The first global war broke out on 28th July 1914, when Austria - Hungary declared war on Serbia. Soon all the European countries found themselves joining this war.

Germany sided with Austria - Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria and Serbia allied with Russia, Britain, USA and France.

Despite the fact that this was primarily a European war, people in East Africa found themselves joining in on the side of the colonizing powers.

The causes of the First World War are so complex and intertwined that no single factor can be held absolutely responsible for this catastrophic event. Even the Sarajevo double murder that sparked off the war was itself a result of accumulated tension that had piled up in Europe for a long time. If s therefore logical that the causes of the war be traced from events that created such tensions and made the outbreak of the war inevitable be examined.


After the Franco-Prussian war, Bismarck started the alliance system to isolate France and make it difficult for her to wage a successful war of revenge against Germany. During his lifetime, France was effectively isolated and the Alliance system became an instrument of peace in Europe. However, after his resignation (1890) the alliance system and European peace were left in the hands of young, inexperienced and aggressive men like Kaiser William 11 which drove Germany and the world to the First World War. A number of scholars have asserted that alliance system was primarily responsible for the outbreak of the First World War. Byl914, alliance system had divided Europe into two hostile and antagonistic camps.

The two camps were the German centered triple alliance (1882) that had Austria - Hungary and Italy and the Triple entente (1907), which comprised of Britain, France, Russia and Japan as the main allies. These contributed to the catastrophe of 1914 in a number of ways.

i) It grouped the major world powers into two hostile and antagonistic camps that became fighting camps.

By 1914 there was intensive hatred, jealousy, fear and rivalry between the two camps, which climaxed in the Sarajevo assassination to spark the war.

ii) Without the alliance system, the Sarajevo incident would have remained a localised conflict between Austria and Serbia. But Sarajevo was the only place where the triple alliance and triple entente collided with all their resources, emotions and hostilities. For instance, the triple alliance made Germany to declare war on Russia and France instead of Serbia. This amplified the Austro-Serbian conflict in to a global war.

iii) The dual alliance of 1879 and triple alliance of 1882 tied Germany to Austria. This explains why Germany supported Austria which support made Austria to declare war on Serbia sparking off the bloody war of1914 - 1918. It also prompted Germany to declare war on Russia and France who were members of the triple entente. If the triple alliance had not bonded Germany to Austria and antagonized Britain and France from Germany, Germany would have found it difficult to act the way she did and the First World War would have been avoided.

iv) Bismarck's biasness against Russia in the 1878 Berlin congress forced Russia to ally with France in the Franco-Russian alliance of 1894. It was a diplomatic and defensive alliance directed against Germany and to some extent Austria-Hungary and Italy. It worsened the already bad relationship between Germany and Russia. This is what forced Germany to declare war on both Russia and France. Otherwise, Russia's mobilization after the Sarajevo assassination targeted Germany more than Austria.

v) In 1904, France moved closer to Britain and formed the Dual Entente. In 1907 Russia was admitted into the entente and this gave rise to the triple entente, which ended France's isolation in Europe and offered her an opportunity and confidence to revenge against her long time foe (enemy)- Germany. It's for this that France declined to be neutral in the Austro-Serbian conflict, which forced Germany to declare war on her.

NB. Before declaring war on France, Kaiser William II demanded France to clarify whether she would be neutral in the Austro-Serbian conflict but France declined to comment, a clear indication that she was not ready to be a spectator in the Austro-Serbian conflict.

vi) The Anglo-Franco entente and triple entente certainly determined the direction of British policy up to the r-mat War. That Britain allied with France in 1914 was not necessarily because of German's invasion and therefore a violation of Belgian's neutrality, British policy was shaped in 1904 and consolidated in 1907. AcSallf'by'3'^'AuguS^'l5^ when Germany invaded Poland, the entente had matured to exercise enough British influence in favour of France's security.

NB. One can therefore safely argue that however peaceful Europe seemed to be, the alliance system partitioned her into two hostile, aggressive, suspicious but confidently armed camps making it impossible to localize a conflict like that of Austria and Serbia.

vii) The alliance system gave the necessary courage and strength to the small and otherwise fearful states to provoke war. This is true of Austria and Serbia. Assured of support from other camp members, Austria and Serbia became very reckless and aggressive in dealing with the Balkan affairs. Russia's backing (support) to Serbia is what made her to sponsor the Sarajevo assassination and defy Austria's ultimatum.

Otherwise, there was no way a 'tiny' state like Serbia could remain defiant to Austria in such a high profile case. On the other hand, if Austria-Hungary had not been assured of Germany's support, she would not have issued the high sounding ultimatum and risk war against Serbia because this would mean fighting Russia as well.

viii) Furthermore, the alliance system gave reinforcement to imperialism, which worsened the already dangerous situation in Europe. It bailed France out of isolation and counting on the backing of her allies, she started dreaming of re-possessing Alsace and Lorraine. Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Britain pursued their imperialistic ambitions without fear. This created more tension in Europe that led to war

ix) To maintain the defensive terms of the various alliances, each camp had to increase her military might to the highest level. This became more urgent because the alliance system had created mutual fear, hatred and hostility between the two antagonistic camps. This led to military and naval race with a common view that none of the camps should be left behind and this drove Europe to the disastrous war of 1914- 1918.

However, although the alliance system contributed to a large extent towards the outbreak of the First World War, nevertheless, its role should not be over exaggerated. In the first place it did not accurately determine the fighting camp. For instance, Italy that was a member of the triple alliance fought on the camp of the triple entente.

Secondly, states like U.S.A, Turkey and Bulgaria that were none members of any of the alliances also participated in the war. Definitely, this was due to other factors other than alliance system.

Thirdly, the inconsistent nature of alliance system becomes clear especially that Britain concluded an alliance with Japan in 1902, in which she promised to support Japan if France and Russia declared war on her yet in 1914 the three powers fought on the same side. Italy signed treaties with almost all the continental powers. This reduced alliance system to mere Jokes.

Fourthly, the creation of alliances and counter alliances was made possible because of international misunderstanding arising from nationalism and imperialism. For instance, Bismarck was able to hook Italy into the triple alliance (1882) only because she was thrown out of Tunisia by France. The 1902 Anglo- Japanese alliance was set against Russia largely for imperial interest in the Far East. This therefore shows that other factors were instrumental in the outbreak ofthe war.


a) Naval race

Arms race was started by Kaiser William II in an attempt to challenge British naval superiority and make Germany both a land and sea power. He made this clear in 1890 when he said; our future lies on water.

This was affected by modernizing and updating weapons and tactics at sea. Sea cruisers, destroyers and sub marines. In her effort to maintain her status as a water rat/sea power, Britain built the first all-big-gun turbine driven battle ship which she called dreadnoughts. She calculated that it would take the Germans some years to use dreadnoughts effectively since they would first have to enlarge the Kiel Canal. Germany reacted faster than Britain had thought by expanding die Kiel Canal so that her forces would easily enter the Adriatic Sea in case of war. She concentrated on building dreadnoughts and by 1913; Germany had 9 dreadnoughts while Britain had 18. At the apex of 1914 Germany had 13 dreadnoughts compared to 20 for

Britain. Naval armaments were equally on a very scaring scale in France, Austria-Hungary, Italy,

Turkey etc. These were preparations for war in advance which opportunity came through the Sarajevo double murder.

That Britain entered the war under the pretext of protecting the neutrality of Belgium yet she wanted to protect her naval base against Germany's advance is a clear testimony that naval race made valuable contribution to the deadly war of 1914 - 1918.

b) Military race

By 1914, naval race had extended to military race, which increased the means as well as the spirit of violence. Huge chunks of money were spent on the production of deadly weapons for land and air raids.

These included short, medium and long-range artilleries, machine guns, tanks, poisonous gas and fighter planes. Germany in particular trained and enlarged her army to the highest degree of efficiency while France, Russia and Britain increased periods of training and conscription. The deadly weapons were not flowers for decoration but instruments of war which had to be tested and the need to test these weapons is what made the outbreak of war in 1914 a reality.

The increasing level of armaments created universal fear, suspicion and hatred amongst the two antagonistic camps. Indeed it strengthened the alliances and increased hostility between camps. What has to be emphasized is that the powers fought with arms than treaties (alliances).

Arms race increased recklessness and created more tension and conflicts as European powers pursued their national and imperialistic ambitions. This brought in colonial conflicts that worsened the already bad relations between European powers leading to the outbreak of war in 1914.

The deadly weapons created gave confidence of victory in an event of war. This made public opinion in Europe to blindly fall in love with war. For instance, the British public opinion was in favour of war with Germany to destroy her fleet and protect British naval supremacy. The Germans on the other hand wanted war in order to prove to mankind their superiority over other races. Indeed, Germany declared war on Russia and France partly because German public opinion wanted a swift action.

Arms race played a big role in the Sarajevo incident that became the immediate factor in the war. In the first instance, the sophisticated weapon Serbia had is what was utilized by Princip to murder Franz Ferdinand and his wife. The dangerous weapons Austria had in comparison to Serbia is what made Austria to declare war on Serbia. Even Germany declared war on Russia and France because she assumed that she had the best army-and Navy. Otherwise, had it not been because of the sophisticated weapons European powers possessed, Ferdinand could have not lost his life, Austria and Germany would not have gone on rampage declaring war, Britain would not have entered war and the First World War would have been avoided.

NB. In 1899, Tsar Nicholas 11 called the Hague conference whose priority was to arrest arms race between the great powers. Germany took the lead in opposing such a noble idea viewing it as Nicholas IPs trick to save the economically backward Russia from matching the military expenditures of Germany and Austria.

At the second Hague conference, Germany still took the lead against British naval proposal, regarding it as a plan to keep her inferior at sea. When in 1913 Sir Winston Churchill called for a naval holiday, the same Germany refused. However to Britain, a strong navy was a necessity for her and a luxury for Germany.

Britain considered Germany's building a strong navy as a move to destroy her. This partly explains why Britain declared war on Germany merely over the question of violating Belgium's neutrality.

c) Militarism

The political Landscape of Europe prior to 1914 was highly militaristic. War was seen as a divine element of the universe and a condition for progress. The role of politicians was hijacked by a powerful class of military and naval officers' whose decisions were final in foreign as well as domestic affairs. They intensified conscription to a level in conducive to world peace. For example Germany and France could raise 3½ million soldiers each while Russia could raise 4 million, Britain could raise a smaller but more efficient army. All resources were diverted towards defense. These made war inevitable because the well armed huge standing armies and reserve forces could not be left bored without war. Moreover, those who advocated for war received wide reception while those who stood for peace were condemned.

However, the year 1914 was not the first time Europe was experiencing arms race. It started much earlier and if it was so important then World War I should not have waited until 1914. Even if the weapons made prior to Sarajevo incident were more sophisticated, this should have been a warning to those who wanted war not to risk. This gives room for an analysis of other factors.


The role played by the mass media cannot be underrated as a cause of the 1914 - 1918 disastrous war.

Radio presenters and journalists because of the need to amass wealth over exaggerated the suspicion, fear and international tension between the big powers. For instance, the London Times poisoned the British public opinion against the Germans and radio presenters caused more fear and panic after the Sarajevo double murder which created public outcry for war. This forced European powers to strengthen alliances and mobilize for war as Russia did.

NB. Before the outbreak of World War in 1914, there was already a newspaper war which acted as a curtain raiser to World War 1. The newspapers of two different countries often took up some point of dispute, exaggerated it and made attacks and counter attacks until a regular newspaper war was created.

Bismarck had earlier foreseen this when he lamented that; every country is held at some time to account for the windows broken by its press; the bill is presented some day in the shape of hostile sentiment in the other.


i) After 1871, European powers went on rampage to acquire territories in Africa, Europe and the Balkans.

By 1906, areas for peaceful expansion was already exhausted and further conquest could only be made by dispossessing or displacing someone from somewhere. This laid foundation for tension, mistrust and suspicion that spoilt diplomatic relations amongst the imperialists leading to the Great War. For instance, France was bitter over Germany's conquest of Togo and Cameroon. Britain was hurt by Germany's presence in South Africa and her conquest of Namibia while Germany was irked by Britain's conquest of Uganda. Poor relation between Germany and Britain was portrayed by Kaiser William II's congratulatory message to Paul Krugger of Transvaal upon his success in repulsing the Jameson raid of 1896. Germany, France, Britain and Italy also conflicted over Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and Congo.

ii) It should be noted that Germany declared war on France partly because of tension created between her and France during the scramble and partition of Africa and Asia. Britain also declared war on Germany partly due to poor diplomatic relations cultivated in the era of European conquest in Africa and Asia.

Indeed, Britain was not prepared to give up her colonies, protectorates, spheres of influence and markets to Germany. As Germany was bent on getting them at any price, Britain had to act faster and declare war on Germany.

iii) Outside Africa, Germany's commercial rivalry and strength was a disturbing factor to Japan, Britain and Russia in the Far East and the pacific. Russian imperialism was a formidable threat to Germany and Austrian imperialistic interests in the Balkans. This explains why Russia mobilized in support of Serbia (where she had influence) against Austria after the Sarajevo incident. Russian imperialistic designs in Serbia threatened Austrian control and forced her to declare war on Serbia to crush her nationalism.

Equally so, Germany had to declare war on Russia because Russian imperialism was equally a scaring factor to her influence in the Balkans.

iv) One can therefore safely argue that Germany's support of Austria Hungary against Serbia and Russia’s backing of Serbia were imperialistically motivated. This is why Lenin argues that; the war of1914 -1918 was imperialistic the part of both sides, it was a war for the division of the world, for the partition and repartition of colonies and spheres of influence. One has to emphasis that it was Austrian imperialism that clashed with Serbian nationalism to spark off the war in 1914. Had it not been because of the need to pursue Austrian's imperialistic interest in Bosnia, France Ferdinand and his wife would not have traveled to Sarajevo. The assassination would not have occurred and the First World War would have not broken off at least in 1914.

v) The constant confrontations over colonies in different parts of the world made the imperialists to resort to the manufacture of sophisticated weapons for conquest and consolidation of their rule. The possibility of war amongst European powers over colonies also created more need for deadly weapons. This brought in arms race and militarism that made the outbreak of war in 1914 inevitable.

vi) To some extent, imperialism contributed to alliance system, which is a cardinal factor in World War I.

The Anglo-Japanese alliance (1902) was against Russia largely for imperial interest in the Far East.

Bismarck was able to form the triple alliance in 1882 (by admitting Italy in the Dual Alliance of Austria and Germany which became triple alliance) only because Italy was frustrated by the French occupation of Tunisia (1881).

Nevertheless, the fact that Italy and France fought on the same side shows that colonial disputes due to imperialism counted less in causing World War I. However this should not blind up from the fact that imperialism in the Balkans is what sparked off the war in 1914.

Again if imperialism was a serious factor, then Britain and France who were first class enemies in the colonial field would not have fought on the same front in the war. Yet other powers like Romania, USA and Bulgaria never involved themselves seriously in the struggle for colonies but participated in the war.

Suffice to note is that imperialism had existed for more than half a century without causing war until 1914.

If it was a major cause of World War I, then the war would have occurred in 1880's when colonial conflicts were at their climax.

Moreover, colonial conflicts due to imperialism was most intensive in Africa not Europe. If colonial disputes counts so much then World War I would have started from Africa and not Europe.

Lastly, by 1914 most colonial disputes had already been settled through the Berlin settlement and mutual agreements between European powers e.g. the Congo crisis was settled by the Berlin conference, Britain and France had reconciled over Fashoda and this explains why they joined hands in the war.

NB i) Colonial disputes due to imperialism delayed the formation of rival alliance but strengthened it after they were formed.

ii) The role of economic factor can as well be seen from France's revengist spirit against Germany for the loss of Alsace and Lorraine. Britain and France were flabbergasted by the Berlin-Bagdad railway because it was bound to jeopardize their economic interest in the region. Economic consideration was primary in the Congo crisis, Moroccan crisis and Austro-Serbian conflict that brought war.

However, one should guard against over estimating the role of economic considerations in sparking off the disastrous war of 1914-1918. Germany herself had more trade with Britain than any other power in Europe. Thus, if economic considerations mattered so much, then Britain would definitely not have fought her best customer in Europe (Germany). In 1906 a number of German industrialists openly complained about Kaiser William's aggressive character that was frustrating their trade. David Thomson clarifies that economic consideration were kept subordinate to political and strategic considerations.


By 1914, a number of ill-conceived nationalistic movements had sprung up in Europe. The Great Serbian movement, Pan-Slavism, Revanche movement and Jingoism bonded themselves in the triple alliance against pan Germanism. The Great Serbian movement had a divine mission of liberating Serbians including those in Bosnia and Herzegovina who were under Austrian's control. Pan-slavinism aimed at making Russia the custodian of all Slav speaking races irrespective of where they were living. The Revanche movement in France was bent on revenging against Germany because of the 1870 – 1871 humiliating Franco-Prussian war. Jingoism aimed at maintaining British naval technological advancement above other nations while Pan-Germanism or Pan German League was created to unite all German speaking nationalities in different countries. Nationalism strengthened patriotism (love for one's country) and hatred to other nations, which made the following contributions to the First World War.

i) The desire to pursue national interest made the big powers to clash with one another, which increased tension and hostility amongst the European nations. For instance, when Germany began to build a strong navy, Britain and France protested it as a threat to their national interests. These selfish national interests made it extremely difficult for international peace conferences to succeed leaving war as the only option.

ii) The need to pursue, defend and promote national interest created prestige and made European powers to be on rampage for colonies. The struggle to promote national interests in Africa and the Balkans created some economic conflicts leading to World War I. In short, nationalism contributed to imperialism.

ii) Nationalistic feelings made France obsessed with a revengist spirit against Germany. This forced Bismarck to venture into alliance system to Isolate France and avoid a French war of revenge. It's on this account that one can argue that had it not been because of the fear of French nationalism, Bismarck would not have started alliance system and the First World War would have been avoided.

v) To defend national interest and sovereignty, the big powers hastened the manufacture of deadly weapons leading to arms race and war. Nations also engaged in cut throat competition in the number of soldiers each nation could put in the battlefield, which increased militarism in Europe. Germany was in a dying need to show off and that's why she declared war on Russia and France. On the other hand, Britain, Russia and France had to defend their national interest against German aggression, which made war unavoidable

v) It was intense nationalism in Serbia that created hostility between Serbia and Austria-Hungary. The desire by Serbia to liberate all Serbians from Austria's imperialism and the attempts by Austria to tighten her control on the Serbs led to the Sarajevo assassination which sparked off the war. Actually, Princip who assassinated Ferdinand was a member of Pan-slavinism who conducted the murder just after attending an anti-Austrian meeting. The fact that the First World War broke out in the Balkans where national interests clashed most portrays the strength of nationalism in World War I. This is because the forces of Pan- Germanism and Pan slavinism conflicted most in the Balkans leading to the outbreak of war in 1914.

Serbian nationalism clashed with Austria's imperialism to spark off war in 1914. It's therefore clear that nationalism was an important factor in World War I. However, it's real significant came when it clashed with imperialism in the Balkans.

6) THE FRANCO - PRUSSIAN WAR, 1870 -1871

i) In 1815, the Vienna Settlement gave Prussia the Rhine lands to the annoyance of France. This made Prussia to be a historical enemy of France, which climaxed into the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 - 1871.

France was defeated and forced to submit to the harshest peace treaty of the 19th century (i.e. Frankfurt Treaty of 1871). In the treaty, she lost her mineralized provinces of Alsace and Lorraine that had up to 4 million Frenchmen. She also suffered a German army of occupation and was forced to pay a huge indemnity of200 million pounds. This spoilt diplomatic relations between France and Germany leaving France boiling for a war of revenge. France therefore got a heaven sent opportunity of redressing the wrongs of Prussia's victory with the outbreak of the First World War. This is what forced Germany to act faster by declaring war on France before France could do so.

ii) The Franco-Prussian war changed the balance of power. It completed the unifications of both Germany and Italy at the expense of Denmark, Austria and France. Before the war, the balance of power was in favour of France and Britain with France as a new land power. But after defeating France, Germany emerged as new land power and started challenging British naval supremacy. This forced Britain and France to ally against Germany leading to tension and the First World War.

The fear of a French war of revenge and the desire to protect and promote Germany's supremacy in European diplomacy while maintaining peace in Europe forced Bismarck to venture and start the alliance system. This sent France on a shopping spree for alliance since she could not successfully revenge against Germany single handedly. She found this in the triple alliance of 1907. The alliance system left Europe divided into two hostile and antagonistic camps, which made war inevitable. It's therefore safe to argue that if the Franco-Prussian war had not occurred, France would not have been eager for a war of revenge and consequently Bismarck would have not ventured into the alliance system hence the Austro-Serbian conflict would have remained a localized affair between Austria and Serbia.

iv) The threats of French revenge forced Bismarck to arm Germany in preparation for war. Other nations followed Germany and started priotising defense expenditures. They were encouraged by Bismarck's' policy of blood and iron through which Germany was unified from 1864 - 1871. This created arms race and strengthened militarism, which made Europe a walking bomb that exploded in 1914.

v) The war contributed to imperialism leading to colonial economic rivalry and the First World War in 1914. The loss of the mineralized regions of Alsace and Lorraine forced France to look for compensation elsewhere most especially in Africa. Bismarck tactfully encouraged her since she would forget of Alsace and Lorraine while clashing with other powers in the scramble for colonies in Africa. This also encouraged Austria to tighten her control in Serbia, which raised Serbian nationalism leading to the murder of Prince Archduke and war.

vi) The triumph of Italian and German nationalism in 1850's through the Franco-Prussian war inspired the oppressed nations to struggle for freedom using Bismarck's policy of blood and iron. Nationalistic movements like Pan-Germanism, Pan-Slavism and the Greater Serbian movement in the Balkans had a direct Xeroxing (copying) from Italian and German unification struggles from 1810 - 1871. Serbia was encouraged to challenge Austria since it was the same Austria that was defeated by Italians and Germans leading to their freedom. This made Serbia to act recklessly against Austria leading to the Sarajevo assassination and consequently the First World War.

vii) The success of Germany in the Franco-Prussian war coupled with the earlier military victories made Kaiser William 11 to believe that Germany was the mightiest (strongest) world power. It created in him a political stigma of arrogance and aggression in his efforts to preserve Germany's supremacy. This is what made him to recklessly send a blank cheque to Austria, declare war on Russia and France and violate the neutrality of Belgium. These moves by Germany amplified the Austro-Serbian conflict into the First World War.

NB. The Franco-Prussian war indirectly completed the unification of Italy and made Italy more ambitious to recover Trientino and Trieste that were inhabited by Italians but were still under Austria-Hungary's control. This is what made Italy to quit Austria's camp (Triple alliance) and join the triple entente tactfully to recover Trientino and Trieste, which she got at the Versailles peace settlement of 1919.


The role played by Kaiser William 11 of Germany was of paramount importance in the sparking of World War I. He was a bellicose (war like), arrogant and cantankerous leader who could not hide his hangover for war. In his foreign policy, he tried to intervene in each and every activity of world politics in order to make Germany a world power. He declared; ''Nothing must go on anywhere in the world in which Germany does not play apart", William was too confident and proud of himself and he proclaimed; "God has called us to civilize the world". Consequently his character and policy played a cardinal role in World War I. Germany took the greatest blame in causing World War I because of the role played by Kaiser William II. He made a number of blunders and diplomatic errors that made the outbreak of the First World War inevitable.

i) He forced Bismarck to resign leaving the world with no capable statesman who could diplomatically settle world conflicts such as the Austro-Serbian conflict, which exploded into the First World War.

ii) Kaiser William II had a very poor opinion and natural hatred towards the English people and other races. This made Britain, Russia and France to form the triple entente that ended the isolation of France.

In 1897 - 1899, Joseph chamberlain, the British colonial secretary tried to negotiate an Anglo-German agreement but this failed on both occasions due to Kaiser William's aggressive naval policy and his unfriendly attitude to Britain in the Anglo Boer war. He sent a congratulatory message to Paul Krugger for repulsing the Jameson raid in Transvaal. It should be emphasized that British allies especially France and Russia were long time enemies to her (Britain) who would not have fought against Germany if it had not been because of Kaiser William's careless and aggressive policy. All these were because Kaiser William misused Bismarckian alliance system turning it to an instrument of war rather than peace as Bismarck had done.

iii) Kaiser William further antagonized Great Britain in a speech in Damascus when he offered German leadership to all Moslems in the world. This aroused British suspicions regarding Kaiser's intentions because a large number of Moslems lived in the British Empire. It also attracted the hostility of Christian powers like France and Italy against Germany, which created a favourable atmosphere for the explosion of world war l.

iv) The Berlin - Baghdad railway project that he embarked on was a threat to Russia, France and Britain whose interests in the east were bound to be jeopardized by Germany. This helped to consolidate the triple entente against Germany.

v) Kaiser William II is blamed for starting the naval race to challenge British naval supremacy and militarism to maintain Germany's supremacy. He reinstated conscription and prolonged the period of service not only for defense but more to fulfill his imperialistic ambitions abroad. He deliberately disagreed with other leaders at disarmament conferences, yet this would have reduced arms race. Indeed, his activities and arrogance gave other powers every excuse to fear and re-mobilize against Germany just like Russia did after the Sarajevo incident.

vi) It was Kaiser William's blank cheque to Austria that increased Austria's recklessness towards Serbian.

He openly promised Austria that; “…..,rest assured that his majesty will faithfully stand by Austria- Hungary as required by the obligations of his alliance and by his ancient friendship". Surely, if Kaiser William had not given this assurance, Austria would not have taken a bold step against Serbia (to the extent of declaring war). Henceforth, World War I would have been avoided.

i) It was Germany under Kaiser William II that declared war on Russia, France, violated the London treaty of 1839, which dragged Britain into war. All these are what magnified the local Austro-Serbian conflict into a European and finally a World War.



The weakness of International organisation prior to 1914 made the outbreak of the First World War inevitable. The international court of justice at The Hague was perfectly inefficient and un able to settle major world disputes. It had neither moral authority nor force to implement its resolutions, which explains why the many resolutions of the Hague conferences of 1899 and 1907 remained on paper. The weakness of International organisation let to the collapse of International diplomacy. The outbreak of the First World War became inevitable because every state considered itself free to do anything according to its will since there was no authoritative organisation to restrain or punish her.

It should be noted that Serbia's attempt for a peaceful resolution with Austria failed because of the ineffectiveness of the international court of justice. Serbia accepted Austria s first two ultimatums and referred the third one to the international court of justice for arbitration. This failed because of the weakness of the International court of Justice, which had been discarded by Kaiser William II since 1907.


The immediate cause of the First World War was the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian throne and his wife Sophia at Sarajevo-the capital of Bosnia (Bosnia had been annexed to Austria-Hungary in 1808) by Gavirilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist. Austria that was already sick of Serbian nationalism decided to utilize the event to destroy Serbia. She considered the incident as a Serbian conspiracy to destroy the Austrian monarchy, by assassinating the heir at a time when the ageing Emperor Joseph Francis was 84 years and was expected to die any lime. Germany gave Austria-Hungary a blank cheque i.e. the freedom to do anything she wishes to Serbia with Germany's unconditional support.

Assured of Germany's backing, Austria sent an impossible ultimatum to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia on 23th July 1914. She demanded a satisfactory reply within 48 hours. These demands were that Serbia should among others;

i) Declare her intention of being a good neighbour through the press and by suppressing anti-Austrian propaganda.

ii) Dismiss anti-Austrian officials in her administration and the army.

iii) Allow Austria's officials into Serbia to investigate the inquiry of Franz Ferdinand's assassination.

Serbia accepted the first two conditions but rejected Austria's participation in the inquiry of Ferdinand s death on the ground that it was a violation of her independence and wisely referred the matter to the international court of justice at The Hague. However, the international court of justice had been discarded by Kaiser William II way back in 1907. Austria rejected Serbia's proposal and declared war on her on 28th July 1914. This determined the occurrence of the First World War. Russia mobilized in support of Serbia, Germany demanded that Russia should demobilize but when she refused, Germany declared war on her on 1st August 1914. Germany again demanded France to declare her neutrality and when she refused, Germany declared war on her on 3th August 1914. On 4th August 1914, German troops invaded Belgium in violation of the 1839 London treaty that had guaranteed Belgium's independence and neutrality, which forced Britain to enter the war against Germany on the same day. Thus, the First World War was on a high gear.