This timeline details the long term, short term and trigger events that caused the outbreak of World War One
See also Events of World War One
This was a peace treaty that was forced on Turkey by Russia following Turkish defeat in the the Russo-Turkish War. Under the terms of the treaty Turkey lost control of areas in the Balkans and Eastern Europe – Montenegro gained recognition, Serbia and Romania were given independence and Bulgaria was created. Austria-Hungary disliked the treaty because they did not want to see independent Balkan states. Britain disliked the treaty fearing Russian expansion in Europe.
This treaty revised the Treaty of San Stefano. Russia was deprived of the whole of Bulgaria and Serbia was forced to give back land it had gained from Bosnia. Although technically under Turkish control Austria-Hungary was allowed to station military garrisons in Bosnia.
This was an alliance made between Germany and Austria-Hungary to protect themselves from Russia. The Treaty was instigated by the the German minister Bismarck who was concerned by the fact that relations between Austria-Hungary and Russia had become strained because Russia had attacked Turkey. The terms of the treaty agreed that they would come to the other’s aid in the face of attack by Russia.
In an attempt to stabilise the situation in Eastern Europe, Germany and Austria-Hungary invited Russia to join their Dual Alliance.
This was an alliance made between Austria-Hungary and Serbia to prevent Russia gaining control of Serbia. Austria-Hungary told Serbia that they would not tolerate a Russian state on their borders leaving the Serbs with little choice but to agree to the alliance. The alliance bound Serbia to Austria-Hungary economically as well as politically and was not popularly received in Serbia.
This alliance extended the Dual Alliance made in 1879 to include Italy. The Italians had been prompted to join the Alliance because of anger at France’s seizure of Tunisia but also out of a need for protection in case of attack.
This was a secret alliance made between Romania and the signees of the Triple Alliance which gave Romania protection but only bound her to go to war if Austria-Hungary were attacked.
This was a mutual aid alliance between France and Russia. The French Republic had so far remained independent but in the face of the Triple Alliance made the alliance with Russia to curb German and Austro-Hungarian power. In the event of war Germany and Austria-Hungary would be forced to fight a war on two fronts.
As successive countries had formed alliances and ‘taken sides’ so they had began to build up their armies. By 1897 the total numbers of military personnel available for each major power was:
Britain – navy – more powerful than the others put together
France – army – 3.4 million reservists
Russia – army – 4 million reservists
Germany – army – 545,000 regular soldiers and 3.4 million reservists
Austria-Hungary – 2.6 million reservists
There was strong rivalry with Germany over the extent of the European powers’ empires and overseas colonies. Throughout the 19th century there had been a rapid expansion in the acquisition of overseas territories by European nations especially in Africa (the scramble for Africa).
Britain – included: Canada, British Guyana, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaya (Malaysia), Burma, Siam (Thailand), India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Aden (Yemen), Oman, Hong Kong, South Africa, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Tanganyika and Zanzibar (Tanzania), Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Sudan, Egypt, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone, Bahamas, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, South Pacific Islands
France – included: French Guyana, Tunisia, Algeria, French Western Africa (Most of N. Western Africa), French Equatorial Africa (Ivory Coast, Chad, Gabon, Congo), Madagascar, French Indo-China (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) Germany – included – German South West Africa (Namibia), German East Africa (Burundi, Rwanda, part of Tanzania), Cameroon, Benin, German Pacific Islands
This was an agreement between Russia and newly created Bulgaria. Russia wanted to ensure Bulgarian support and offered protection to Bulgaria in return Bulgaria was only obliged to go to war if attacked by Austria-Hungary.
This was an agreement, but not a formal alliance, between France and Britain. The agreement ended the traditional hostility between the two countries. France recognised British control of Egypt while Britain recognised French control of Morocco, disputes over fishing rights were settled and disputes in Siam (Thailand) were also settled.
Morocco wanted independence from France. Germany declared support for the Moroccans against the French. War was avoided following negotiations which allowed France to retain possession of Morocco.
This was an agreement between Britain and Russia that settled territorial disputes in Persia (Iran), Afghanistan and Tibet.
The signing of the Ango-Russian Entente together with the Entente Cordiale between Britain and France and the Franco-Russian Alliance created what was known as the Triple Entente and provided for mutual aid guarantees if any country were attacked.
Austria took control of Bosnia angering Serbia. Serbia threatened Austria-Hungary with war. Russia, allied to Serbia, mobilised its forces. Germany mobilised its forces and threatened Russia. War was avoided when Russia backed down.
Germany sent a gunboat to the Moroccon port of Agadir in protest at France’s increasing military presence in Morocco. Britain announced that she would stand behind France. This move threatened to result in the outbreak of war.
This was a peace treaty between France and Germany whereby Germany agreed to recognise French possession of Morocco in return for Middle Congo (Republic of Congo) which became part of the German colony of Kamerun (Cameroon)
Britain – 29 dreadnoughts and 9 dreadnought battle cruisers
Germany – 17 dreadnoughts and 7 dreadnought battle cruisers
The heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated. The couple were on a visit to the Bosnian capital Sarajevo when they were shot and killed by Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Black Hand Serbian terrorist group.
Harvard Reference for this page:
Heather Y Wheeler. (2015). World War One Causes 1878 – 1914. Available: https://www.totallytimelines.com/world-war-one-causes-1878-1914 Last accessed September 23rd, 2019