The Causes of World War 1


First Moroccan Crisis

March 1905 - May 1906

Germany attempts to break apart Britain and France by supporting the Sultan of Morocco when France attempts to colonise Morocco. The events end with the Algeciras conference, where Germany's strategy backfires as Britain supports France, and Germany is only backed by Austria-Hungary. The affair was humiliating to Germany, strengthened the Entente Cordiale and worsened Anglo-German relations.

Bosnian Crisis

October 1908 - April 1909

Austria-Hungary formally annexes Bosnia and Herzegovina, which have been under their control since Treaty of Berlin (1878). Serbia and Montenegro protest, and Russia, Britain, Italy and France sees it as a violation of the Treaty of Berlin and seeks a conference. This never happens, among other reasons due to German opposition. Italy seeks a strip of land from Austria-Hungary as compensation, Austria-Hungary declines their request. The powers eventually back down and the Treaty of Berlin is amended, but while the affair appears to have been an Austro-Hungarian diplomatic victory, Austro-Russian, Austro-Italian and Austro-Serbian relations are damaged. Furthermore, the Russians felt humiliated, and determined not to back down again, rearmament was intensified.

Second Moroccan Crisis (Agadir)

April 1911 - November 1911

Upon the Sultan's request, France dispatches troops to Morocco to stop a rebellion, thus breaking the Algeciras treaty of the First Moroccan Crisis. Germany responds by sending gunboat 'Panther' to the Moroccan port of Agadir. Britain supports France, worried that the Germans might turn Agadir into a naval base. During the subsequent peace conference, Germany accepts French colonisation of Morocco, receiving part of French Congo in return. The affair resulted in the Entente Cordiale being strengthened, with a military agreement between the powers, while tensions between the Entente and Germany worsened.

First Balkan War

October 1912 - May 1913

Encouraged by Russia, the a Balkan league is formed by Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia, with the aim of pushing Turkey out of Europe. Using the Albanian revolt as pretext, the league goes to war in 1912. Turkey is already weakened by the recent war with Italy over Tripolitania, and is driven out of the Balkans in seven weeks.

Austria-Hungary is horrified, facing a strengthened Serbia, and the military calls for war. It is, however, deterred by the idea of Russia supporting Serbia, as well as lack of German support. British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, is anxious to stop the war spreading, and the war is settled with the Treaty of London. The former Turkish lands are divided amongst the victors, but Austria-Hungary succeeds in containing Serbia through the creation of Albania, which separates Serbia from the Adriatic Sea. The War increases Austro-Serbian tensions, especially after it is discovered that Serbia has not withdrawn its forces from Albanian territory, but rather occupied more. Austro-Hungary sends an ultimatum to the Serbians, and the Serbians withdraw. This teaches Austro-Hungary that threatening to use force will win.

Second Balkan War

June 1913 - August 1913

Unsatisfied with its gains from the First Balkan War, Bulgaria goes to war against Serbia and Greece. Turkey joins the war, siding with Serbia and Greece, hoping to regain some territory lost in the First Balkan War. Believing that Russia will come to the assistance of Serbia, Austro-Hungary seeks to intervene, but is again deterred by the lack of German support. Bulgaria is defeated, and the Treaty of Bucharest is signed, where Bulgaria loses nearly all of the lands it had won in the First Balkan War.

The war exacerbates tensions between Austro-Hungary and Serbia. Two successive victories has increased nationalistic tendencies in Serbia, in addition to doubling its size. Austro-Hungary is now convinced that it needs to be crushed. Furthermore, it is a diplomatic victory for Russia, who is encouraged to stand by Serbia.

July Crisis

28 June 1914 - 28 July 1914

Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip assassinates Austro-Hungarian heir presumptive, Franz Ferdinand I. After receiving the German 'blank check', Austro-Hungary responds by sending Serbia an incredibly harsh ultimatum. Britain attempts to mediate, but is hindered by Germany. Serbia complies with most, but not all of the Austro-Hungarian demands, and Austro-Hungary goes to war against Serbia.

World War 1

28 July 1914 - 11 November 1918


Mansion House Speech

21 July 1911

The Mansion House Speech is delivered by British Prime Minister David Lloyd George in response to the Second Moroccan Crisis. He declares that national honour is more important than peace, suggesting that Britain will intervene militarily if Germany does not back down.


Luigi Albertini


Italian historian Luigi Albertini argues that this laid the ground for World War 1, and that it also was one of the main reasons why Italy joined the Entente in 1915.