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Europe avoided major wars in the 100 years before World War 1 began. In the 1800’s, a force swept across the continent that helped bring about the Great War. The force was nationalism – the belief that loyalty to a person’s nation and its political and economic goals comes befor any other public loyalty. During the 1800’s nationalism took hold among people who shared a common language, history, or culture. Such people began to view themselves as members a national group or nation. Nationalism led to the creation of two new powers – Italy and Germany – through the uniting of many small states. War had a major role in achieving nation unification in Italy and Germany. On the other hand, nationalism weakened the eastern European empires of Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Ottoman Turkey. Those empires ruled many national groups that clamored for independence. The Balkan Peninsula or the “Powder Keg of Europe” because tensions there threatened to ignite a major war. Rivalry for control of the Balkans added to the tensions that erupted into World War 1. A build-up of military might occurred among European countries before World War 1 broke out. Nationalism encouraged public support for military build-ups and for a country’s use of force to achieve its goals. By the late 1800’s, Germany had the best trained army in the world. In 1898 Germany began developing a naval force that was big enough to challenge the British navy. In 1906, the British navy launched the Dreadnought, the first modern battleship. The Dreadnought had greater firepower that any other ship of its time. Germany rushed to construct on just like it. Advances in technology helped aid in making military forces stronger. Machine guns and other new arms fired more accurately and more rapidly that earlier weapons. By the end of the 1800’s, technology enabled countries to fight longer and bear greater losses that ever before. A system of military alliances gave European powers a sense of security before World War 1. They formed these alliances with eachother for protection and guarente that other members of the alliance would come to the country’s aid if attacked. Although alliances provided protection, the system also created certian dangers. If war came, the alliance system meant that a number of nations would fight, not only the two involved in a duspute. Alliances could force a counry to go to war against a nation it had no quarrel with. In addition, the terms of many alliances were kept secret. The secrecy also increased the chances that a county might guess wrong about the consequeneces of its actions. The Triple Alliance was made up of 3 countries, Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary. They all agreed to go to war if attacked by Russia. Bismarck also brought Austria-Hungary and Germany into alliance with Russia. The agreement was known as the Three Emperor’s League and was formed in 1881. They all agreed to remain neutral if any of them went to war with another country. In 1890 when Bismarck left office it gave a chance for Russia and France to form an alliance. In 1894, France and Russia agreed to call up troops if any naiton in the Triple Alliance mobilized. Russia and France also agreed to help eachother if either were attacked be Germany. On June 28, 1914 Archduke Francis Ferdinand was assassinated by a Serbian terrorist named Gavrilo Princip. The Archduke’s assassination triggered the outbreak of World War 1. On July 28 Austria-Hungary declard war on Serbia. Because of Austria-Hungary’s alliance with Germany, Serbia seeked help from Russia. In 1914 Russia vowed to stand behind Serbia, but first Russia gained support from France. Germany declared war on Russia on Aug. 1, 1914, in response to Russias mobilization. Two days later Germany declared war on France. The German Army swept into Belgium on its way to France. The invasion of Belgium caused Britian to declare war on Germany on Aug. 4. Germanys plan for a quick defeat of France while Russia slowly mobilized was called the Schlieffen Plan. This plan called for two wings of the German army to crush the French army in a pincers movement. A small left wing would defend Germany alongs its frontier with France. A much larger right wing would invade France through Belgium; encircle and capture Paris; and them move east. Belgiums army fought bravely but held up the Germans for only a short time. By Aug 16,1914, the right wing of Germany could begin its pincers motion. It drove back French and British forces in southern Belguim and swept info France. But instead of swinging west around Paris, one part of the right wing pursued retreating French toops toward the Marne River. This maneuver left the Germans exposed to attacks form the rear. Meanwhile, General Joseph Joffre, commander of all French armies, stationed his forces near the Marne River east of Paris and prepared for battle. This battle was later known as the First Battle of the Marne, beginning on September 6 and ending September 9 when German forces started to withdraw. The First Battle of the Marne was a key victory for the Allies because it ended Germanys hopes to defeat France quickly. The German army halted its retreat near the Aisne River. From there, the Germans and the Allies fought a series of battles that became known as the Race to the Sea. Germany sought to seize ports on the English Channel and cut off vital supply lines between France and Britian. But the Allies stopped the Germans in the First Battle of Ypres in Belgium. The battle lasted from mid-October until mid-November. By late November 1914, the war reached a deadlock along the Western Front as neither side gained much ground. The deadlock lasted nearly 3 1/2 years.


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