History of the first World War

empiresof world war one

How the First World War Began

HOW THE TERMS  World War I or the First World War  CAME TO EXISTENCE

“First World War” is a term first used in September 1914 by A German philosopher Ernst Haeckel, who claimed that, the course and character of the feared ‘European War’ was to become the first world war in the full sense of the word. In its 1920 history by an officer and journalist Charles à Court Repington the war was titled The First World War. The terms World War I or the First World War became standard after the onset of the Second World War in 1939, the American Historians preferred World War I, while the British and Canadian historians favored the First World War.

What triggered World War 1?

ferdinand archduke and wife

Prince Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, and his wife

Like a trigger of a high profile weapon of mass destruction,  The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by a Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo on 28th June 1914 unleashed a conflict which would come to be known as the World War I or the First World War .

On 28th June 1914 In SARAJEVO; the capital of BOSNIA, a bomb is thrown to a car. The occupants of the car were none other than visiting Austria Hungary heir to the throne – Archduke Ferdinard and his wife Sophy. The bomb misses and the royal couple continues with their official visit. Few hours later the car is stopped and a gun is fired, the Austrian crown prince and princess Sophy are murdered. The assassination is reported to have been executed by a member of an assassin organization backed by a neighboring government of Serbia.

Gavrilo Princip

Gavrilo Princip- The Assasin

Austria mourns, buries their dead crown prince and his wife then decides to punish the SERBIANS. unknown to any one countdown to world war 1 had just begun. On 28th July 1914 exactly one month after the assassination of the Austria’s crown prince Fedinard & his wife princes Sophy by as the Austrians claim ,SERBIAN national Gavrilo Princip, Austria declared war on Serbia in revenge.


How declaring of war by Austria Hungary to Serbia turned to be a world war?

The following contributed to escalation of a diplomatic crisis between Austria Hungary and Serbia into Europe’s affairs then to a global catastrophe to be known as First World War.

Europe’s complex Political and military alliances

By the dawn of 1900 there were two established opposing alliances in Europe namely the Allies and Central powers. The Allies also referred to as the  Triple Entente comprised of the  United KingdomFrance and the Russian Empire while The Central Powers had Germany and Austria-Hungary.

19th century, saw major European powers go to great lengths to gain and maintain  power throughout Europe, this resulted to existence of a complex network of political and military alliances throughout the continent. Setting the tread was the Holy Alliance between Prussia, Russia, and Austria in 1815. in October 1873, German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck negotiated the League of the Three Emperors between the monarchs of Austria-Hungary, Russia and Germany. With Austria –Hungary and Russia not able to agree over Balkan policy This agreement failed leaving Germany and Austria-Hungary to form a Dual Alliance in 1879.

This was a strategy to countering Russian influence in the Balkans as the Ottoman Empire continued was quickly weakening. In 1882 the Dual Alliance expanded to Triple Alliance with the inclusion of Italy. During his reign Otto von Bismarck had worked hard to hold Russia at Germany’s side to avoid a two-front war with France and Russia in future. On ascending to throne Wilhelm II as German Emperor (Kaiser), Bismarck retired and the system of alliances he had built were gradually done away with. A good example is that Kaiser refused to renew the Reinsurance Treaty with Russia in 1890. Two years later a plan to counteract the force of the Triple Alliance led to signing of the Franco-Russian Alliance. In 1904, Britain signed a series of agreements with France, this was known as the Entente Cordiale, and in 1907, the Anglo-Russian Convention was signed between Britain and Russia. Although these agreements didn’t mean to ally Britain with France or Russia, they made a possibility of British entering into a future conflict involving France or Russia.  The system of interlocking bilateral agreements became known as the Triple Entente.

The British saw themselves as the masters abroad and peaceful commercial nation at home. In 1897 Queen Victoria celebrated her diamond jubilee by then the British Empire span 1/6 of the world. The death of Queen Victoria in 1901 marked the end of an era. Germany a united nation since 1871, was now a rising force of Europe under the leadership of Ceaser WILHELM II since 1888. The quest to conquer and protect territories saw the formation of the alliances.

The onset of the war fuelled reorganization and expansion of the alliances as more nations entered the war: Italy, Japan and the United States joined the Allies, and the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria the Central Powers.

Arms race

After unification and the foundation of the Germany Empire in 1871 following the Franco-Prussian War, German industrial and economic power had grown greatly. From 1890s on, the government of Wilhelm II devoted its economic resources for building the Imperial German Navy, (Kaiserliche Marine) started by Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, in response to rival the British Royal Navy for world naval supremacy. Apparently each nation strove to out-build the other in terms of mega ships. The launch of HMS Dreadnought in 1906, saw the British Empire expand on its significant advantage over German. The arms race between Britain and Germany eventually spread to the rest of Europe, with all the major powers devoting their industrial resources to producing equipments and weapons necessary for a possible European conflict. 1908 to 1913, European powers military spending doubled.

Conflicts in the Balkans

The Bosnian crisis of 1908–1909 are believed to be by  the Austria-Hungary which officially annexed the former Ottoman territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which it had occupied since 1878. This provoked the  Serbian Kingdom, the Pan-Slavic and Orthodox Russian Empire. Russian political activities in the region negatively impacted on  peace accords, which were already falling apart. In 1912 and 1913, the First Balkan War was fought between the Balkan League and the fracturing Ottoman Empire. Treaty of London was the result of the war which  further fragmented the Ottoman Empire, leading to creation of an independent Albanian State. This enlarged the territorial holdings of Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece. When Bulgaria attacked both Serbia and Greece on 16 June 1913, it lost most of Macedonia to Serbia and Greece and Southern Dobruja to Romania.  The 33-day Second Balkan War, further destabilized the region.

Sarajevo assassination

On 28 June 1914, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand visited the Bosnian capital Sarajevo for an official function. A group of six assassins supplied by the Black Hand included (Cvjetko Popović, Gavrilo Princip, Muhamed Mehmedbašić, Nedeljko Čabrinović, Trifko Grabež, Vaso Čubrilović). These guys were drawn from the nationalist group called Mlada Bosna. They gathered on the street where the Archduke’s motorcade would pass through. Čabrinović threw a grenade at the car, but missed. some people nearby the target got injured, and Franz Ferdinand’s convoy drove off quicky. After a short while when Franz Ferdinand was returning from a visit at the Sarajevo Hospital, the convoy passed near where Princip (member of the Black Hand) stood. Princip swiftly made use of his pistol shooting and killeing Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie.

Escalation of violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina

In Sarajevo, Austrian authorities irresponsibly encouraged violence against the Serb residents, resulting to the Anti-Serb riots of Sarajevo. Here Croats and Bosnian Muslims killed two ethnic Serbs and destroyed several Serb-owned buildings. “Sarajevo frenzy of hate.” is what Writer Ivo Andrić referred to the violence. The Violent actions against ethnic Serbs were organized not only in Sarajevo, but also in many other large Austro-Hungarian cities in modern-day Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Austro-Hungarian authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina imprisoned and extradited approximately thousands of prominent Serbs, 700 to 2,200 of whom died in prison. Hundreds of Serbs were sentenced to death. A  Muslim special militia known as the Schutzkorps was established and carried out the persecution of Serbs.

How Europe’s complex political and military alliances fueled diplomatic crisis

After the assassination of Archiduke Ferdinard and his wife in Sarajevo capital of Austria-Hungary on the 28th day of June 1914 this led to a month of black diplomatic relations between Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia, France, and Britain. This was called the July Crisis. With the assassination report pointing to correctly that Serbian officials (especially those of the Black Hand) were involved in the plot, and wanting to finally end Serbian interference in Bosnia, Austria-Hungary delivered to Serbia the July Ultimatum. This was a series of ten demands intentionally crafted to be unacceptable to Serbia with the intension of provoking war with Serbia. Serbia agreed to only eight of the ten demands and consequently Austria-Hungary declared war to Serbians on 28 July 1914 exactly one month after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.

On the same day the Austro-Hungarians fired the first shots in preparation for the invasion of Serbia. This provokes The Russian Empire and a day later Russia ordered a partial mobilization one day later, 29 July, for two reasons

  • Its unwillingness to allow Austria-Hungary eliminate its influence in the Balkans.
  • Support and protection of its longtime Serb protégé,.

As  Austrian troops  matched to Serbia and Germany anticipating support of Serbia by the Russians, Germany sends a warning to Russia that if it went to war in support of serbs, Germany would go to war against the Russians. On 30th July 1914 Austria bombs Serbian capital, the serbs turn to Russia for help. Russia moves in to protect Serbs and consequently as warned Germany declares war on Russia.  France mobilizes troops under provocation by Germany. 4th August 1914 Germany Army advances to Belgium with their eyes set on france, in disbelieve British declares war on Germany and right that moment all great nations of Europe were sucked into conflict which begun by the assasianation of Austria’s Archiduke crown prince Ferdinard and his wife while on official visit on austria’s capital  Sarajevo.

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