The precise cause of the First World War could not be defined simply because there was not. The conflict is produced by the sum of different factors that affected the great European powers. It is true that the fact that triggered the war was the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo but we could not say that the fault was of Serbia, attributing to him the homicide, or of Austria for threatening that country. Rather, it could be said that this fact was the last straw that overflowed the vessel of European armed peace, something that long ago threatened to explode given the international situation that was increasingly deteriorated.
Why do we say armed peace? Because even though no country wanted to enter into conflict, they prepared their armies, there was an important military deployment, they allied themselves with other powers and there were clashes between them when they pursued the same objectives, so any excuse was used to drive the conflict to war.
Europe was divided in two blocks: The Triple Alliance, conformed by Germany and Austria-Hungary; And the Triple Entente or Entente Cordiale conformed by France, Russia and the United Kingdom, a union that seemed implausible considering that the R.U. Had been an enemy of France in previous conflicts since 1688 and both competed for the same territory and influence as imperialist powers. And with respect to Russia, both disputed areas of Central and Western Asia.
One of the causes was imperialist expansion: the development of capitalism generated competitiveness with respect to industrial and commercial activities. The struggle of the powers to conserve their colonies and dominate the world market, which until now had belonged to the United Kingdom. However, while the economy of the British Empire was declining, Germany showed significant industrial growth.
As a country’s economy grows, so does its population and its influence and political power. All this added to the nationalist sentiment increased the idea of the countries to feel superior and to want to dominate the others considered weak. Thus in 1897 Germany set out to form an armada that was much larger and stronger than the British, intending to displace the United Kingdom from its place as a world power and force it to support German interests.
The British Empire depended on the control of its maritime routes, reason why, although the conflict did not begin, it considered Germany like a dangerous threat. That is the reason for the British-French-Russian alliance. Three powers that still have differences between them are united to face the same rival: The United Kingdom because it saw threatened its commercial interests, France by territorial conflicts – previously Germany had appropriated of Alsace and Lorena, reason why France looked for revenge – and Russia because it was faced with Austria – Germany’s only ally – over their dispute in the Balkan countries.
Once the blocs were formed and their ambitions intertwined, because of tense relations between countries, it was felt that the armed conflict would begin at any moment. The internal situation of each country influenced foreign policy: bourgeois societies were undergoing great changes following the revolutions of the working class and popular. Crises were present in all powers: Russia was undergoing a social revolution; Austria could no longer control its internal conflicts that threatened to divide the empire; Germany had political differences; The United Kingdom suffered from competition from its domestic market. In order to conceal these conflicts, they were diverted into international conflicts, increasing patriotism. Thus, it was believed, would disappear internal struggles to defend the same country.
In short, it was to be hoped that after Austria declared war on Serbia for the assassination of the Archduke, Germany would support it – since they were allied powers – and also had a large military and armed deployment previously prepared, long ago Was waiting for the opportune moment to launch its expansionist strategy. Russia responded in support of Serbia, since it considered itself protector of the Slavic countries, and therefore was united France, its ally.
Thus, from a series of internal and international crises, the deterioration of relations between countries, ambition and commercial and territorial interests, German derisory ideas of wanting to dominate the world, military expenditures, People to be part of the army, and the inability to control all the events that happened, made it impossible to defend the peace and inevitable to stop the armed conflict that is known as one of the bloodiest and most encompassing – in terms of countries involved – of the history.