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The Great War
Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Timeline Maps and Battles The Shaping of the 21st Century Historians
OverviewExplosionStalemateTrench WarfareWilhelm II / MeidnerJaures / Gibbs
German troops mobilizing'At last I have got my orders... Dear Mother... we must have a broad outlook and think of our nation, our Fatherland, of God.' --Walter Limmer, German soldier's War Letters

Tsar Nicholas II
Tsar Nicholas II
No one event or person caused the Great War. There were many factors that contributed to mobilization of the belligerents. With a rapidly expanding European economy, people demanded social and governmental changes: British suffragettes fought to win British women the right to vote; socialists called for reforms, uniting laborers to demand that the wealth and power of a nation be used to benefit the majority. While in Russian, Tsar Nicholas II held fast to an autocratic old-world view.
On June 28, 1914, Serbian fanatic, Gavrilo Princip, assassinated Archduke Franz-Ferdinand of Austria, causing Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany to support Austria in punishing the Serbs, setting the stage for Russia - backing Serbia - and her allies France and Britain to go to war.

German Soldiers Mobilizing for War

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In the weeks after the assassination, none of the critical leaders had the power or will to slow down the decisions, actions, reactions and attitude shifts of key government and military leaders. By August, millions of Europeans -- especially the military and diplomatic leaders of Austria-Hungary, Germany and Russia -- saw war as the way to save their honor, as well as to solve the internal and international problems that needed to be resolved.

Top Photo: German troops mobilizing

Map of Europe: Major European Powers at Start of War, 1914

Historian Commentary Germany before the War
Bernd Huppauf, Historian

Cheering German Soldiers
It might be very difficult to understand that the large majority of the German population had the feeling that they were engaged in a war that had been forced upon them -- that they were a part of a war in which they defended their very existence. And that this was a war that was fought not for material possessions, that was not fought for the annexation of territory, for colonies, but that it was a war in which Germany, itself, defended her bare existence.

Explore Further
* Europe in 1914
* Who's Who: Archduke Franz Ferdinand (
* The Origins of World War One (BBC)
* Imperial Germany by Volker Berghahn
1914-1919 Timeline
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Timeline Maps & Battles Shaping of the 21st Century Historians War Index Resources About the Show
Archduke Ferdinand assassinated Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia 1919 1918 1917 1916 1915 1914