European countries had already taken for themselves, huge chunks of territories in Africa and some parts of Asia in an effort to gain more raw materials for their growing industries (Findley & Rothney, 2011). This is known as imperialism, and it was the rush to get as many territories as possible that generated significant heat between the powers. As the tension on who would acquire more of those territories grew, the taste for wealth and power turned into direct debates and confrontations such as the one between Britain and Germany for Tanganyika in 1884-1887 (Gjerso, 2015). This kind of competition only led to the powers storing up feelings of animosity and the need to eliminate each other for more resources. The Archduke’s assassination, therefore, provided fertile ground for the grudges to be settled under the perfect guise of national sovereignty protection.
Another main force behind World War 1 was the numerous alliances that had cropped up between European states which bound the countries within the treaty to respond to any attacks on either. Way before WW1, alliances that sought to ensure political and military interests were aligned between major European powers existed. When the Archduke was murdered, Austria Hungary blamed the Serbian government for the act and was determined to make Serbia pay. However, Russia, which was Serbia’s ally and protector of Balkan interests, decided to defend Serbia attracting the attention of Germany, Austria-Hungary’s fierce protector and ally who declared war on Russia. France and Russia were already allies, and so, France entered the war on Russia and Serbia’s side against Austria-Hungary and Germany. In their offense against France, Germany provoked Britain when they went through Belgium given that Britain was an ally to both France and Belgium and thus felt compelled to intervene. The entrance of Britain in the war attracted Japan, their ally. Russian, France and Britain, the allied powers, later attracted the USA and Italy to join the war at their side (Brower & Sanders, 2014).
Another force was the ever-expanding military power that the European powers had been accumulating before the war began. There was an intense arms race going on at the onset of the 20th Century which was based on the need for each country to top the other’s number of warships which were, in turn, increasing in terms of speed, size, number of weapons to be carried, and protective shields. There was also an upsurge in the number of trained troops in the army and navy with Germany boasting over two million army men and one hundred warships and Britain increased its naval power to the best in the world. With militarism came the influence on national politics which further pushed these countries into fighting in WW1, Germany, and Russia as good examples (Findley & Rothney, 2011)
Brower, D. R., & Sanders, T. (2014). The World in the Twentieth Century: From Empires to Nations, The, (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Higher Ed.
Findley, C. V., & Rothney, J. A. (2011). World War I: The Turning Point of European Ascendancy. In Twentieth-Century World (7th ed., pp. 53-78). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Gjerso, J. F. (2015). The Scramble for East Africa: British Motives Reconsidered, 1884–95. The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 43(5), 831-860. doi:10.1080/03086534.2015.1026131