By Mr Huggins
On 28 June 1914 a Serbian shot an Austrian. Within six weeks many of the countries of Europe had
become involved in a war that was to cause the deaths of 10,000,000 soldiers. Why did this happen?
Here are some typical exam questions about the causes of World War I.
• Why did World War I begin in August 1914?
• Why did the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand lead to the outbreak of a major European
War within six weeks?
Use this tutorial to help you understand the causes of World War I. It will also help you to develop your
essay writing skills. All the following details are relevant to the answer to these questions.
These different sections will help you: Long-term causes - Short-term causes - Happening hints
Long-term causes of World War I
Many European countries believed that their country was more important than any other. This showed
itself in lots of ways. It showed itself in German aggression both in Europe and over colonies. It also
showed itself in another way in the Balkans. Here it was seen as attempts to gain independence from
both Austria-Hungary and Russia. For example, Bosnia wished to break
free from the Austria-Hungary and join up with Serbia On 28 June
Gavrilo Princip, a eighteen-year-old Serbian student and a member of
the Black Hand Gang, shot the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to
the throne of Austria-Hungary.
Why did he do this?
Serbia had become an independent country in the late nineteenth
century. The Serbians wanted to expand, but were hemmed in by other
countries. They also wanted to take Bosnia from Austria-Hungary
because most of the inhabitants of Bosnia were Serbian.
Most Serbs hated Austria-Hungary and were prepared to do anything
they could to attack it.
All of these European neighbours had long-term reasons to distrust
In 1870 France had gone to war with Prussia (Germany) and had been very badly defeated. Ger