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Causes of the wwi

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Causes of the wwi

The assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand triggered World War I. But the war had its origins in developments of the 1800's. The chief causes of World War I were (1) the rise of nationalism, (2) a build-up of military might, (3) competition for colonies, and (4) a system of military alliances.

The rise of nationalism. Europe avoided major wars in the 100 years before World War I began. Although small wars broke out, they did not involve many countries. But during the 1800's, a force swept across the continent that helped bring about the Great War. The force was nationalism--the belief that loyalty to a person's nation and its political and economic goals comes before any other public loyalty. That exaggerated form of patriotism increased the possibility of war because a nation's goals inevitably came into conflict with the goals of one or more other nations. In addition, nationalistic pride caused nations to magnify small disputes into major issues. A minor complaint could thus quickly lead to the threat of war.

During the 1800's, nationalism took hold among people who shared a common language, history, or culture. Such people began to view themselves as members of a national group, or nation. Nationalism led to the creation of two new powers--Italy and Germany--through the uniting of many small states. War had a major role in achieving national unification in Italy and Germany.

Nationalist policies gained enthusiastic support as many countries in Western Europe granted the vote to more people. The right to vote gave citizens greater interest and greater pride in national goals. As a result, parliamentary governments grew increasingly powerful.

On the other hand, nationalism weakened the eastern European empires of Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Ottoman Turkey. Those empires ruled many national groups that clamored for independence. Conflicts among national groups were especially explosive in the Balkans--the states on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. The peninsula was known as the Powder Keg of Europe because tensions there threatened to ignite a major war. Most of the Balkans had been part of the Ottoman Empire. First Greece and then Montenegro, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania won independence in the period from 1821 to 1913. Each state quarreled with neighbors over boundaries. Austria-Hungary and Russia also took advantage of the Ottoman Empire's weakness to increase their influence in the Balkans.

Rivalry for control of the Balkans added to the tensions that erupted into World War I. Serbia led a movement to unite the region's Slavs. Russia, the most powerful Slavic country, supported Serbia. But Austria-Hungary feared Slavic nationalism, which stirred unrest in its empire. Millions of Slavs lived under Austria-Hungary's rule. In 1908, Austria-Hungary greatly angered Serbia by adding the Balkan territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina to its empire. Serbia wanted control of this area because many Serbs lived there.

A build-up of military might occurred among European countries before World War I broke out. Nationalism encouraged public support for military build-ups and for a country's use of force to achieve its goals. By the late 1800's, Germany had the best-trained army in the world. It relied on a military draft of all able-bodied young men to increase the size and strength of its peacetime army. Other European countries followed Germany's lead and expanded their standing armies.

At first, Britain remained unconcerned about Germany's military build-up. Britain, an island country, relied on its navy for defense--and it had the world's strongest navy. But in 1898, Germany began to develop a naval force big enough to challenge the British navy. Germany's decision to become a major seapower made it a bitter enemy of Great Britain. In 1906, the British navy launched the Dreadnought, the first modern battleship. The heavily armed Dreadnought had greater firepower than any other ship of its time. Germany rushed to construct ships like it.

Advances in technology--the tools, materials, and techniques of industrialization--increased the destructive power of military forces. Machine guns and other new arms fired more accurately and more rapidly than earlier weapons. Steamships and railroads could speed the movement of troops and supplies. By the end of the 1800's, technology enabled countries to fight longer wars and bear greater losses ...

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