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Prior to the First World War, Serbia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Because nationalism was a growing force in Europe, this foreign domination was greatly resented. On June 28th, 1914, a nationalist organization called the Black Hand assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand in an attempt to assert demands for Serbian independence. Though it is widely speculated that the Serbian government had no involvement in the assassination, Austria-Hungary responded swiftly. At Germany's insistence, it declared war on Serbia in an effort to crush the nationalist movement. Though the assassination of Ferdinand was a seemingly miniscule event, it escalated into a global conflict because the major European powers established pre-war alliances in an attempt to avoid war. Britain, France and Russia established the Triple Entente while Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary formed the Triple Alliance. Such alliances were necessary because each nation had to defend its interests. Britain, for instance, was the undisputed ruler of the seas and feared the expansion of the German navy. France, meanwhile, wanted revenge on Germany for the outcome of the Franco-Prussian war of 1871; France suffered a humiliating defeat in this conflict and lost the provinces of Alsace-Lorraine. Though these alliances were meant to prevent war, they wound up having the opposite effect. When Austria-Hungary went to war with Serbia, Russia came to defend the Serbs; the Russians and Serbs were naturally aligned because they were both of Slav descent. Because Germany instucted Austria-Hungary to be firm with Serbia following the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, it felt obligated to join the conflict and promptly waged war on Russia. Britain and France had already established an alliance with Russia and had no choice but to wage war on Germany. Within a month of June 28th, 1914, all of the major European powers were at war. It is worth noting that Italy held out until 1915 when it joined the side of the allies.

The origin of World War I and II are similar because both conflicts were preceeded by pacifistic intentions. Prior to the First World War, the nations of Europe chose alliances as a method of avoiding conflict. Prior to the Second World War, the method of choice was appeasement. This was a policy exercised by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain; it enabled Germany to receive political and territorial concessions in exchance for its promise to maintain peace. In short, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was essentially insignificant. It was an incident that simply happened to take place during a tumultuous time characterized by tension and discontent throughout Europe. The eventual involvement of all the European powers in the initial conflict between Serbia and Austria-Hungary can be summed up in two words: domino effect.

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2007-09-02 07:41:16
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Q: How did Arch Duke Ferdinand's assassination cause war?
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