Rising Tensions in Europe
Many people in Europe had joined groups to work
for peace. However, developments would soon
lead Europe into war.
One of those developments was nationalism - a
deep feeling of attachment to one's own nation.
This force helped unify the people of a country. It
also created competition between countries.
By 1900, six nations were rivals for power in
Europe. These nations, called the Great Powers,
were Germany, Austria-Hungary, Great Britain,
Russia, Italy, and France. They competed economically, and they
competed for neighboring land.
Imperialism was another force that helped lead
to war. France and Germany were each seeking to
control of parts of Africa. They almost came to war
twice in the early 1900s. Mistrust was a huge
The third factor leading to war was a growing
arms race. Each country in Europe - except Great
Britain - built a large army. Glorifying war and
preparing for it is called militarism.
What were the factors leading to war?
Growing rivalries led the nations to make military
alliances. Prussia's chancellor, Otto von Bismarck,
feared that France would want revenge for its
defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. He set out to
isolate France. In 1879, he formed a Triple
Alliance with Austria-Hungary and Italy. He also
signed a treaty with Russia.
Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany did not want to
share power with Bismarck. He forced Bismarck to
resign and followed his own foreign policy. He let
the agreement with Russia end. Russia soon allied
itself with France. This alliance meant that
Germany would have to fight enemies on its eastern and western borders
if there were a war with
either country. Wilhelm II then moved to make the
German navy larger.
Britain grew alarmed. It began to build more
ships. It also entered into the Triple Entente
alliance with France and Russia. The six Great
Powers had now formed two camps—Germany,
Austria-Hungary, and Italy against Britain, France,
What caused countries to fear one another AND how did they
Crisis in the Balkans
Meanwhile, trouble was brewing in the Balkans, in
southeastern Europe. The Ottoman Empire controlled this area. But it was breaking apart. Both
Austria-Hungary and Russia wanted some of this
The kingdom of Serbia was also in this region.
It wanted to bring other Slavic peoples who lived in
the Balkans under its control. In 1908, AustriaHungary seized Bosnia and Herzegovina. These
lands had Slavic peoples. This action angered the
Serbs. However, their Russian allies were unwilling
to support them, and they backed down.
By 1914, the situation was different. Serbia had
gained land in other parts of the region and felt
strong. Austria worried that Serbia might interfere
with its control of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In June 1914, a Serbian killed Archduke Franz
Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of AustriaHungary. Austria-Hungary
declared war on Serbia.
Russia came to Serbia's defense. Soon most of
Europe was at war.
What part did the Balkans play
in the increasing tensions?