A map shows European alliances, circa 1914.
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Analyze Maps

How does this map help explain the expansion of World War I from a localized to a global war?

These military timetables made it impossible for political leaders to negotiate instead of fight.

Whose Fault?

How did an assassination lead to all-out war in just a few weeks? During the war, each side blamed the other. Afterward, the victorious Allies blamed Germany. Today, most historians agree that all parties must share blame for a catastrophe nobody wanted.

Each great power believed its cause was just. Austria wanted to punish Serbia for encouraging terrorism. Germany felt that it must stand by its one dependable ally, Austria. Russia saw the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia as an effort to oppress Slavic peoples.

France feared that if it did not support Russia, it would have to face Germany alone later. Britain felt committed to protect Belgium, but also feared the growing power of Germany.

Once the machinery of war was set in motion with the Austrian ultimatum and mobilization of troops, political leaders could no longer save the peace. Although government leaders made the decisions, most people on both sides were committed to military action. Young men rushed to enlist, cheered on by women and their elders. Now that war had come at last, it seemed an exciting adventure.

British diplomat Edward Grey was less optimistic. As armies began to move, he predicted, “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”


  1. Generate Explanations How were economic competition and imperialism causes of World War I?
  2. Identify Cause and Effect Was nationalism a cause of World War I? Why or why not? Give examples.
  3. Identify Central Issues What is militarism, and how did it influence the nations of Europe prior to World War I?
  4. Integrate Information How did a single event start a chain reaction that sparked World War I?
  5. Draw Conclusions How did the alliance system spread the original conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia into a general war involving many countries?

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments