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M.A.I.N.S. Themes

  1. Militarism
  2. Alliance Systems
  3.     The Central Powers
  4.         Germany
  5.         Austria-Hungary
  6.         Ottoman Empire
  7.     The Triple Entente
  8.         Russia and the Balkans
  9.         France
  10.         Great Britain
  11.         The United States of America
  12. Imperialism
  13. Nationalism
  14. The Spark

See also


Article written by Caitlin, Emma, and Nick


Militarism played its part by aiding to the competitions between the nations, especially later, into the brutality of warfare. The advancement in technology and warfare made for the bloodiest battlefields the world had yet to see.

Tear gas, flamethrowers, and tanks were all made as weapons of mass destruction that created paranoia and a need for security in the countries. Security, being defined as a set of typical actions and justifications offered for those actions, paved the way for the violence of the war. Jaeger states “…security is pretty much the business of the state…” in his research on international affairs.[14]

The inability of countries to accept the wide range of possibilities in their suspicions created tensions for war. Troops were armed, suspicions were “confirmed”, and a wide new range of weapons was launched in the name of security. Overall, the militarism of World War I and many other wars to come was entirely centered around the objective of security.[15]

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Alliance Systems

World War I, or The Great War as some historians call it, was comprised of two alliances, or “sides”. One was the Central Powers, which had its origins in the Three Emperors League. The other was called the Triple Entente. These alliance systems helped to build the pile of coal that the spark ignited and became one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history: World War I.

The Central Powers


France and Germany were at each other's throats since the creation of Germany from the scattered kingdoms of the Holy Roman Empire in 1871 under Wilhelm the First. While France kept a watchful eye on the rising nationalistic and economic power of Germany since its creation, Germany founded The Three Emperors League, which originally comprised of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia. Russia’s part didn’t last long in this military alliance because of disputes over the politically weak Balkan states with Austria-Hungary. When Wilhelm the Second came to power in Germany, he formally dismissed Russia in deference to Austria-Hungary.


The Habsburgs of Austria acquired Hungary around the same time the Prussians united under the name of Germany and Wilhelm the First. The Austro-Hungarians were concerned under their growing imperialism about the weak Balkan states, specifically, Bosnia and Serbia. There was a growing population of Slav people in Hungary and Austria, which was another reason that the Austrians were so concerned about the Slavic Balkan states. After many disputes with Russia about Bosnia and Serbia, Austria-Hungary went to war after their archduke, Franz Ferdinand, and his wife were assassinated by Serbian assassins when they were in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo.[10]

Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire was pulled into World War I because of their annoyance with Russia and the strategic advantage of the Germans with the crucial Ottoman ports. Germany wanted to make sure that the Ottoman Empire was not going to join the Triple Entente, and Russia was interested, as were most of the nations involved, including Germany, about the Turkish ports in the Black Sea. Controlling those ports was crucial to the world trading network, and when Russia feared that their access to these ports was going to be threatened by the Austro-Hungarian occupation of the Balkan states, they began to threaten occupation of Ottoman Lands. After the Triple Alliance lost the war, the Ottoman's part in the war led to the disintegration of their empire. This led to the creation of modern-day Turkey.[7]

The Triple Entente

Russia and the Balkans

Russia, after being forced out of the Three Emperors League by Germany, went to ally with France and Britain to form the Triple Entente. They chose to ally with them for many reasons. One was the fact that Germany had kicked them out of their military alliance. This caused tension between Russia and Germany. Russia also quarreled with Germany and the Ottomans over the Balkans and the ports, concerning the Black and Mediterranean Seas. The Slavic Balkans had a historic and cultural connection with Russia and the nationalistic Balkan people were preparing for independence from their rulers, Austria-Hungary, culminating with the Serbian assassination of the Austro-Hungarian archduke, Franz Ferdinand, and his wife. Russia wanted the Balkans to ally with them, and because the superpowers of Europe at the time were imperialist, Russia wanted to claim the Slavic Balkans, and therefore their ports, for their own.


France, another major economic and political superpower in Europe, got into the war for some of the same reasons as Russia. They were mad at Germany because of their defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. France realized that they could not go to war against Prussia (now Germany) without some help. Taking advantage of the disintegration of the military alliance between Germany and Russia, they enlisted Russia’s help and formed the base of the Triple Entente. The treaty, called the Franco-Russian Alliance, stated that an attack on either France or Russia would be considered an attack on the other. France had its own quarrels with Russia, but they decided that they both hated Germany more. This was based on the principal of “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Great Britain

Great Britain entered the alliance system relatively late compared to the others. The main reason that Great Britain entered into World War I was the conflict with neutral Belgium. Belgium acted as a buffer state between Germany and France, creating a neutral area between the two of the main conflicting powers. At the time of the growing tensions before World War I, Great Britain was the world’s maritime power. In other words, Britain had the strongest navy in the world. However, Britain could not afford to remain neutral because of the European powers already at each other's throats, and one nation in particular, France, was bordering them with the English Channel, a major waterway, in the middle. Russia bordered a very important piece of land acquired by Britain in the imperial phase of expansion. This plot of land was called India. Before World War I, India was used as a center for growing opium, which the British used to acquire profit in their trade with the Atlantic and primarily, China. They entered the war because of the British fears of an attack on India by Russia if they did not take their side in the war.[8]

The United States of America

The United States originally declared themselves neutral. They did not want to get caught up in someone else’s mess. Unfortunately, two events happened that goaded the United States into the war. One was the sinking of the HMS Lusitania in 1915. The HMS Lusitania was a ship that was going from New York to Liverpool. Even though the ship was British, it was carrying American passengers. The Lusitania was sunk by German U-boat.[6] U-boats are known today as submarines. The second reason was the Zimmermann Telegram. Since this was classified as a world war, the superpowers of Europe considered other nations outside their continent for alliances. The United States originally remained neutral, and another nation geographically south of them also originally declared themselves neutral: Mexico. Mexico had lost Texas and parts of the west of the United States in the movement for Texan independence and the Mexican-American War. Knowing these facts, Germany decided to take advantage of Mexico’s loss and send what came to be known as the Zimmermann Telegram. Named for the German Foreign Minister of the time, Arthur Zimmermann, this telegram was sent from the Minister to Mexico, offering the lost territories if Mexico helped them win the war. The British deciphered the telegram and alerted the United States.[5] President Woodrow Wilson officially declared the United States part of World War I in 1917.[9]


For the second time, European colonization was partitioning the world. European nations continued making claims on land in Asia and Africa, but by the 20th century, there was little more open territory available in the world. Tensions accumulated as imperialist powers could no longer assert their dominance by taking more land.[2] In particular, Austria-Hungary tried to take advantage of the Balkans, which were in strife.[3]


Austria-Hungary was concerned about the conflicts in the Balkans because of nationalist buildup in that area. Slavic peoples were increasingly disliking Austria’s attempts to rule the area and desired to be part of Serbia. Austria-Hungary finally decided that Serbia needed to be attacked after the nationalist Gavrilo Princip[4] assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. This assassination tried to accomplish the breaking of Austria-Hungary’s hold on the Southern Slavs, which would allow them to join Serbia.[2]

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The Spark

Tensions were high in the period leading up to World War I. These tensions were mainly between the nations of Austria-Hungary (now known separately as Austria and Hungary) and Serbia. Relations between the two came to a climax when the archduke of Austria-Hungary was assassinated in 1914 in Sarajevo, along with his wife. Austria-Hungary believed it to be the work of Serbian terrorists, and conflict quickly arose between the two. Any and every dispute ever had between the two was suddenly evidence of the other’s acts of war. Other European superpowers immediately took sides. Certain nations that sided with Austria-Hungary agreed that Serbia should apologize for its actions. These were Germany and Italy, later to be known as the The Central Powers. Other forces stating that Serbia had nothing to do with it since there was no proof of any offensive movements by its governments were Great Britain, France, and Russia. This alliance was known as the Allies. The overflow of tensions was the spark of World War I.

See also


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"Het Gekkenhuis." Map.
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Archduke Franz Ferdinand. German WWI Psyop. Herbert A. Friedman. 30 Mar. 2012 <http://www.psywarrior.com/GermanWWIPSYOP.html>.
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