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What were the main causes of World War I?

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The main causes of World War I can be summarized using the M-A-I-N acronym:

  1. Militarism:
    • The late nineteenth century witnessed intense military competition among major European powers.
    • Nations built up their armed forces, leading to an arms race and heightened tensions.
Triple Alliance
Triple Alliance
  1. Alliances:
    • A complex web of alliances formed between countries.
    • When conflict arose, these alliances drew nations into the war.
    • For instance, the Triple Entente (France, Russia, and the United Kingdom) faced the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy).
  1. Imperialism:
    • European powers vied for colonies and territories around the world.
    • The desire for greater empires fueled competition and conflict.
  1. Nationalism:
    • Nationalistic fervor surged, emphasizing loyalty to one’s nation.
    • National pride often led to aggressive policies and conflicts.

The spark that ignited World War I was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by the Bosnian Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip. This event triggered a diplomatic crisis, drawing in Austria-Hungary, Serbia, Russia, Germany, France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. The war began in the Balkans on July 28, 1914, and hostilities ended on November 11, 1918, resulting in 17 million deaths and 25 million woundedScholars continue to debate the deeper causes, including unresolved territorial disputes, the decline of the Ottoman Empire, and a complex mix of factors that culminated in this devastating conflict12.

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The main causes of World War I were militarism, alliances, imperialism, and nationalism. Militarism involved the growth of military forces and an arms race among European nations. Alliances formed between countries, creating a complicated web of alliances that dragged multiple nations into the conflict. Imperialism led to competition for colonies and resources, increasing tensions among nations. Nationalism fueled a sense of pride and loyalty to one's country, often leading to conflicts and rivalries between nations.