The first World War did not just happen overnight, it had been building up for years. One long term cause was Nationalism. Strong competition had developed among France, Britain, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Germany, especially after the unification of Germany, under Bismark, in 1871. There was also uneasiness within countries. For example, the Czechs and Slovaks wanted to be free from Austro-Hungarian control. Imperialism also lead to World War I. Many nations were in heavy competition for colonies and markets through out the world.
For instance, France and Germany fought over Morocco, and several other places were the target for imperialism, the Balkans, Africa and the Middle East. An alliance system had developed and cause friction between the two groups. The system was made in an effort to have a balance of power. The two groups of nations were organized of the countries who had common enemies. Basically, an enemy of my enemy is my friend. One group was the Triple Alliance, which consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy.
The other group was the Triple Entente, which was made up of France, Russia, and Great Britain. (and would later include the United States.) Militarism had its effect on the outbreak of war also. Militaries grew constantly in the 1900s, which lead to a feeling of superiority and fear in other countries. Germany, for example, tripled naval construction in order to challenge Britain’s control of the seas. With all this going on in the world, it was only a matter of time before something happened. All these long term causes needed was a spark to send them over the edge and into war.
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That spark happened on June 28, 1914. In Bosnia, Archduke Francis Ferdinand was assassinated by a young nationalist. The young man belonged to a group that wanted Bosnia to be joined with the independent nation of Serbia. Few thought this act could start a world war, but it was the straw that broke the camels back.(clich I know..) During this time the United States stayed neutral, following Wilson’s Moral Diplomacy. Believing that international disputes should be solved through negotiation rather than force. There were many reasons the United States entered the war, one of them was cultural links. Which meant that few Americans were truly neutral. Since America is a melting pot, many felt bounds to the country of their origin.
Economic ties did not keep us neutral either. Americans feared that if Germany won the war , loans that had been made to the Allies would never be repaid. And, a British blockade of the North Sea ended American exports to Germany, which dropped in value from about $345 million in 1914 to $29 million in 1916. Propaganda was influential also, the allies portrayed the war as one of civilized, democratic nations against the barbaric monarchy of Germany. A major reason America entered the war was for freedom of the seas. German U-boats interfered with non-war related trade which violated neutrality rights and took many American lives.
When a German submarine sank the British passenger liner Lusitania in 1915, almost 1200 people died, including 128 Americans. In 1916, the Germans sunk the Sussex, a French vessel, which injured several Americans. Wilson threatened to break diplomatic relations with Germany, which led to the Sussex Pledge. Which stated that Germany would no longer sink passenger or merchant ships without warning; and would no longer violate international law with their blockade. Wilson accepted the first part of the pledge but ignored the second. By 1917, there was much hostility toward Germany. Germany supported dictatorship, which the United States are against. they violated Belgium’s neutrality, they wage unrestricted submarine warfare, they attempted to sabotage American industry and they attempted to put Mexico against the United States through the Zimmerman Note.
1. The most important historical event that occurred between 1492 and 1865 was the American Civil War. Sparked by issues such as states’ rights and the many aspects of slavery, it was a four-year war in which the country split in two and fought against each other for principles each side strongly believed in. The importance of this particular war in American history cannot be emphasized enough. ...
The not was from German foreign secretary, Arthur Zimmerman, and sent to the German minister in Mexico, on March 1, 1917. The note encouraged a German military alliance with the Mexicans, promising them support in regaining their “lost territories” in the southwestern United States. In April 1917, Wilson asked congress to declare war on Germany, and the United States became a part of the Allies..