Timeline-Map History – 20 Defining Events that Lead to The Great War


When Gavrilo Princip, opened fire
in Archduke Franz Ferdinand, he killed not just the heir
to the Austrian throne, but sentenced to death over nine
million people in four years. But if the assassination was the
excuse, it wasn’t the cause. today we will bring you 20 defining
moments that led to World War I Prussia and Austria’s
devastating seizure of the ethnically mixed territories
of Schleswig and Holstein, which separated Denmark from
what is now Germany, shocked the young British Prince Edward,
the future King Edward VII who was only months into his
marriage to Alexandra of Denmark. The pair openly supported the
Danes in the conflict in spite of an increasingly
pro-German Queen Victoria. The Conflict was fought for control
of the duchies of Holstein and Lauenburg, due to the succession
disputes concerning them… …when the Danish king,
Frederick VII of Denmark died without an heir acceptable
to the German Confederation. This conflict, the Second Schleswig
War, coupled with his cold relationship with his mother, formed the bedrock
of Edward VII’s foreign policy and he cultivated a staunchly
pro-French and anti-German clique that would survive in government
long after his death in 1910. Under Edward VII’s influence,
the Royal Navy was reformed and modernised to counter
the growing German navy, and Britain’s aloof isolation
slipped away in favour of treaties with France and Russia that would
one day become the Triple Entente, dragging the United Kingdom
and its empire into war. A dispute between the traditional
guiding hand of the Germanic states Austria, whose Habsburg
family had ruled since 1278 and the increasingly powerful
Kingdom of Prussia, under Prime Minister Otto von
Bismarck and King Wilhelm I allowed the growing
rivalry between the two powers to bubble to the
surface in open war. The conflict, known as Austro-Prussian
War saw The Kingdom of Prussia, aided by Kingdom of Italy
victory over Austrian Empire The war resulted in the Prussia
annexes Hanover, Holstein, Schleswig, Hesse-Kassel, Nassau, Frankfurt and
parts of Bavaria and Hesse-Darmstadt. Left weakened and with Hungary set to
break away, the Austrian Empire was dissolved in favour of a cumbersome
Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary in which each state was
governed independently and then together by a convoluted
system of joint-ministers This solution to Austria’s
internal instability in turn created a whole new set of stress
points in the vast edifice, including Hungary’s oppressive policies
towards its non-Hungarian subjects, made them easy prey to Serb and
Russian sponsored agitation that would prove so toxic in
Austrian-run Bosnia in 1914. With Austria’s traditional dependencies,
the myriad small German principalities, the German Confidedation
now under the banner of one Prussian dominated North
German Confederation, Austria-Hungary had to look
toward the Balkans and the waning Ottoman influence for
opportunities to expand. Believing “a Franco–Prussian War
must take place before a united Germany was formed”, Otto von
Bismarck goaded France into attacking Prussia then turned its attention
towards the south of Germany, where it sought to incorporate
the southern German kingdoms Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden
and Hesse-Darmstadt, into a unified
Prussia-dominated Germany The French defeat brought down the
Second French Empire of Napoleon III, the monarch was captured along
with the remainder of his army and a vast Prussian
occupation of huge swathes of France until war
reparations were paid. This humiliation, along with the
annexation of the valuable and heavily industrialised Alsace-Lorraine border
region became a huge national tragedy. It remained at the heart of French
culture in the run-up to World War I as foreign affairs revolved around
preparing for a new conflict with Germany, and public opinion called
for the return of the lost provinces In the aftermath of the
Franco-Prussian War, the North German Confederation was
dissolved and replaced by a unified German Empire, led by Kaiser Wilhelm
I and Chancellor Von Bismarck while the French Third
Republic formed in Paris. Though Otto von Bismarck’s role in
the birth of the German Empire and a renewed enmity with France left him
with a reputation for belligerence the ‘Iron Chancellor’ was a
stabilising force for central Europe He kept Germany back from
the rush for colonies that would bring it into direct
competition with other powers declaring in 1876 that a war
in the Balkans wouldn’t be worth “the healthy bones of a
single Pomeranian musketeer” He also signed the Reinsurance
Treaty with Russia in 1887 that limited their involvement
in conflicts with each other. Wilhelm II succeeded his father,
Kaiser Frederick III, with a very different set of priorities
and the two clashed constantly the toxic atmosphere in the court eventually
forcing Bismarck to resign in 1890 His replacement, Leo von Caprivi was
far more in step with Wilhelm’s vision fatally letting the Reinsurance Treaty
lapse, pushing Russia towards France in favour of a friendship with
Britain that would never come to fruition, leaving Germany
isolated in Europe by 1914. A less likely love affair it
would be difficult to imagine democratic republican France and
archaic autocratic imperial Russia cosy up despite public
outcry in both countries France felt encircled by
Britain and Germany who were enjoying a rare
cosiness at this point, while likewise Russia saw
itself threatened by the British Empire in central
Asia, and the Far East and by Germany’s allies
Austria-Hungary in Europe. Where past treaties were
agreements between governments designed to keep them from
interfering in each other’s business this was primarily a military
pact with a guaranteed military response if the
other was attacked. With no room for ambiguity, the
Franco-Russian Alliance wasthe first of many that would bind the military powers of
Europe together like mountain climbers just waiting for one to fall and
the rest to go tumbling after. Though the competing British and
German interests around what is now South Africa had been a
clear flashpoint for decades the British Cape Colony’s
failed raid on the independent Transvaal Republic that would
eventually lead to the Boer War though unsanctioned by Britain,
received the motherland’s firm backing Kaiser Wilhelm II drafted a letter of
congratulation to Boer president Paul Kruger that was celebrated by the German press and
sparked outrage in its British counterparts Germany’s urbane ambassador to
London was shocked when the Foreign Office’s bullish Sir
Francis Bertie informed him that wiping out the German navy would be
“child’s play for the English fleet”. Very much aware of their
limitations, their political isolation and
of Britain’s overreaction Wilhelm II resolved to increase the
power of the German Imperial Navy and to treat Britain
no longer just as a potential ally but also
as a potential threat. The scramble for Africa reached
crisis point as France and Britain coveted control of the Nile to
link up their African colonies France especially felt threatened
by Britain’s occupation of Egypt in 1882 and quickly
dispatched a small force to Fashoda where the lines of both
powers’ empires intersected After a daring 14-month
trek across Africa, the French force seized
Fashoda on 10 July 1898, however reinforcements turned back and
a flotilla of British gunboats led by imperialism’s posterboy, Horatio Herbert
Kitchener, arrived at the isolated fort both sides politely insisting on their
right to be there, and rather nobly agreeing to fly British, French and
Egyptian flags over the fort in compromise At home, meanwhile, talk of war
gripped both parliaments, only when it looked as though victory
would hinge on sea-power putting the lighter, faster French fleet
at the mercy of the heavier British one did the French withdraw and an official
boundary was agreed between the two powers. The normalisation of British
and French relations after the Fashoda Incident, and the clear
demarcation of influence relieved the constant pressure between
the two to an extent, setting them off from hundreds of years of semi-regular
bloodshed on a new course towards alliance Entente Cordiale was signed
next as a significant improvement in
Anglo-French relations. During 28 june 1881, a
secret bilateral treaty were signed in Belgrade between
Austria and Serbian The convention effectively turned Serbia
into a vassal state of Austria-Hungary and meant her accession by proxy
to the subsequent Triple Alliance In a scandal that shocked all of
Europe, Serbia’s deeply unpopular and pro-Austrian king Alexander
Obrenović and his wife were murdered by a cabal of army officers
who forced their way into the palace and rousted the royal
couple from their hiding place This act resulted in the extinction
of the House of Obrenović which had been ruling the Kingdom of Serbia
since the middle of the 19th century Perpetrated by the Black
Hand, a radical nationalist secret society dedicated
to absorbing ‘Serb’ lands from the rule of the
Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires refused all foreign diplomatic
pressure to have them arrested for fear they’d be the
next to be brutally murdered One of the key conspirators, Dragutin
‘Apis’ Dimitrijević would later become the leader of the Black Hand and
Serbia’s head of military intelligence a powerful combi nation that would
allow him to organise a failed attempt on the life of Austro-Hungarian
Emperor Franz Josef in 1911 and a more successful and infamous attack
on Franz Ferdinand three years later. Keen to test the extent of France and
Britain’s Entente Cordiale, signed 8 April 1904 and putting an end to
colonial rivalry in Africa and Asia Wilhelm II arrives in Tangier to deliver a
speech in favour of Moroccan independence much to the chagrin of France, who planned
to take over Morocco as a protectorate. The Kaiser expected to use the ensuing
conference to resolve the situation as an opportunity to magnanimously
grant France limited control bringing them closer to Germany
and isolating Britain, but to his surprise
British foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey, backed the
French in the strongest possible terms, and it’s Germany that,
once again, came away isolated The Tangier Crisis paved the way
for the Agadir Crisis in 1911, which despite higher stakes, a
German gunship off the coast and French and Spanish troop
deployments on Morocco’s streets the German aims were the same,
and so were the results: Franco-British military
dependency increased, as did the French hold on Morocco and
Germany’s political encirclement. Imperial Russia’s colonial
ambitions in Asia finally overreached themselves,
and the Japanese launched a devastating night
attack on 8 February 1904 against the fleet
anchored at Port Arthur This blow to Russia not
only brought the Tsarist autocracy to the brink with
the Revolution of 1905 but forced Russia to look to the
west to expand its influence The factions in the imperial court
fixated on increasing Russia’s influence over the Slavic and Orthodox Christian
nationalities were strengthened and foreign policy became increasingly
fixated on Bulgaria and Serbia especially. The desire to gain control over the
Turkish Straits which would allow the Russian fleet in the Black Sea access
to the Mediterranean also grew. Austro-Hungarian troops had
been in the Ottoman province of Bosnia and Herzegovina since
1878 running it in all but name Following the assassination of king
of serbia and serbian coup in 1903 Relations between Serbia and
Austria-Hungary gradually deteriorated However, Russia’s ability to support Serbia
was greatly reduced following military humiliation in the 1905 Russo-Japanese
War and the ensuing internal unrest By 1907, Austro-Hungarian Foreign
Minister Alois Aehrenthal began formulating a plan to
solidify Austria-Hungary’s position towards Serbia through
annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. His opportunity came in
the form of a letter from Russian Foreign
Minister Alexander Izvolsky In a series of letters
and a six-hour secret meeting, Alexander Izvolsky,
and Alois Aehrenthal agreed a revision to the
treaty of 1878 Treaty of Berlin, allowing Austria-Hungary
full control of Bosnia When the Austrians announced
their intent, Izvolsky acted as outraged as the rest of Europe’s
political movers and shakers and only when Vienna threatened to release
secret records proving Izvolsky’s duplicity did Russia back down and force
Serbia to accept the annexation of Bosnia This affair prompted a shift in the
direction of Serbian nationalism and public outrage that had so far been more
preoccupied with Macedonia and Kosovo Italy, meanwhile, part of the Triple
Alliance with Austria-Hungary and Germany had been long promised territory on the
Croatian coast if Austria were to take Bosnia. Affronted, the Italian government
would cite this breach of trust when they joined WWI on the side of
the Triple Entente in 1915. Though Britain and France
had carved off Egypt and Morocco from the fringes
of the Ottoman Empire Italy’s sudden invasion
of Libya, one of the empire’s central provinces
stunned the world The superior technology of the Italians and
their use of air reconnaissance saw them quickly take key cities
before becoming bogged down in guerrilla warfare
and counterattacks while the brutal naval assault on
the Dodecanese, the southernmost Greek islands bloodied the Turks
and forced them on the defensive While it kicked off a chain
reaction in the Balkans that led to the First Balkan War due to the
ottoman war against the italy the Italian seizure of Libya
demonstrated a shift in Italy’s foreign relations away
from its traditional allies Rather than consult its Triple
Alliance partners Germany and Austria- Hungary, both invested in the
integrity of the Ottoman Empire they cleared the campaign with France
and Britain before hand instead. Voted in on a wave of nationalism
following the Agadir Crisis in July 1911 hardline anti-German
prime minister Raymond Poincaré presided over
a lurch to the right Made president the following
year he consolidated control of foreign policy and
the Higher Council of War and dispatched veteran statesman
Théophile Delcassé, dubbed “the most dangerous man for
Germany in France” by Wilhelm II as ambassador to Russia to better co-ordinate
Franco-Russian military strategy. As Poincaré’s government
prepared for war he also made it more likely, telling Russian
ambassador, Alexander Izvolsky that any conflict with
Austria-Hungary arising from the First Balkan War would
have France’s backing. The hawks in the French
government calculated that not only would a war over the
Balkans be the surest guarantee that Russia would commit
all of its forces to the field, but an Austro-Hungarian
invasion of Serbia would bog down the Dual Monarchy, leaving
the allies free to tackle Germany. With both powers exhausted by
boatbuilding fever that had formed the backbonem of
Britain’s national self-esteem and the key German status as its equal,
the war secretary, Richard Haldane, paid a secret visit to Berlin
to try and halt the escalation The balance of national egos was
simply too fragile. Germany wanted a guarantee of British
neutrality in any future conflict and Britain saw its own naval
superiority as something they didn’t have magnanimously
gifted by Germany in exchange As a result, Haldane returned
empty handed, the naval buildup continued unabated
and, more importantly Germany pushed Britain further into a
military deathgrip with Russia and France. With the Balkan League of
Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro gearing up to snatch
territory from the Ottoman Turks in the wake of Italy’s invasion
of Ottoman-held Libya the year before, their great protector,
Russia made its stance clear. If Austria-Hungary was alarmed
by this potential shakeup of the borders, the rapid
mobilisation of 50,000-60,000 Russian reservists along the Polish border
with Austria-Hungary alarmed them more This was the first major
aggressive move by Russia against its rivals,
breaking with the tradition of covert deal-breaking that would
foreshadow the events of 1914, and the robust defence of Serbia that would
swallow much of the planet in war Russian foreign minister, Sergei Sazonov,
observed that were it to come to conflict, “We can probably rely on the real
support of France and England.” The success of the Balkan
League in the First Balkan War alarmed
Austria-Hungary no end Now the Second Balkan
War had begun, with each combatant eager to
consolidate its gains Serbia, the chief cause of their
anxiety, had won crushing victories in Macedonia and then
marched into Albania and Kosovo to hold vast swathes of territory and to
acquire a corridor to the Adriatic Sea Reports of massacres
followed, and even rumours that the Austro-Hungarian
consul in Prizren Kosovo, had been abducted and castrated. Alternately claiming ignorance
of any occupation and then lying about withdrawal,
Austria-Hungary grew convinced that Serbia couldn’t be bargained
with and would only respond to force. On 17 October 1913, Austria-Hungary
gave Serbia eight days to leave the contested territory or
they would face military action and Russia advised them
to do as they were told. By 26 October Albania was
free of Serbian troops and the success of the
Albanian ultimatum and the demonstration of a clear limit to
Russia’s support would lead Vienna to try and repeat the performance in 1914,
with very different consequences. Russia’s lust for the
Turkish Straits may have been pushed to second place
during the Balkan wars but they hadn’t lost sight
of their longterm goal The arrival of Otto Liman
von Sanders’ German military mission on 14
December 1913 to train to modernize the army
along European lines and command the first corps
of the Ottoman army following humiliating Turkish
defeats in the Balkans gave them even greater
cause for concern than the presence of a British admiral doing
the same job with the Ottoman navy. Though Germany compromised heavily to
keep the diplomatic crisis from boiling over, Russia’s lack of backing from
even the ardently anti- German Delcassé was a potent reminder to Russia
that, despite the Triple Entente, its allies had
very different priorities Viewing for the first time
Germany, and not just Austria-Hungary, as a direct
threat to Russia’s aims they realised that the only way they
could gain control of the Turkish Straits would be against the
backdrop of a wider European war in which France and especially
Britain were bound to Russia. In June 1914, the Serbian
prime minister, Nikola Pašić, sent a telegram to the
Serbian legation in Vienna warning of a plot against Franz Ferdinand Belgrade’s man in Vienna,
Jovan Jovanović, then met with the Austro-Hungarian
finance minister minister on 21 June 1914 to
warn in the vaguest terms that a visit by the Archduke
could end in tragedy That Pašić didn’t communicate
the threat directly to the Austro-Hungarian
foreign minister instead choosing the ultranationalist
Jovanović, who is rumoured to have commanded guerrilla bands
in Bosnia after annexation who could be relied upon to tell
someone further from decision making and probably tell them
as unconvincingly as possible suggests that this might have been a warning
Pašić felt he needed to be seen to issue but didn’t necessarily want to be heard. On 28 June 1914 the Archduke
Franz Ferdinand, nephew and heir to Emperor Franz
Josef of Austria-Hungary along with his wife, Duchess
Sophie, were shot and killed while inspecting the troops in
the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo The man pulling the trigger was radicalised
Bosnian-Serb student, Gavrilo Princip an assassin from the secret military
society, the Black Hand, which was equipped and supported by
conspirators within the Serbian army Though unpopular, the Archduke’s
death provided all the pretext the Habsburg court needed to
curtail the belligerent Serbia Beyond the excuse it provided,
Franz Ferdinand was the leader of a think-tank within
the Austro-Hungarian military that advocated reorganising the
empire along federal lines. A more representative Austria-Hungary
could have silenced demands for independence from the Slavic
communities in the empire loosening Serbia’s influence
in Croatia and Bosnia. It also would have undermined
Russia’s self-proclaimed mission to ‘protect’ the Slavic and Orthodox
Christian people. But it was never to be. Concerned that public opinion would not
back war, the Austro-Hungarian government prepared an ultimatum that would be
near impossible for Serbia to accept Wilhelm II in Berlin voiced
his support for Austria- Hungary, advising the
German ambassador to Vienna “We must finish with the Serbs, quickly.
Now or never!” Indeed the conditions were too
humiliating for Serbia to agree to and, on 28 July 1914, Austria-Hungary
declared war on Serbia. Like a chain of dominos tumbling in
succession Russia, Germany, France, Britain and all their overseas
dominions were plunged into war. Italy, the Ottoman Empire,
Japan and eventually the U.S. would follow, as World
War I progressed.

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