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Alliances leading to World War I

There are a number of European alliances that contributed to the broad scope of World War I. Prominent among these are the 1839 Treaty of London, which promised that the United Kingdom would protect Belgium's neutrality, the 1879 Dual Alliance treaty between Germany and Austria-Hungary to protect each other in the event of Russian attack, the 1892 Franco-Russian Military Convention that promised mutual assistance in the face of attack, the Triple Entente linking the United Kingdom and France (and later Italy), and the Triple Alliance linking Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy (at first). Created by Sal Khan.

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  • leaf grey style avatar for user cmaryk12296
    Why was Russia considered a threat to Germany/Austria-Hungary in the 1870's?
    (123 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Lawwrence Tun
      In 1870, Germany was not called Germany. It was called Prussia. In 1870, Prussia and France fought the Franco-Prussian War which resulted in a Prussian victory. Previously, there was another war that was fought with Austria which led to a Prussian victory. These were all under the Unification of Germany which saw Prussia as the leading German state. (Modern Germany takes it's shape from the Holy Roman Empire. In the early modern era, the two most powerful German states were Austria and Prussia. In 1867, Austria became a dual monarchy which is why it is called the Austro-Hungarian Empire.) The German unification was complete in 1871 when Prussia along with other German states such as (the North German Confederation, the Kingdom of Bavaria, Wuttemberg, the Grand Duchy of Baden and Hesse) joined the make the German Reich which means German Realm. You can also call this the German Empire. Now to answer your question to as why Russia was considered dangerous to Germany in the 1870s, you have to understand that a man by the name of Otto Von Bismarck orchestrated the alliances of Europe. Russia's influence in Europe was waned in the 1870s because it lost the Crimean War 20 years earlier. However, many officials in the German Imperial War Ministry saw that if Russia were to mobilize, it would be a great threat simply because the Russian Empire could draw up so many troops. As such, Otto Von Bismarck worked tirelessly to keep Russia at Germany's side. In 1873, Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary signed the League of Three Emperors. This alliance also worked to keep France isolated from European politics. However, this alliance failed because Russia and Austria Hungary could not agree on Balkan policy. (This is another topic that you have to read about. Very complicated.) Russia left the League of Three Emperors and left Germany and Austria Hungary to form the Dual-Alliance. This alliance expanded to include Italy to become the Triple Alliance - or Central Powers. Russia and France then signed the Franco-Russian alliance which acted to encircle the German, Italian and Austrian powers. Great Britain also signed an agreement with France called the Entente Cordiale and another alliance with Russia called the Anglo-Russian Entente. This formed the Triple Entente. In short, Russia was considered a threat to Germany and Austria-Hungary in the 1870s and later on leading up to World War I in 1914 because of failure to keep Russia on Germany's side. There are also many issues with German policies especially when Kaiser Wilhelm the II took the throne and Otto von Bismarck was compelled to resign. To understand this more clearly, you should read up on Balkan issues leading up to World War I
      (231 votes)
  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user 🚀The knowledge Hunter🔭
    What led the the Italians to Quit from the Central Powers and join in the Allies?
    (9 votes)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user SonOfGum
      Well, they were never really IN the Central Powers. They were at first in the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary, but also signed a treaty with France, to stay neutral if war did break out. In my view it was a smart move if your nation was not yet ready for war, and war was just around the corner. They finally joined the allies when they seemed to be winning in 1915. The Italians also jumped at the chance to control, if they win, the Italian speaking areas of Austria-Hungary.
      (10 votes)
  • hopper happy style avatar for user cat
    Why were Austria and Hungary known as one country?
    (5 votes)
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  • piceratops tree style avatar for user Ali Asgar
    OK this video tells us why a small aggression between Austria-Hungary and Serbia made Britain, France, Russia and Germany join the war BUT what makes USA come in the middle - greed for land, having future support or just to have some fun with Germans.
    (6 votes)
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  • piceratops seedling style avatar for user Jennifer Sevilla
    why was Russia considered a threat?
    (6 votes)
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    • leafers ultimate style avatar for user Andris
      Russia, Prussia and Austria-Hungary had an alliance called the Dreikaiserbund (1873). However, both Russia and Austria-Hungary wanted to expand on the Balkans, so they had differences, thus the alliance didn't last long. Prussia had to make a decision, and she chose Austria to be friends with. After that Russia gravitated towards Britain and France, and started to oppose Prussia and Austria. That's why Russia was eager to enter the war fighting Prussia and Austria.
      (5 votes)
  • old spice man green style avatar for user dbs0415
    Why did Italy not go on to the triple alliances?
    (4 votes)
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    • hopper cool style avatar for user AC (Actinium)
      Their official reason was that Germany had invaded France, and was therefor the aggressor, meaning they were not obligated to go to their aid under the defensive terms of the treaty. If you are more cynical though it is very possible that the Italian government simply decided that there was more to gain from joining the allies.
      (8 votes)
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user FrozenPickle
    at Sal said skirmish what does this mean?
    (5 votes)
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  • winston baby style avatar for user DanielJK23
    why didn´t Italy stay neutral during the war. Spain was neutral weren´t they.
    (4 votes)
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    • old spice man green style avatar for user Jonathan Ziesmer
      Ah, yes, but Italy wasn't Spain. Italy had had a deep mistrust of Austria Hungary ever since they kicked the Austrian colonizers out of North-Eastern Italy. The Italians saw a great opportunity to kick the Austrians while they were down. In addition, the Italians had been promised control of desirable territories in the Balkans by the British and the French.
      (These territories, however, were not given to the Italians, instead forming the country of Yugoslavia.)
      I hope this helps!
      (7 votes)
  • mr pants teal style avatar for user Toby22Miles
    Why did Britain agree to protect Belgium? I don't see what that does for Britain?
    (2 votes)
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    • leaf green style avatar for user Aberwyvern
      It goes back to the Belgian revolution (1830 - 1831) where Belgium declared independence from the Netherlands. The french supported the Belgians, but the other great powers of Europe were afraid that France would conquer Belgium if it was independent ( it wasn't long after the Napoleonic wars ). But in the end, they all agreed that Belgium should be independent, and to make sure it was not annexed by France; Britain guaranteed Belgian independence in the "1839 Treaty of London" So it was a quite old treaty that pulled Britain into world war one.
      (4 votes)
  • duskpin sapling style avatar for user Violet
    Is making alliances and treaties hard?
    (3 votes)
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Video transcript

One of the reasons that's most cited as to a cause or the cause of why World War I turned into a world war, as opposed to just a regional conflict in southeast Europe, is the alliance system that was developing in the decades leading up to World War I. And to understand that, I've distilled a bunch of the alliances that occurred in those decades leading up to World War I. And this is just a distilled version. There were many other alliances that were tangentially related. But I tried to distill down the ones that were directly related to all of the dominoes falling in 1914 that led to all of Europe being essentially at war with each other. So to understand that, we have to rewind 75 years. So World War I starts in 1914. 75 years before that, in 1839, you have the Treaty of London. And the Treaty of London did many things. But Article 7 is what's relevant to the beginning of World War I, where Britain agrees to protect the neutrality of Belgium. And if you're skeptical, you might say, hey, this is a 75-year-old treaty. Why does this matter anymore? And that, actually, would be a good question. Really, all of these alliances-- it's a very healthy debate you can have as to whether these are the direct causes of why one of these powers declared war on the other. Or whether these were just excuses. These were a legal pretext for saying, oh, I need to declare war on you. When in reality, they really did want to declare war for a whole set of reasons to keep the other person's empire in check, to flex their military muscle, to go after more territory in their empires. Who knows what it might be? But needless to say, 1839 was the legal basis for the British Empire to protect Belgium. Now, you fast-forward 40 years, you get to 1879. You have a newly born German Empire out of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. That newly born German empire, they just had-- essentially, it's an extension of Prussia, fundamentally, a German kingdom. They just had a war with France. They took some very valuable territory from France. They're paranoid that France wants to get back at them. They're paranoid about the Russians. And they have some connection with the Austrians-- the Austro-Hungarians, I should say. And so in 1879, they sign the Dual Alliance Treaty between Germany and Austria-Hungary to protect each other if Russia attacks. They have this common enemy right over here, Russia. So they are going to-- let me do this in a different color. They are going to protect each other. So this makes the new German Empire feel a little bit better about its position in Europe, in case they were to get into a war with either of these characters. Then in 1892-- you could imagine, if you ever play a game of Risk or if you ever play the game of Diplomacy, which is actually based on what happened in World War I. If you see some people that you might be at war with starting to become friends, you want to look for other friends, other alliances that you can form in case they declare war on you. So in 1892, you have an alliance between the French and the Russians, the Franco-Russian Military Convention. So this is an alliance. Let me do this in the magenta color again. You have an alliance between France and Russia. And then finally, in the early 1900s, 1904 to 1907, you have a series of agreements. "Entente" essentially means agreements. Agreements between the British Empire and France, between the British Empire and the Russian Empire, to essentially get on good terms with each other. These weren't as formally bonding that, hey, if someone's going to attack you, I'm going to attack them. But they were, essentially, able to resolve a lot of their issues on what's going on in their other imperial conquests. And they formed what is called the Triple Entente, the triple agreement between Britain, between the British Empire-- and right here, I just circled the United Kingdom-- France, and Russia. And on the other side of that, you had the Triple Alliance. You have Germany. You have Austria-Hungary. And you also have Italy. Now, the reason why, even though entering into World War I, Italy was formerly part of the Triple Alliance. And there were treaties between Italy and Germany to become part of this Triple Alliance. The reason I don't focus on those is once the war started, Italy did not go on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary. It went on the side of the Allies, on the side of the Triple Entente. But this will give you a good background for why what would seem like a regional skirmish in southeast Europe turns into a pan-Europe and eventually pan-global war.