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The Great War
Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Timeline Maps & Battles The Shaping of the 21st Century Historians


Europe in 1914
German industry
German industry
At the start of the Great War in 1914, Germany was a relatively young power, only coming into existence following a series of wars in 1871. Germany's Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, had shepherd the country into the 20th century with the adage that Germany must always be in a majority of three in any dispute among the five great European powers. His aim was to maintain peaceful ties with Russian.
 
When Kaiser Wilhelm II came to power, he quickly retired Bismarck, and upset the Chancellor's delicate balance of power by refusing to renew Germany's friendship with Russia. Germany soon found itself in a minority of two. Its only European ally was the weakest of the European powers, Austria-Hungary.
 
German battleship squadron
German battleship squadron
The tripwire that set off the century's first global conflict was Austria's declaration of war against Serbia on July 28, 1914, a month after Archduke Franz Ferdinand (the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne) was assassinated in Sarajevo by a Serbian fanatic. A war between Austria and Serbia meant a war between Austria and Russia -- Serbia's traditional ally. That meant war between Russia and Germany. And that meant war between Germany and France. And that meant war between Germany and Great Britain. In a flash, the whole continent was at war.

   
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