Started on the 28th of July 1914, the Great War or World War I arose from two sides,
particularly triple entente and the triple alliance. The immediate cause of the Great War was
brought about by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand along with his wife Sophia by
Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo. Even though matters related to the indifference
of policies enacted were to blame, the war started mainly because of four critical aspects. These
aspects include; militarism, alliances, imperialism, and Nationalism.
Short term cause of the Great War
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a 19-year-old Bosnian Serb executed an Austrian
Archduke known as Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophia when they both visited Sarajevo for the
purpose of inspecting the forces of the imperials 1 . The assassination was purposefully conducted
by the assassin because he wanted to free his country from the prolonged dominance and control
of Austria-Hungary. The double murder came as a shock in Europe which sparked tension
throughout the European countries and their empires, including their superior military. It also
contributed to the development of anti-Serbian riots within Sarajevo. Days later after the
assassination, an ultimatum was issued to Serbia by Austria-Hungary, and its government was
blamed for the assassination. The government was also issued with a command to stop all the
propaganda revolving around all the anti-Austro-Hungarians and also to accept its association
with suppressing the rebels. Furthermore, the Austria-Hungary was to take over all the trails that
are related to the assassination which was stated clearly by the ultimatum. However, the Serbian
government rejected two demands raised by Austria-Hungary; thus, Vienna considered such
1 Butcher, Tim. The trigger: Hunting the assassin who brought the world to war. Random House,
actions as rejections of the ultimatum 2 . In this case, on July 28 th , 1914, Austria-Hungary declared
war on Serbia. Therefore, Russia was also involved since it had an alliance with Serbia.
Germany, on the other hand, declared war on Russia since it had an alliance with Austria-
Hungary. Britain also declared war on Germany because it invaded neutral Belgium. It had
sworn to protect both France and Belgium from any kind of invasion. The whole conflict sparked
the beginning of the First World War.
Longtime causes of the Great War
Militarism caused the development of the Great War as a result of the arms race and
naval powers. The whole of the 20th century was characterized by the development of large
armies and military equipment. In Europe, most countries opt to expand their military power
mainly by recruiting and training more young men on matters related to military activities. In
addition, most of the European countries focused on developing sophisticated weapons, each
competing to outdo another country. Britain was recognized for its naval superiority and
Germany wanted to build a bigger navy that surpasses that of Britain. Therefore, Britain felt that
it was being threatened. While both Germany and Britain struggle to build bigger navies, Europe,
on the other hand, was building a large army on the mainland. In this sense, before the war
emerged, nearly all of the European countries had gathered weapons as well as other military
resources which indicated that most of them were ready to participate in any war activities 3 .
2 Mulligan, William. The Origins of the First World War. Vol. 52. Cambridge University Press,
3 Strachan, Hew. The First World War: Volume I: To Arms. Vol. 1. Oxford University Press,
The late 19 th Century and early 20 th Century were characterized by the formation of
mutual alliances that would defend and support each other in case of any attacks in Europe. The
1882 Triple Alliance consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy whereas the 1907 Triple
Entente alliance was composed of Russia, Great Britain, and France. Each country was heavily
armed, thus, on July 28 th , 1914, when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia; Russia had to
intervene since it had an alliance with Serbia. Germany, on the other hand, declared war on
Russia since it had an alliance with Austria-Hungary. Britain also declared war on Germany
because it invaded neutral Belgium. It had sworn to protect both France and Belgium from any
kind of invasion 4 . Later on, the United States, Japan, and Italy joined the war.
Imperialism is highly viewed as one of the most significant causes of World War I.
During the 19the Century, the European powers had occupied vast territories in Africa and Asia.
Both British and French had possessed the largest colonies whereas Germany had occupied few
areas since it was busy struggling to find solutions to its political issues during the period of
scrambling for colonies. The scramble contributed to the development of tension among the
powerful nations. For instance, Germany was overthrown by French in Morocco when it was
busy trying to establish its empire in 1911 and it was given a small piece of land in central Africa
as compensation 5 . Such actions brought in the determination of vengeance which sparked the
formation of World War I.
4 Beckett, Ian FW. The great war: 1914-1918. Routledge, 2014.
5 Fromkin, David. Europe's last summer: who started the Great War in 1914?. Vintage, 2007.
In summation, it is clear that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand tends to be
the most significant cause of the Great War. However, long term causes such as Militarism,
alliances, and imperialism highly contributed to the rise of the Great War. Furthermore, it is
evident that when the war began between Serbia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, powerful
nations joined the war in order to support the mutual alliance that was constructed. Thus, they
also recruited their subject and draw them into the war which brought the entire world into war.
Beckett, Ian FW. The great war: 1914-1918. Routledge, 2014.
Butcher, Tim. The trigger: Hunting the assassin who brought the world to war. Random House,
Fromkin, David. Europe's last summer: who started the Great War in 1914?. Vintage, 2007.
Mulligan, William. The Origins of the First World War. Vol. 52. Cambridge University Press
Strachan, Hew. The First World War: Volume I: To Arms. Vol. 1. Oxford