World War 1: A Short Timeline Pre-1914

Although the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in 1914 is cited as the first event leading directly to World War 1, the true build up was much longer. As well as growing public support for a confrontation - which varied but ultimately grew in the period before - the treaties and diplomatic relations so important in 1914 were all established years, often decades, before.

• 1839: The Guarantee of Belgium Neutrality.

Britain used this as a reason to enter into World War 1, but its worth remembering, as historians have pointed out, that this was not a binding reason to fight.
• 1867: The Treaty of London: establishes Luxembourg's neutrality. This would be violated by Germany, as with Belgium.
• 1870: The Franco-Prussian War, in which France is beaten and Paris is besieged. This caused people to believe that modern war would be short, decisive and in the German case something they could win. IT also made France bitter, and framed their desire for a war in which they could seize 'their' land back.
• 1871: The German Empire is created. Bismarck, the architect, now feared being encircled by France and Russia and tried to prevent this any way he could.
• 1879: The Austro-German Treaty ties the two Germanocentric powers together as part of Bismarck's desire to avoid war. They would fight together in World War One.


• 1882: The Triple Alliance established between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy, forming a central European power bloc. Italy would not accept this as binding when war began.
• 1883: The Austro-Romanian Alliance.
• 1888: Wilhelm II becomes Emperor of Germany. He rejects the legacy of Bismarck and tries to go his own way.

Unfortunately, he is basically incompetent.
• 1889 - 1913: The Anglo-German Naval Race. Britain and Germany should, perhaps, have been friends, but this created an air of military conflict, if not an actual desire for military action by both sides.
• 1894: The Franco-Russian Alliance encircles Germany, much as Bismarck feared and would have tried to stop if he'd still been in power.
• 1902: The Franco-Italian Agreement.
• 1904: The Entente Cordial, agreed between France and Britain. This was not a binding agreement to fight together, but moved in that direction.
• 1904-5: The Russo-Japanese War, in which Russia loses. A nail in the coffin of the Tsar.
• 1905-6: The First Moroccan Crisis.
• 1907: The Anglo-Russian Agreement. Again, Germany is encircled and many in the country believe they should fight the inevitable war now before Russia is stronger and Britain acts.
• 1908: Austria-Hungary annexes Bosnia. Tensions in the Balkans are rising.
• 1909: The Russo-Italian Agreement.
• 1911: The Second Moroccan (Agadir) Crisis. Germany embarrasses itself and looks militant.
• 1911 - 12: Turkish-Italian War.
• 1912: Anglo-French Naval Agreement.
• 1912, October 8 - May 30 1913: The First Balkan War. A European war could have been triggered as this point on.


• 1913: Woodrow Wilson sworn in as US president.
• 1913, April 30 - May 6: The First Albanian Crisis.
• 1913, June 29 - July 31: The Second Balkan War.
• 1913, September - October: The Second Albanian Crisis.
• 1913, November - Janaury 1914: The Liman von Sanders Affair.

By 1914, the 'Great Powers' of Europe had already come close to war thanks to the Balkan, Moroccan and Albanian disputes; passions were running high and the Austro-Russo-Balkano rivalry remained deeply provocative.

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