The cause of the Great War (WW1)

Many historians agree that the cause of World War 1 was the desire for expansion by the European nations. Notably, the trigger was the assassination of the Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand. The British and the French also contributed the most to the advent of World War 1. The rush for concurring and occupation of lands to colonize and control was one of the most notable causes of the world war. This is because; the competition between allies, central powers, and the Ottoman powers was causing a rift in Europe. The nations wanted to be more superior and the British were more aggressive in their acquisition of the properties. In the end, World War 1 was inevitable and the casualties were many. The European powers then used armies from their empires to fight in the World War 1 and this resulted in the high number of casualties that were recorded at the time. The growing competition in 1914 between European nations over the desired land to expand their empires by conquering and controlling land that was previously inhabited by non-European citizens led to an increased hostility, which facilitated the outbreak known as the Great War.

The Great War was caused by four main elements. In particular, the expansion desires and goals of the European nations, the military powers of the involved nations, the advancement of nationalism, and the end of the Ottoman Empire, which left a power vacuum in world politics. The European nations were keen on conquering the world and being in total control until they faced opposition from a section of European powers who were opposed to the approach as they were losing out while others were progressing. An example is the differences between Germany and France, where Germany won a war and established territories, while France was on a decline. The Germans displaced the French during the 1870 war, which played a role in the eventual alignment of the nations during the World War 1.  The war over land was a complicated one because the alliance and the agreement clashed over certain territories and triggering war from countries allied to each faction. 

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The expansion desires by the European nations created internal conflicts, which led to the arms race by several countries. The British Empire fuelled a big part of the war by refusing to become allies with Germany because Germany was not a threat to British sovereignty. Germany, on the other hand, was threatened by the alliances that were forming around them. This is because Britain, Russia, and France were the closest in proximity and did not want to include her in their pact. The Allies came together and pledged to define each other in case of war. Germany, in a bid to reclaim her powerful position in the race for power, led to the prolonged engagement of countries in the world war. Germany’s support for war against Serbia made it impossible to stop the war once it began.

The events leading up to the war from the German front were misguided ideas that the war would result in Germany emerging a winner and hence being powerful in the world politics. The power struggle in the military sector. This was a policy by which the countries prepared themselves in readiness for war. The arms race created tension among countries, especially where there was a pre-existing rivalry, the suspicion was high. Germany and France both engaged in the arms race in a bid to match up to the size and strength of the British army. In this case, Britain can be said to have contributed to the adverse effects of the World War 1 to the citizens of the countries that participated. Countries like France and Germany had to impose heavy taxes on their citizens because expanding an army needed plenty of money and resources. In the years leading up to the World War 1, all the participating countries had increased the sizes of their armies except the United States and Great Britain. This goes to show why the other countries had to have worked on their military prowess earlier. The strength exhibited by both the United States and Great Britain means that if the other countries had gone to war without being adequately prepared, they would have lost making Britain and the United States the ultimate powers. 

The alliances made before the war were supposed to act as contingency plans that would prevent the war from occurring. However, in the end, the alliances caused the war. This is because the alliances formed focused on the common interests of the allies in each faction. The alliances, in this case, caused the World War 1 when two countries each belonging to one side of the faction had cause to go to war and their supporters joined in. The war escalated from what would have been a war between two countries to a war between two groups of countries. 

Once again, the European ambition to rule the world became a reason for war when other countries wanted to expand their territories into colonies as well. This weighed down on the relations of the countries that had great empires to an extent that a war broke out over territories. This further shows how the British imperialism encouraged the countries to compete leading to the occurrence of the world war. The nations acquiring colonies had a lot to fight for, as the countries, which had begun acquiring colonies, did not appreciate the threat from upcoming colonial powers. France and Great Britain are the biggest culprits in this instance. They were well advanced in the acquisition of the colonies and ended up fighting over other additional colonies. 

There cropped a problem of nationalism where countries started desiring sovereignty. There was an increased feeling by citizens in each country that they were superior to the rest of the world. This led to countries resenting each other and despising other countries. It also led to the development of armies to fight for independence and self-rule in countries like Serbia. In the end, it reduced the Ottoman Empire into individual countries. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire created a gap in the world powers. The individual countries did not have the expertise and power to rule while protecting themselves from other more powerful countries like Great Britain and France. As a result, the spirit of nationalism pitted countries against each other. The global war to acquire colonies also caused a rift between Britain, France, and the United States. Therefore, in the years leading up to the Great War, there were pent up rivalries among the countries. 

To conclude, the Great War was caused by supremacy battles, scarcity of land and the arms race. This has been explained in the actions by the nations to expand their territories at the expense of good relations. The alliances formed in the years preceding the world war were also part of the causes of the Great War. This is because the countries that took part in the Great War were always striving to expand their territories and causing conflict. This was seen in the event where Great Britain and France almost fought over territories. There were problems that came about as people embraced extreme patriotism and nationalism. This led countries to hating each other and fighting over land with the countries being colonized striving to get back their independence and the colonial powers striving to maintain the control. There were many more reasons for the war but the arms race, imperialism, and nationalism contributed the most to the eventual occurrence of the World War 1. Germany has carried the blame for a long time but a critical analysis shows that Great Britain initiated the race for war. The size of the British army caused other nations to want to keep up with the competition for being armed. It is for this reason that when the countries finally went to war, it could not be stopped fast enough because the countries had weapons and armies to fight. 


Avner, Offer. 1991. “The First World War: An Agrarian Interpretation.” OUP Catalogue Oxford University Press.

Ferguson, Niall. 2006. “Political Risk and the International Bond Market between the 1848 Revolution and the Outbreak of the First World War.” Wiley Online Library. January 19. Accessed July 1, 2018. https://doi,org/10.1111/j.1468-0289.2005.00335.x.

Fischer, Fritz. n.d. Germany’s Aims in the First World War. audiobook.

Hall, Richard C. 2000. Warfare and History. London and New York: Taylor and Francis.Kincaid, Flesch. n.d. “Major Causes of World War 1.” GEO Cities. Accessed July 1, 2018.

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