Causes of the Great War (Mr. Junkins)



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Causes of the Great War

(Mr. Junkins)
The origins of the First World War—The Great War—pose a major historical problem not only because this event was a major turning point in world history, but also because the question of who was responsible, raised during the war and answered in the peace settlement, became a vital and passionately argued issue in both domestic and international politics. By placing the blame for the war on Germany and its allies and thereby justifying reparations, the victorious powers supplied one of the major factors used by Adolf Hitler in his rise to power in Germany.

The challenge presented by the First World War to the student historian is a profound one. The student must confront difficult questions about this catastrophic event which has truly shaped the world we live in. Basic questions to consider include the following:



  • Upon what assumptions and frames of reference were the statesman of 1914 making their decisions?

  • What choices did those statesman have regarding the issues they faced?

  • Why did they make the decisions they made?

  • Given the system of independent, sovereign national states that existed in 1914, could greater intelligence, more determination to avoid the risks of war, or speedier and more honest statements of positions have averted bloodshed?

  • Or, were the issues such that they could not be resolved by peaceful means because they touched upon “vital” national interests?

  • Were there really any “villains” after all?

  • Was the war inevitable?

  • Which causes of the war are still in the international “mix” today?

  • What new causes for war that were unknown or irrelevant in 1914 do we confront today?


Assignment: Each student will be responsible for all the work below. However, since you will be permitted and expected to work in groups, you may share responsibility with group members for locating the information. You are expected to use relevant resources to complete this.
YOUR GROUP MUST SUBMIT ONE COLLATED SET OF YOUR RESEARCH, TYPED & IN ORDER!!
Research: Find out the following for your assigned country/empire/group—

  1. Give a brief overview as of 1914, including:

    1. population;

    2. domestic situation;

      1. type of government—state structure & decision-making process

      2. major leader/s—King, President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Foreign Secretary, Secretary of State, Chancellor, Emperor, Military Leaders, etc.

      3. economic situation: level of industrialization (or lack of), major trading partners, major products or raw materials exported AND imported

      4. major ethnic/national groups within its borders

    3. international position: major concerns? who are your major allies? enemies? WHY???

    4. geographic location (include a map!)

    5. size and makeup of its armed forces, including navy; military preparedness; war plans?

    6. define its national interests. What are its principal domestic and international goals and interests?

    7. what are the main events and circumstances that caused it to either go to war or become neutral in 1914? Make sure this is done from the perspective of your country. You will need to look at the recent history back to perhaps around 1870.

  2. Do the following:

ID’s (Briefly explain and know the significance of the following terms. Use the 5 W’s + H):

  • 6+ Great Powers as of 1914

  • Fashoda Crisis

  • Berlin-Baghdad Railway

  • Moroccan Crises of 1905 and 1911

  • First and Second Balkan Wars

  • Kaiser Wilhelm II

  • Weltpolitik & “place in the sun”

  • Western Front

  • Willy-Nicky Correspondence

  • Zimmermann Telegram

  • Alsace-Lorraine

  • Entente or Allied Powers

  • Central Powers

  • Schlieffen Plan

  • Plan XVII (17)

  • Archduke Francis Ferdinand

  • Gavrilo Princip

  • Belgian neutrality

  • social Darwinism

  • “blank cheque” (carte blanche)

  • encirclement

  • naval race

Vocabulary (Don’t rely on the Glossary only—research!!!):

  • Balkans

  • mobilization

  • Kaiser

  • nationalism

  • imperialism

  • militarism

  • national interest

  • revanchism

  • Dreadnought

  • Slav

  • balance of power


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