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Notes on the IB History First World War




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First World War
Growth of Nationalism (1850-1914)
What is a nation? What are the benefits belonging to a nation?
Before 1860, Europe composed of ‘states’ loosely tied together by political organizations or empires (Ottoman,
Romanov, Hapsburg Empires)
These states were ‘non-national’
2 major exceptions – Britain and France
The idea of ‘nationalism’ grew out of a history of European revolutions and wars
People/states began to identify with one another based on common language, history, religion or ethnicity
Russian, Ottoman, and Austrian Empires were weakening; more and more nations declared independence (example –
Romania, Greece and Serbia)
1859-1870, ‘Italian’ states became unified into nation of Italy
1866-1871 saw the unification of Germany (Prussian and German states)
1867 ‘Dual Monarchy’ created between Austria and Hungary
Advantages – economic, political and strategic/military
1870-1871 Franco- Prussian War – France loses Alsace-Lorraine to Germany
Emergence of unified, nationalistic “German Empire” by 1871
Benefits of strong sense of nationalism – unity of the people, feeling of belonging
Disadvantages – people make irrational decisions, hate and fear of other nations, the Cold War
Germany being created was a problem in Europe – there was a power struggle and it was a political/economic/military
powerhouse – Britain and France did not want to lose their power especially since Britain owned 25% of world’s
countries in the 19
century and France feared Germany as a result of the Franco-Prussian war
EMPIRE – advantages included trade, resources, manufactured goods traded for resources (economic), power,
influence in world affairs, man power, supremacy, social Darwinism. Disadvantages included conflict as colonies
fight for independence, unfair class system, it’s costly and requires military and financial resources to maintain
Origins of World War I
The Spark/Short-term cause
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the immediate cause of the war
The legacy of the empire had fallen to Francis Ferdinand, who was dull and stubborn – he was Inspector General of
the Armed Forces so he proposed to review the troops on summer maneuvers and then take a tour of Sarajevo
There was a warning beforehand that an assassination attempt might be made but it was completely ignored by the
authorities – a Serbian terrorist organization named the Black Hand had sent trained teenagers into Bosnia with orders
to kill and it seemed that the Serbian government officially knew nothing about it but knew there was talk
The warning to the Austrian government had been delivered by the Serbian ambassador in Vienna but his unpopularity
accounted for skepticism with which it was received
On the morning of June 28 Ferdinand and his wife went to Sarajevo – the first of the Black Hands threw a bomb at
them but Ferdinand deflected it with his arm, and they passed four other would be assassins before reaching the town
hall – the chauffeur, after the speech, took a wrong turn and then tried to turn the car around, right in front of Gavrilo
Princip who fired two shots and killed them both
Many Austrians thought they were better off without Franz Ferdinand but the next leader, Chief of Austrian General
Staff Franz Conrad von Hotzendorf, wanted war with Serbia that would solve all Austria’s problems – he planned a
short war thinking Russia would not fight and in the ultimatum that was issued to Serbia, he knew Serbian sovereignty
would be practically destroyed so they did not accept all the terms
Nationalism is a sense of pride for one’s own nation or state, implies a sense of superiority
A nation is a collective group of people that share the same culture, religion, language, traditions/ideology, history
There can be nationalism of people without a country (Balkans and wish for Pan-Slavic state)
Nationalism especially strong in the Balkans – Serbia gained independence from Ottoman Empire in 1878
The major European powers allowed Austria-Hungary to occupy Bosnia and Herzegovina despite the fact that they
were still legally part of the Ottoman Empire
Serbia was outraged by Austria’s annexation of the provinces in 1908 so it made threats and appealed to Russia for
help – Germany promised Austria its backing and sent Russians a note demanding tsarist government to recognize
annexation and not support Serbia in the matter so Russia yielded and Serbia also acknowledged the annexation

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Serbia also promised to cease activities that were hostile to Austria but despite this, new nationalistic societies
appeared such as the group called ‘Unity or Death’, commonly referred to as the ‘Black Hand’, which encouraged
ethnic Serbs in areas like Bosnia to work for unification with Serbia
It helped to smuggle men, guns, and propaganda to sympathetic individuals outside Serbian borders and it was led by
the chief of intelligence of the Serbian army and organized Princip’s deed of killing the archduke of Austria
The nationalism displayed by other countries widened the crisis – Kaiser Wilhelm II and segments of German public
believed in the superiority of the German nation and culture and some Germans dreamed of uniting all Germans in a
Pan-German state
There were also Russian Pan-Slavists who wanted to politically unite with Russia the many Orthodox Slavs who
populated the Balkans
As the control of the Ottoman Empire in Balkans weakened, Russia lost influence it once had in Bulgaria and, along
with Serbia, suffered a diplomatic defeat when Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina
There was also a rise in French nationalism – there was an anti-German sentiment in late 1913 in French town of
Alsace-Lorraine, which was German territory as a result of the Franco-Prussian war
Raymond Poincare had watched this land be taken when he was young and, later becoming the president of France in
1913, he played an active role in leading France into war with Germany in 1914
German historian Fritz Fischer wrote about German imperialist aims in Europe, Africa, and the Near East and
identified them as the chief cause of war
Imperialistic rivalries stimulated hostile feelings between some of the major European powers
Can be seen in First Moroccan Crisis of 1905 – in 1904 Britain and France had the Entente Cordiale, which was an
understanding concerning their overseas spheres of influence and Britain recognized France’s desire to control
Morocco – Germany disliked the Entente and the relationship between Britain and France so in 1905 Kaiser Wilhelm
II landed at Tangier in Morocco and recognized Morocco as independent of French control
British were alarmed by German intervention, and the continuing German naval build-up, that they moved closer to
France – Great Britain’s foreign minister, Sir Edward Grey, authorized normal military conversations with the French
and the French people began to believe that Great Britain would back France in case of a war with Germany
The Moroccan Crisis also brought about the Anglo-Russian Entente in 1907 and it was a settlement over spheres of
influence in Persia, Afghanistan and Tibet - it brought Great Britain closer to Russia, France’s ally
In 1914, Germany’s uncompromised support of Austria-Hungary reflected its fear of losing its only real ally
European nations expanded their military forces in the years immediately before 1914 – by 1914 Germany and France
had each assembled standing armies of 800,000 men, with millions more in reserves
About 1.2 million Russians were under arms, but Russian army was inferior in equipment, training and leadership
By 1905 British had begun constructing a new battleship, the Dreadnought, and Germany responded with increased
naval expenditure and from 1900 to 1911 German naval spending nearly tripled
This didn’t increase the security of either side – it heightened the hostility and mistrust existing among nations
There were also the failure of the peace conferences of 1899 and 1907 – most government leaders were more
concerned with keeping up in the arms race and maintaining national sovereignty than achieving disarmament
In this militaristic era, the plans and advice of military leaders played an influential role in government decisions
Germany chose war in 1914 partly because it feared that if it waited, Russia’s rearmament program would make
Russia much stronger – Germany’s Schlieffen Plan was a key factor in the peace options and war plans of several
nations; in the plan, the German general staff assumed that in a two front war with France and Russia, Germany could
not defeat both simultaneously so Germany had to rid of French threat first by an invasion through Belgium, while
holding off slowly mobilizing Russians, and then after defeating France Germany would concentrate on the Russians
in the east
For this plan to work, the German military couldn’t give the Russians a head start in mobilizing their forces
Russia, on the other hand, had to divert German forces to Russian front before France could be defeated
Other nations had their own military plans that demanded time for mobilization and deployment of troops
Military considerations afforded diplomacy little time to reach a peaceful settlement
The Schlieffen Plan, which required the invasion of neutral Belgium, was also likely to bring Great Britain into war
because it wanted Belgium free from any control
There was still the belief that war could be more beneficial than harmful, especially if it were short
Militarism produced hostility, urgency and mistrust and this made alliances necessary

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Alliance System
The two European alliance systems were the mechanisms that transformed a local conflict into WWI
Austria had to ensure that Russia would not aid Serbia, and had to ensure German backing against Russia just in case
– Germany granted a ‘Blank cheque’, almost unconditional backing, to Austria in early July so Austria sent an
ultimatum to Serbia on July 23, demanding an end to anti-Austrian organizations and propaganda, removal of officers
and officials accused by Austria of being hostile, and suppression of any movements directed against Austria
Serbia was given forty-eight hours to reply
Serbia was aware that Russia would back Serbia in case of hostilities – Russia supported Serbia because it did not
wish to lose further influence in the Balkans to Austria-Hungary and if Austria were allowed to crush Serbia, either
diplomatically or militarily, Russia’s hopes in Balkans would be smashed
On July 25 Russian government approved preliminary military preparations, hoping to frighten Austria into a
compromise and Russia wanted to be prepared in case of war
Tsarist government had also become increasingly troubled about growing German influence in the Ottoman Empire so
some Russian officials perceived the demands placed of Serbia as part of a united effort by Austria and Germany to
strengthen the Germanic influence in certain areas
Serbia did not accept all of Austria’s demands and Austria would recognize nothing less than unconditional
acceptance so on July 28 Austria declared war on Serbia and bombarded Belgrade, Serbian capital
France had been giving support to Russian government and didn’t wish to be isolated again in struggle with Germany
– they also had hope that they would reacquire lost provinces of Alsace Lorraine
On July 30 Russia decided on general mobilization of its troops, encouraged by the French who knew of the general
threat of the Schlieffen Plan
On July 31, Germany sent an ultimatum with twelve-hour limit demanding Russia end its war preparations along
German frontier and Germany then asked what France’s position would be in case of a war and France replied the
next day that it would consult its own interests and France ordered mobilization that day along with Germany
Germany declared war on Russia and two days later on France, then directed its attack through neutral Belgium
Great Britain had already been moving toward support of France and the British cabinet had voted to give assurance
to the French that the British navy would protect the French coats and shipping against any German attack
The neutrality of Belgium was considered essential to British interest since the Treaty of London in 1839 so on
August 4 Great Britain declared war on Germany
The fear of being left without an ally ensured such a widespread war
None of the nations that went to war in 1914 had done all they might have done to prevent the conflict from occurring
Thus the Triple Entente was Britain, France and Russia (and Serbia) and the Triple Alliance was Austria-Hungary,
Germany and later Italy
The Austrians thought it would be a short and local war and Germany and Russia also miscalculated
Important Dates at Start of War
June 28 1914 – Francis Ferdinand and wife assassinated
July 5 1914 – Austrian Ambassador approached Germans and had an interview with Kaiser, who casually said that
Germany would stand by Austria in any circumstance – blank cheque
July 20 – Austrian Cabinet produce ultimatum to Serbia and were ready for war
July 23 – response to assassination was at last made public and the ultimatum to Serbia was sent, with 48 hour time
July 24 – Russian Cabinet decided that they must not allow Serbia to be attacked and annexed by Austria
July 25 – Austrian government assured Russians that it would not annex Serbian territory. Russian government
decided to go to war if Austria attacked Serbia and French government assured Russia of its support
July 26 – foreign Secretary of Britain, Sir Edward Grey, proposed general conference to deal with Balkan matters and
France and Russia agreed but Austria and Germany did not
July 27 – French issued stand-by mobilization orders and Royal Navy not allowed disbanding. Britain promised
French full diplomatic support but not yet military support because their interests are not directly challenged yet
July 28 – Austria declared war on Serbia
July 29 – Austria bombarded Belgrade, Serbia
July 30 – Tsar of Russia orders general mobilization
July 31 – Germany responds to Russia’s mobilization with 12hour ultimatum and refused to keep Belgium neutral.
Austria declares general mobilization.

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