Europe – Spring 1914
By the twentieth century Europe had reached a pinnacle of knowledge, wealth and power. Although Europe is one of the smallest continents, by the end of the nineteenth century most of the earth’s land was under the rule of just a few European countries, namely Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Russia.
However, these countries were not equal in either size or strength, which led to instability among rivals, thus forcing weaker countries to seek protection agreements. These agreements unnerved a few rulers, such as Kiser Wilhelm of Germany who was concerned about France’s growing military strength and its alliance with Russia. Since the three countries shared common boarders, the Kiser decided to build the largest and best equipped army and a navy to rival the sea supremacy of Great Britain.
By the spring of 1914, rising political strife between European countries reached a critical point where there were whispers of war.
Otto von Bismarck, a German ambassador, predicted that ‘some damn foolish thing in the Balkans, would ignite the next war.’
German military strategist Alfred von Schlieffen had been working on a strategic plan whereby Germany could successfully fight on two fronts if a future war occurred. The spark that offered the opportunity to test Schlieffen’s plan happened on June 28, 1914, when Austrian heir apparent, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by Serbian nationals the house of cards built of alliances between key countries in Europe, was beginning to collapse.
This descent into the abyss of war resembled the tumbling of a row of dominoes, when one falls the rest will follow.
This chain reaction commenced when Austria–Hungary attacked Serbia in response to the assassination of the Archduke. Russia had an alliance with Serbia; therefore Russia declared war on Austria-Hungary. As Austria-Hungary had a partnership with Germany, Germany declared war on both Serbia and Russia. Russia and France had an agreement, so France slid into the abyss alongside the others. This cascading effect would continue as other countries entered the war, with the exception of Great Britten.