Was the Assassination at Sarajevo the Most Important Cause of World War 1?

9 September 2016

Assassination at Sarajevo the most important cause of World War 1? WW1 was announced on 28th July 1914, it was one of the most devastating wars ever to take place with over 16 million deaths. But how could a group of 7 young men known as the Black Hand, cause a war that effected millions of people around the globe. My aim is to find if there are any more causes that may have been overlooked, and in order to do that I must start at the very beginning… The world in the early 1900s was dominated by European powers.

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From the start of the 18th century European country began to build empires. They did this in order to appear to have greater powers and were in control of more trading paths, not only in Europe but around the world. Many conflicts began due to the ‘scramble for colonies’ – particularly in Africa. A fierce rivalry developed between the European nations. The British Empire was the largest empire held by a European country. It included Canada, India and Australia. The newly formed (in 1871) Germany had ambitions to be as big and as powerful as Britain, they wanted to have an imperialistic empire.

Imperialism is a belief that to be a strong country, you need to have a large empire and this will give great profit to your nation. Also in 1871, Germany defeated France in war. The Germans made the French pay 200 million francs in compensations and give the border territories of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany. The Germans knew that France would look for revenge as soon as possible. To prevent this, Otto von Bismarck (the chancellor and leader) made agreements with other countries so that France would have no allies with which to fight against Germany in the future.

In 1882 Germany signed an agreement with Austria-Hungary and Italy, known as the triple alliance. These became nationalist alliances: the belief that loyalty to a person’s nation and its political and economic goals comes before any other public loyalty. Nationalism took hold among people who shared a common language, history, or culture. Such people began to view themselves as members a national group or nation. Germany had successfully made alliance with two of the other major powers in Europe. The only possible ally for France if it wanted to attack Germany was Britain.

But Britain had no interest in war in Europe. It looked like Bismarck had success fully isolated France and kept Germany safe from attack. One of the reasons Bismarck’s plans came undone was the character of the new Kaiser, Wilhelm II. He was an intelligent man, but also very moody and he lacked diplomatic skills. Bismarck had worked hard to keep France isolated but Wilhelm II quarrelled with Bismarck and dismissed him from office. Then he dialled to renew the agreement with Russia. So Russia turned to France, and in 1894 the two countries signed the Dual Entente (understanding.) France had found an ally. By 1907, Britain had joined the Dual Entente thus making it the Triple Entente. They also promised to help each other’s would they go to war. Germany saw the triple Entente as a threat. In 1905 German generals drew up the Schleiffen Plan- a strategy to defeat an attack by the Entente countries if war broke out. The plan involved quickly defeating France, before attacking Russia. The generals thought Russia would take too long to get ready for war, and France was weak, so both would be easily pushed aside.

War became almost inevitable by the early 20th century. Many people actually wanted a war at the time but a reason was needed for one to begin In 1904, Kaiser Wilhelm decided to test how strong the Triple Entente was. He knew that France wanted to take control of morocco, so in 1905 he visited the area and made a speech saying he supported the independence of Morocco. The French were furious but had agreed to hold a conference to discuss the matte rat Algeciras in Spain. At that conference Britain and other countries stood by France.

They said that although Morocco was independent, France still had special rights I the country. Britain had controlled the seas since the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and had the most powerful navy in the world. Britain’s trade was wide spread and her huge overseas empire produced great wealth for the country. As long as Britain had the worlds strongest navy, it could make sure that none of the other Great Powers would try to seize part of its empire. In 1898, Kaiser Wilhelm announced that Germany was to start a militaristic method of preparing for war, building 41 battleships and 61 cruisers.

This was part of the plan to make sure that Germany could defend itself and protect its growing overseas trade. The Kaisers ambitions caused alarm bells in Britain. Germany was in central Europe and needed a large army to protect its border, so why did it need a large navy? As the British foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, said in 1909: ‘There is no comparison between the importance of the German navy to Germany and the importance of our navy to us… it is not a matter of life and death to them as it is to us. ’ Whatever Wilhelm’s intentions, Britain saw Germany’s ship building as a threat.

Talks were held to try and limit the size of the British and German navies, but they broke down. The in 1906, the game changed. Britain launched the first of a new kind of battleship, HMS Dreadnaught. Germany Responded by building its own ‘dreadnoughts’. The naval race was well and truly on. The Balkans was the spark that truly lit the bonfire. It was a very unstable area with many different nationalities mixed together; the area had been ruled by Turkey for many centuries, but Turkish power was now in decline. The new governments which had been set up in place of Turkish rule often argued with each other.

The two great powers, Russia and Austria, bordered the countries in this region and both wanted to control the area because it gave them access to the Mediterranean. In 1908 Austria took over the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Russia and Serbia protested but they soon backed down when Germany made it clear that it supported Austria and neither Russia nor Serbia was prepared to risk war with Germany over this issue. However, there were some serious consequences. Austria now felt that it would be backed by Germany in future disputes and this made Austria too confident, and encouraged it to make trouble with Serbia and Russia.

There was a series of local wars in the Balkan regions called The Balkan Wars from 1912 to 1913 and Serbia emerged as the most powerful country of the region. This was a very serious issue for Austria as Serbia was a close ally to Russia. Austria decided that Serbia would have to be dealt with. By 1914 Austria was looking for a good excuse to crush Serbia. Austria’s opportunity came with the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo… A Serbian terrorist group, called The Black Hand, had decided that the Archduke should be assassinated and the planned visit provided the ideal opportunity.

Seven young men who had been trained in bomb throwing and marksmanship were stationed along the route that Franz Ferdinand’s car would follow from the City Hall to the inspection. The first two terrorists were unable to throw their grenades because the streets were too crowded and the car was travelling quite fast. The third terrorist, a young man called Cabrinovic, threw a grenade which exploded under the car following that of the Archduke. Although the Archduke and his wife were unhurt, some of his attendants were injured and had to be taken to hospital.

After lunch at the City Hall, Franz Ferdinand insisted on visiting the injured attendants in hospital. However, on the way to the hospital the driver took a wrong turn. Realising his mistake he stopped the car and began to reverse. Another terrorist, named Gavrilo Princip, stepped forward and fired two shots. The first hit the pregnant Sophia in the stomach, she died almost instantly. The second shot hit the Archduke in the neck. He died a short while later. Although there was no hard evidence that Princip was acting under order form the Serbian government, Austria blamed Serbia and threatened to attack unless Serbia met certain demands.

Serbia could not meet them so Austria attacked. As Russia had promised to protect Serbia, it began to prepare for war. Britain mobilised its navy to get ready for war and at the same time Germany declared war on Russia and France for going to war with a member of its alliance. To attack France, Germany invaded neutral Belgium but they had a good army prepared and managed to fight off the German army. It was at this point on the 28th July that Britain declared war on Germany.

I think that the assassination of Franz Ferdinand was a strong contender as the most important cause of WWI as it lit the spark of the bomb that had been about to explode, but each of the other causes add to it. I think that Germany’s greed to have more power and money was the main cause as the rest of Europe would not have had to form alliance for battle and waited in such tension with their armies ready to fight for their countries. This militarism was at breaking point until the assassination. Germany’s need for imperialism put all the countries at risk ad made their governments nervous so they felt the need to build their forces.

The need for imperialism links with their want of nationalism after winning many countries after war they believed that they could be one of the strongest empires in the world with a united nation. In order to achieve imperialism, they believed they had to use militarism to gain influence. In conclusion, it was the fault of Germany that caused WWI as they wanted complete dominance and authority over the world and had it not started preparing for war by building up troops and alliances, other countries would not have had to either.

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