Mussolini and Hitler
Map outlining the Triple Entente and Triple Alliance

  • Four most powerful European nations in the early 1900s were Great Britain, France, Germany, and Russia. Nationalist leaders thought they had to make their country stronger and more powerful than neighboring countries.

The Major European Countries in 1914

Great Britain

  • Before WWI Great Britain had the strongest navy, was the world's richest country, was the most industrialized country, had a large population, and the largest empire.
  • Empire is a dominant country and all territories or countries it controls.


  • France, before WWI, spent lots of money increasing armed forces, population of 40 million, armed forces of 900,000.


  • Russia, before WWI, had a huge army of 1,300,000, but it had poor equipment and was poorly trained, and had just been defeated by the Japanese.


  • Germany, before WWI, was an influence in Africa and China, large steel production, army of 700,000 was well trained and had modern equipment.


[audio]Fear Leads to Alliances

  • European countries formed alliances because countries became more scared of each other and wanted to have agreements to cooperate and help each other in case of war.

The Triple Alliance

  • Germany feared Russia because Russia had a much larger population and it was expanding manufacturing and mining near Germany.
  • Germany feared France because French leaders wanted to retake German land, France's army was as big as Germany's army.
  • Germany feared Great Britain because Great Britain's large navy could prevent Germany from transporting its natural resources from Africa.
  • Triple Alliance: Germany, Austria-Hungarian Empire, Italy.

The Triple Entente

  • The Triple Entente: Great Britain, France, Russia.
  • The Triple Entente was formed to prevent German expansion in Europe, and to prevent Germany from getting more overseas colonies.


[audio]The Start of the War

Ethnic nationalism

  • Serbian people hoped that the part of Autria-Hungary where they lived would become a part of Serbia.

The triggering event

  • The Crown Prince of the Austria-Hungarian empire, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and his wife were killed by a Serbian nationalist. This event started WWI.
  • After the assassination, Austria-Hungary gave Serbia a list of demands and declared war on Serbia.
  • After Austria-Hungary declared war, Russia supported Serbia (and opposed Austria-Hungary), and Germany declared war on Russia.
  • France and Great Britain declared war on Germany because they honored the Triple Entente and supported Russia.

The early days of the war

  • Allies: Russia, France, Great Britain.
  • Central Powers: Germany, Austria-Hungary.

American public opinion favors the Allies

  • America favored the Allies: Americans had British ancestors, traditions and government of the U.S. came from Britain.

American neutrality

  • The U.S. policy when the war started was to remain neutral, to not sign a treaty or join an alliance.