Motivations for World War 1 – Theories of War

Daniel (Tianfang) Dai
Jill Andersen A11 – Intro to International Relations
September 17, 2013
World War I was the first war that was considered to have occurred on an international scale. Not only was every major European power sitting at the chess table, but the war managed to draw in players from countries belonging to nearly every continent in the world. This unprecedented participation in conflict begs the question of what exactly enticed so many seemingly rational policy makers to send their armies to war. However, the answer is not as clear cut as a college student studying international relations would like them to be. In fact, the only sure answer to this topic is that there is no single answer. This paper will focus on three theories that attempt to provide at least a partial explanation for the causation of World War I. First, World War I was the result of rash decision-making and misunderstandings that was exacerbated by the extensive system of alliances that were in place. Second, the growth of wealth and the desire for capital gain provided by Imperialism caused conflicts between countries that pushed them to take part in World War I. Finally, the strong nationalist pride that had developed in European countries during the 19th century not only sparked the war, but fueled the fire that followed.
Historians maintain that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by Bosnians armed with Serbian weapons can be considered the immediate cause of World War I. However, a simple conflict between two relatively unimportant countries is not by itself a large enough occurrence to draw an entire continent into war. The first theory states that what really catapulted the war onto the international stage was the extensive network of alliances that permeated Europe combined with the ensuing confusion and haste that followed the assassination. Once one country gets into a major confrontation, poor information and quickly made decisions draws in…