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Week 2- Background to the First World War

by: Austin McManus

Week 2- Background to the First World War HIST 388

Marketplace > George Mason University > History > HIST 388 > Week 2 Background to the First World War
Austin McManus
GPA 3.78
World War I
Harry Butowsky

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About this Document

This week's notes take a deeper look into the events that preceded and provoked the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914. Focuses specifically on the unification of Germany, the complex system of alli...
World War I
Harry Butowsky
Class Notes
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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Austin McManus on Tuesday September 8, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to HIST 388 at George Mason University taught by Harry Butowsky in Fall 2015. Since its upload, it has received 57 views. For similar materials see World War I in History at George Mason University.


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Date Created: 09/08/15
HIST 388 Notes Week 2 Background to WWI A Unification of Germany 19th Century The major player in the uni cation of Germany was that of Prussia an army with a kingdom whose meager 2 millionperson population grew into the largest state in norther Germany by the mid19th century Otto von Bismarck utilized the powerful army and growing industry of Prussia blood and iron as a means to unify all of the Germanic societies during the 1860s by instigating wars throughout the Germanic states in order to gain control over them for Prussia By 1871 Bismarck managed to succeed in unifying all the states of Central Europe excluding Austria into a centralized state Germany Under this new government Bismarck serves as the Chancellor of Germany under Wilhelm I the first Kaiser of Germany Bismarck had no further ambitions regarding creating a colonial empire outside of Europe he only wants to secure a peaceful Germany but furthermore a peaceful Europe B Alliance System 18731914 Bismarck s theory behind peace in Europe and a powerful Germany post unification was based on the anticipating of France invading Germany if they were allied with one of the great European powers Thus he made haste instigating his plan for peace 0 League of the Three Emperors 1873 alliance between Germany Kaiser Bismarck AustriaHungary Emperor Franz Josef I and Russia Tsar Alexander 11 spearheaded by Otto von Bismarck in the interest of preventing the newly united Germany from being invaded by what were considered two of the three most powerful regimes of mainland Europe at the time the third being France This alliance dissolved temporarily by 1 878 0 Dual Alliance 187 9 defensive alliance between Germany and Austria Hungary in which each vowed to assist the other were either of them attacked by Russia as well as pledged benevolent neutrality if the other were attacked by another European country particularly France ended in 1918 with the defeats of both Germany and AustriaHungary in WW1 0 Three Emperors Alliance 1881 renewal of the League of the Three Emperors between Germany AustriaHungary and Russia that lasted until 1887 due to con ict of interests 0 Triple Alliance 1882 agreement between Germany Italy and Austria Hungary to assists one another if any of them were attacked by one of the great powers particularly France of Europe lasted until the outbreak of WWI in 1914 when Italy claiming that Germany and AustriaHungary went on the offensive rather than sticking to defense declared neutrality that would last 1915 Bismarck s motivation to secure peace in Europe out of fear of an invasion by France and allies was a mutual feeling in France by the closing of the 19th century Thus they respond by establishing their own system of alliances o FrancoRussian Alliance 1894 alliance between France and Russia that ended up ceasing French diplomatic isolation giving Russia its most potent military political and economic ally during WWI as well as undermining German diplomatic superiority within the system of alliances being created during that time ended in 1917 following the Russian Revolution and Russia exiting from the war 0 Entente Cordiale 1904 agreement between France and Great Britain which ended nearly one millennium of intermittent con ict between the two European powers settled several controversies regarding colonial territory but more importantly signified a direct counter to the alliance system established by Germany would soon become part of the Triple Entente between Britain France and Russia in 1907 o AngloRussian Convention 1907 settlement between Great Britain and Russia that ceased longstanding land disputes and established shaky relations between the two powers along with the Entente Cordiale of 1904 and the FrancoRussian Alliance of 1894 it would become part of the Triple Entente between Britain France and Russia that had a major impact on the start to WWI In an attempt to prevent open hostilities between their respective nations both Germany and France unintentionally spearheaded the drawing of the sides for the eventual con ict that would involve the most powerful militarily and politically nations of Europe C The Five Powers of Europe Great Britain the hegemonic power of Europe Despite its relatively small population compared to France amp Germany about 40 million and limited access to native resources Britain control apr 25 of the Earth s land mass through empire and is able to utilize the resources from its colonies for the war effort remains to be the naval power of the world although Germany is competing for that status going into 1914 France a strong political and economic power of Europe with apr 45 million the cultural center of Europe Formidable military that was reformed following its defeat by Prussia in 1871 Germany the stronghold of Central Europe following unification in 1871 Developed some of the best facets of any European society at the time ie education transportation amp communication economy as well as the largest and best trained European army and the second most powerful European navy by 1914 a force not to be reckoned with Russia the most autocratic society in Europe at the time Russia had one of the largest populations of the powers and managed to rapidly industrialize though not as rapidly as Germany had remained a formidable force at the outbreak of WWI AustriaHungary an empire that included a plethora of antagonistic ethnic groups ie Austrians Hungarians Serbs Bosnians Poles Czechs Slavs Croatians loosely united under a regime strung together primarily by dynastic marriages had been gradually weakening since the mid19th century and certainly the most fragile of the five great powers of Europe D Other European Powers of WWI Ottoman Empire the sick man of Europe the Ottoman Empire had been in decline since the Siege of Vienna in 1653 Despite an effort to reform politically by the Young Turks in 1908 remained militarily weak until allying itself with Germany in 1915 Italy a relatively weak European state having only been unified for less than fifty years a minor player in WW1 E Spark of the Powder Keg Archduke Franz Ferdinand the heir to the AustroHungarian throne was the potent outcast within the European royal family this quite strongly emphasizes the irony in how critical his death was in the tumofevents during the summer of 1914 that led to war The Baltic States at the time were a hotbed of PanSlavism and Yugoslavic nationalism that culminated into violence and terrorism by organizations such as the Black Hand Ferdinand desired to visit Sarajevo Bosnia for vacation with his wife despite strong suggestions from his advisors to not go there By no coincidence Ferdinand decided to visit Sarajevo on June 25th a day of celebration for Serbian nationalism which despised the AustroHungarian throne for in their minds oppressing the ethnic Baltic peoples and preventing them from creating an independent Serbia Gavrilo Princip an ethnic Bosnian Serb and a Yugoslav nationalist joined the Black Hand after being rejected from the Serbian army for being physically too small Upon being informed of Ferdinand s anticipated visit to Sarajevo the Black Hand enlisted a handful of nationalists including Princip to take the Archduke s life On June 28th the third day of Ferdinand s visit in Sarajevo he and his wife were in their touring car on the streets of the city when one of the Black Hand terrorists threw a bomb at the car Ferdinand and his wife were not injured as they were the second car in the promenade but some of his escorts in the first car were severely injured and sent to the hospital After a ceremony welcoming Ferdinand to Sarajevo Ferdinand decided that it was time to leave Sarajevo but wanted to visit those who were injured at the hospital before heading to the train station The majority of the Black Hand assassins had failed in their attempts on Ferdinand s life and had either committed suicide or been caught by police Princip having failed at his attempt made his way to a local shop where Ferdinand s motorcade was trying to back up as the driver had made a wrong turn towards the hospital Upon realizing who Ferdinand was he fired two shots from his pistol supplied by the Black Hand and ended up killing both Ferdinand and his wife He was sentenced to twenty years in prison and died in 1918 from tuberculosis F War Breaks Out The AustroHungarian government blamed Serbia for Ferdinand s assassination and issued an ultimatum to Serbia on July 23rd listing demands that were intentionally made to be impossible to be accepted by the Serbian government so as to provoke Serbia to go to war As expected Serbia rejected ultimatum and so AustriaHungary declared war on Serbia on July 28th setting off a chain reaction within the web of alliances in Europe Being allied with Serbia Russia began the process of mobilization against both AustriaHungary and Germany Germany allied with AustriaHungary is obligated to support them in their effort On August 1 Germany declared war on Russia Being allied with Russia France declared war on Germany the favor was returned by Germany on August 3rd Having violated Belgian neutrality in its commencement of the Schlieffen Plan Britain declared war on Germany on August 4th In less than two weeks the great powers of Europe were at war with each other


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