Causes of World War 1

Timeline of Causes of World War 1
American Involvement 1917-1918

          As you view the World War 1 causes, you will conclude that the casus belli for this war was a crazy quilt of military alliances, expansion of empires and conflicting demands for national sovereignty.

          The interplay of conflicting forces was reminiscent of a clumsy ballet. It began in Asia Minor, moved to the Balkans with a penultimate act involving Western Europe and, ultimately, an American curtain call. It is essential to view this backdrop to understand the reluctance of America to join in a European war, and its decision to react to the more immediate causes that forced its hand.

After your review of this timeline of causes of World War 1, we call your attention to the additional links located below this table detailing the decisive elements of this war.

1699 Ottoman Empire seeks to invade Austria extending its westward grip on the Balkans and is defeated in the siege of Vienna. Cedes Hungary to Austria which ultimately forms the dual monarchy empire of Austria-Hungary.
1815 Serbia revolts against Ottoman Turk rule and gains sovereignty in 1830.
1817 Ottomans cede Balkan territories to Austria.
1821 Greeks revolt against Ottoman rule.
1871 German territorial states unify into one German country.
1878 Russia attacks and defeats Ottomans in Rumania intending to extend protections to their co-religionists and at the Treaty of San Stefano creates Rumania as a sovereign nation.
Treaty of Berlin in which European powers jointly seek to limit Russian influence in the Balkans and recreates Ottoman control in Bulgaria. Plants the seeds of Ottoman- German détente in 1914.
1882 Triple Entente joins Great Britain, France and Russia in a mutual defense pact.
Triple Alliance responds to Triple Entente and joins Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy in a mutual defense pact. (Italy makes secret agreement with France that she will not respect its prior pact as pertains to France.)
1898 German pact with Ottomans for the former to construct Berlin to Baghdad railroad opening up huge economic advantage to Germany for eastern oil and resources. Tariff advantages for Germany upsets other European nations.
1902 Austria-Hungary annexes Bosnia and eyes further expansion in the Balkans, but Serbia also covets Bosnian territory. Russia is obstacle to German and Austrian expansion.
1912-1913 First Balkan War by league of Baltic countries strips the Ottoman’s of all of its Baltic possessions. Russian opinion backs the insurgency with French support. Oddly, Britain shifts support to the Ottomans. Domestically, French sentiment is for war with Germany undoubtedly smarting from its loss of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany from its war of 1870 ultimately recovered by the Versailles treaty 1918.
1912 German declaration supports Austrian-Hungary rights in the Balkans and makes bellicose statements toward Russia which Germany believes is ill prepared to go to war with Germany.
Great Britain responds with warning to Germany that it would intervene if France is invaded.
1913 Bulgaria unhappy with division of Ottoman territories attacks its former Balkan league allies, Greece and Serbia, with the latter triumphant. This split isolates Russia with only Serbia as a Balkan ally. (Treaty of Bucharest)
June 28, 1914 Arch Duke Franz Joseph, heir to the Austrian throne, assassinated by young Serbian. No evidence of Serbian government collusion.
July 23 Austrian ultimatum to Serbia effectively requiring that they renounce their own sovereignty.
July 29 Austria declares war on Serbia.
July 30 Russia mobilizes its military.
July 31 Germany demands that Russia demobilize.
August 1 France mobilizes.
August 2 Germany demands occupation of Belgium and free passage to attack France.
August 3 Great Britain warns Germany that it will intervene militarily to protect Belgian neutrality.
August 3 Germany declares war on France.
August 4 Germany invades Belgium and Britain declares war against Germany.
August 15 Japan declares war on Germany.
Sept 1914 Russia attacks Prussian territory and is badly defeated.

Timeline of Causes of World War 1 Directly Affecting America

Feb 4, 1915 Germans declare that all shipping in British waters subject to submarine attack without warning.
May 7 German U boat sinks Lusitania ; 1198 people lost, including 128 Americans.
Sept 18 American outrage, and German desire to keep America from joining the war, Germany places restrictions on their submarine warfare.
May 4, 1916 Germany sinks French passenger vessel prompting President Woodrow Wilson to warn Germany that continued unrestricted submarine warfare will cause U.S. entry into the war.
Feb 25, 1917 Zimmermann Telegram : British intercept official German message to Mexico proposing an alliance with Mexico if the U.S. enters the war it will aid them in recovering Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
April 6, 1917 United States declares war on Germany, as we conclude our timeline of causes of World War 1.
1995 Full circle: A world war 1 that began in Bosnia was revisited by NATO forces, including U.S., to pacify a civil war between Bosnia and her Balkan neighbors.

Every American war was defined and illuminated by thousands of moving parts. In a sense, a war machine is like a huge wheel designed to advance a strategy, a goal, but inherently capable of sudden stops and reversals. After reviewing the causes of World War 1, you may examine the wheel and its component spokes (links) that propelled the American war machine, all trans-formative, and the human hands that created the turns and pivots that marked this war and our times.

World War 1 Allies

World War 1 Uniforms

World War 1 Weapons

World War 1 Guns

World War 1 Tanks

World War 1 Trenches

History of American Wars Home | Causes of World War 1