The Causes of World War I: Part 1 – Alliances

A political cartoon depicting the world's powers prior to the start of World War One

The Causes of World War I: Part 1 – Alliances

In 1878, the major European powers met in Germany to discuss territorial disputes. The Congress of Berlin assigned regions to different empires. Bosnia-Herzegovina, for example, was given to Austria-Hungary.

It soon became clear that there were problems with this arrangement. The powers could not incur new territory without risking war with another country. Russia, especially, felt slighted.

In response, nations established alliances in the hopes of balancing power.

The Main Alliances

The alliances formed before the war changed over time and over the course of the conflict. Here are the major ones:

Dual Alliance (1879): An agreement between Austria-Hungary and Germany to protect themselves from war with Russia.

The Triple Alliance (1882): Between Austria-Hungary, Germany and Italy over territory in the Balkans.

Franco-Russian Alliance (1891): Changed and modified over time, the alliance was never satisfying to either France or Russia. It was intended to counter-balance the Triple Alliance.

The Entente Cordiale (1904): An alliance between Great Britain and France, meant to balance any alliance Germany made with its allies.

Anglo-Russian Entente (1907): Between Great Britain and Russia, it settled territorial claims in Asia.

Triple Entente (1907): Between Britain, France and Russia, these nations became the Allies when war began seven years later.


Updated: 23 October 2020
Melina Druga
Most kids have an active imagination. My imagination has stayed strong into adulthood, and I’ve funneled that creativity into a successful writing career. I write history, both fiction and nonfiction, because although your school history classes may have been boring, the past is not. My goal is to bring the past to life in all its myriad of colors.
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