the workers behind the emperor for the nationalist cause: by launching Wilhelm’s so-called “Weltpolitik” it was hoped that nationalist enthusiasm would keep the workers loyal to king and country.
Next article in the series: What makes a State?