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An easy way to remember the long term causes of WWI is this:
The MAIN causes
Militarism means that the army and military forces are given a high profile by the government. The growing European divide had led to an arms race between the main countries. The armies of both France and Germany had more than doubled between 1870 and 1914 and there was fierce competition between Britain and Germany for mastery of the seas. The British had introduced the ‘Dreadnought’, an effective battleship, in 1906. The Germans soon followed suit introducing their own battleships. The German, Von Schlieffen also drew up a plan of action that involved attacking France through Belgium if Russia made an attack on Germany. The map below shows how the plan was to work.
An alliance is an agreement made between two or more countries to give each other help if it is needed. When an alliance is signed, those countries become known as Allies.
A number of alliances had been signed by countries between the years 1879 and 1914. These were important because they meant that some countries had no option but to declare war if one of their allies declared war first.
Imperialism is when a country takes over new lands or countries and makes them subject to their rule. By 1900, the British Empire extended over five continents and France had control of large areas of Africa. With the rise of industrialism, countries needed new markets. The amount of lands ‘owned’ by Britain and France increased the rivalry with Germany who had entered the scramble to acquire colonies late and only had small areas of Africa.
The Congress System - An Admirable And Enlightened Example Of International Co-operation After the Congress of Vienna it became apparent that there was a new hierarchy of power in Europe. The hegemony of France was destroyed and she had been replaced by Great Britain and Russia as the dominant force behind European affairs. Both these nations were peripheral powers with interests and possessions ...
Nationalism means being a strong supporter of the rights and interests of one’s country. The Congress of Vienna, held after Napoleon’s exile to Elba, aimed to sort out problems in Europe. Delegates from Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia (the winning allies) decided upon a new Europe that left both Germany and Italy as divided states. Strong nationalist elements led to the re-unification of Italy in 1861 and Germany in 1871. The settlement at the end of the Franco-Prussian war left France angry at the loss of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany and keen to regain their lost territory. Large areas of both Austria-Hungary and Serbia were home to differing nationalist groups, all of whom wanted freedom from the states in which they lived.
Basically the eurpoean countries were building up their arms and were suspiscious of each other because they were afraid that if their neighbor had more weapons than they did then they would have the upper hand. After the assassination of Ferdinand everything exploded from there.