⇦ Back to 1914

World War I was a global conflict that lasted from 1914 to 1918. It involved the major powers of the world, divided into two opposing alliances: the Allies (led by France, Russia, and the United Kingdom) and the Central Powers (led by Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire). This lesson will focus on the events leading up to the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

The Complex Web of Alliances

One of the main factors that contributed to the outbreak of World War I was the complex web of alliances that existed between the major powers of Europe. These alliances were formed in the decades leading up to the war, as countries sought to protect themselves from potential threats. The two main alliances were the Triple Entente (formed in 1907 between France, Russia, and the United Kingdom) and the Triple Alliance (formed in 1882 between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy).

The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

In June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia, by a Serbian nationalist. This event set off a chain reaction of events that ultimately led to the outbreak of World War I. Austria-Hungary blamed Serbia for the assassination and issued an ultimatum, demanding that Serbia take responsibility for the attack and allow Austria-Hungary to conduct an investigation on Serbian soil.

Ultimatums and Declarations of War

As tensions between Austria-Hungary and Serbia escalated, other countries began to take sides. Germany pledged its support to Austria-Hungary, while Russia mobilized its army in support of Serbia. On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and within a week, Germany had declared war on Russia and France. The Great War had begun.

The Impact of the Outbreak of World War I

The outbreak of World War I had a profound impact on the world. It led to the deaths of millions of people and caused widespread destruction across Europe. The war also marked the end of the old world order and the beginning of a new era of global conflict. The Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1919, officially ended the war and imposed harsh penalties on Germany, setting the stage for the rise of Adolf Hitler and the outbreak of World War II just two decades later.


The outbreak of World War I in 1914 was the result of a complex web of alliances, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and the ultimatums issued by various countries. The war had a profound impact on the world and set the stage for the conflicts of the 20th century. Understanding the events that led up to the outbreak of World War I is essential for understanding the history of the 20th century and the world we live in today.

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2. The Schlieffen Plan ⇨