Register Now!

Search Skwirk

Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. He and his wife, Sophie, were touring the Balkan province of Bosnia and Herzegovina when he was assassinated on 28 June 1914 in Sarajevo. He and his wife had already survived one assassination attempt earlier that day. As they returned from visiting people who had been injured in that attack, the driver of their car took a wrong turn which brought them into the path of another assassin who shot and killed them both. Just 37 days later all of Europe was at war and when America joined the conflict in 1917, the world was at war. Was Franz Ferdinand's death directly responsible for the First World War? Refer Image1

Most historians see the assassination of Franz Ferdinand as the main short-term trigger for the First World War. His death was not the only cause of the war, however its effect was to speed up the process that led to war. Refer Image2

The First World War did not have a single cause, it was the result of a number of long-term and short-term causes.

Long-term causes of the First World War


The 'Entente Cordiale' alliance between Russia, Britain and France. A series of alliances between these three countries in the first years of the 20th century meant that they had promised to come to each other's aid in the event of aggression from other countries
The 'Dual Alliance' of Austro-Hungary, and Germany. Like the Entente Cordiale, this alliance bound both countries into a defence pact.
Other alliances in Europe. Belgium had been recognised as a neutral country by Europe. Russia was allied with some of the Balkan states, but especially with Serbia.
The German 'Schlieffen Plan'. Germany's military strategy was based solely on this aggressive plan. Germany's only war plans were for attack - so they were going to have to act first, to make their plan work.
The naval race between Britain and Germany. As an island nation, Britain was dependent on a good navy to protect it. In the first decade of the 20th century, Germany also began building up its navy. Britain saw this as a threat and a race began between the two countries to see which country could build the biggest and best boats. In 1914, therefore, there were already tensions between Britain and Germany.
The scramble for colonies in Africa As with the naval race, the scramble over who could colonise Africa led to tensions between many of the European countries. Britain had already intervened on the side of France in a dispute with Germany over the Moroccan colony.
The growth of nationalism in Europe Many new nation states were emerging in Europe and they wanted self-governance. This growing nationalist movement was a major contributor to WWI. The Balkans area was very unstable and there had been two wars there already. WWI could have been another Balkan War, if not for the system of alliances listed above.

Short-term triggers for the First World War



The Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand The Archduke was shot by a Serbian terrorist. His assassination set in motion a chain of events that 37 days later would lead to the First World War.
The 'blank cheque'. A few days after the assassination, Germany assured Austro-Hungary that it would support whatever decision it came to in response to the murder. This has become known as a 'blank cheque'. Austro-Hungary knew that it could rely on Germany for support, therefore it could act more aggressively
The Ultimatum Nearly a month after the assassination, Austro-Hungary finally responded with an ultimatum for Serbia. Serbia refused to comply with all the demands made and Austro-Hungary declared war on 28 July.
The alliances and mobilisation of the troops Once Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia, the European alliances came into effect. Russia came to the defence of Serbia, which made Germany react. Germany put the Schlieffen plan into action, which meant that France and eventually Britain were also drawn into the conflict. Once Russia and Germany mobilised their troops it was inevitable that there would be war.

War had been talked of in Europe for a number of years, because of the long-term factors listed above. The assassination was the spark that ignited the war, but it was not the only cause It could easily have been something else to draw Europe into a war. The alliance system was supposed to prevent war, but in 1914 it helped to cause it. The First World War did not break out just because the heir to a crumbling empire was shot. The assassination was a short-term trigger. The war that broke out over the assassination could have been a localised one, but for the system of alliances that had been built up over the preceding 50 years in Europe.


No thanks. Remind me again later.