The causes of World War 1 are both complex and unbelievable. I mean, people are killed by terrorists everyday, but those deaths don’t tend to cause a world war to break out. So how did the death of one man, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, create a war which lasted four years and killed an untold number of people from countries spanning the entire earth? Nothing about this war was as it seemed, and many men were killed fighting for a cause they neither understood nor believed in.
The series of events which created the breeding ground for an all out world war were as followed:
- Archduke Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated by a Serbian militant on June 28, 1914
- Austria-Hungry believed the Serbian government was behind this and saw it as an opportunity to gain control over Serbia
- Austria-Hungry gave Serbia a set of demands which they knew Serbia would be unlikely to agree to, such as letting Austria-Hungry rule their judicial system. They threatened war if Serbia did not comply, which (as expected) they did not.
- Austria-Hungry declared war on Serbia, on July 28, 1914, which set off the system of alliances in place in the early 1900s (further information on this below)
Causes of World War 1: Resources
These were my two main book resources. Both are a good solid introduction to the Great War, but my preference is the ‘The Story of the First World War for Children’. It was interesting, kept the girls’ attention and had many more photos than ‘World War 1 for Kids’.
We LOVED this book, although it was slightly slow at the beginning. But a few chapters in we were enthralled. It is a poignant look at a young boy’s view of war and how it changes over time. It was especially good at showing how friendships were quickly severed at the beginning of the war as Germans who lived in Britain were arrested as enemies of the state.
This is a story of a young boy sent out of London to stay with his aunt in the country. His dad, who is in the trenches, carves him wooden figures of British, French and German soldiers. As he plays in the back garden with his figures, re-enacting battles from the war, he begins to suspect they have hidden powers to somehow direct the war in France. He starts out loving the war and all it stood for, but by its end he hates it all and can not wait for life to return to normal. Highly recommended.
These Great War videos were perhaps our best find. They are a very informative set of videos, describing week by week what happened in the war. We are still in 1914, which contains 23 short videos, but they have 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1918 as well. They first few cover the many causes of the First World War.
The Causes of World War 1: Comprehension Activities
I finally bowed to homeschool pressure and got myself a membership to the very excellent Twinkl. Wanting a few more formal exercises, but not really wanting to do the work myself 😬 Twinkl was perfect!
The girls worked on two ‘Causes of World War 1’ activities. The first a comprehension exercise and the second a look at the events leading up to the Great War.
And the events leading to the First World War:
The Causes of World War 1: Map Work
As mentioned above, Europe (and beyond) had many alliances. Alliances are agreements between countries of protection and aid in the event of danger. I thought that a large map showing which countries were allied together would make the alliance system easier to understand for my ten year old.
We made a huge paper mache map and painted each alliance a different colour:
The Central Powers are coloured in yellow. They include Austria-Hungry, Germany, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria (who joined the war on the side of the central powers in 1915). The Allied Powers are coloured in green and included France, Russia and Britain (who had formed the triple entente in 1904). The USA, Italy, Serbia, Japan, Belgium, Brazil, Greece, Montenegro and Romania were also countries which were part of the Allied Powers. Neutral countries are shown in red.
Once the girls had painted it, I had them label each country with its name and flag:
I cut out lots of arrows and asked the girls to place the arrows showing which countries declared war on which countries, adding a number to show which order the declarations happened in:
Once they had finished, this was what their map looked like:
So after Austria-Hungry declared war on Serbia, the alliance system unfolded:
- Russia (allied with Serbia) declared war on Austria-Hungry
- Germany (allied with Austria-Hungry) declared war on Russia
- France (allied with Russia) declared war on Germany
- Germany declared war on Belgium, who was neutral at the time, but who had an agreement with Great Britain to protect its independence sooo…
- Britain declared war on Germany
- Austria-Hungry declared war on Russia
All this was shown on our map:
Reflections on our Learning
Becca found this map very useful. She is now able to easily explain the events leading up to the war and the alliance system (so long as the map is in front of her). It is complicated, and took me a while to get my head around it. I am very pleased we took the time to create a large map. It has definitely helped and I have a heap more activities to do with it too.