The origins of the First World War

An in-depth look at how Europe ended up fighting a four-year war on a global scale.

By: The OpenLearn team (Programme and web teams)

  • Duration 5 mins
  • Updated Wednesday 15th January 2014
  • Introductory level
  • Posted under World History
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The First World War began in central Europe in late July 1914. There were many factors that led Europe to war, such as the conflicts and hostility between the great powers over the previous four decades.

The immediate origins of the war, however, lay in the decisions taken by statesmen and generals during the July Crisis of 1914. This crisis was caused by the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip, a member of a Serbian nationalist organisation.

Below you'll find a series of articles that explore the origins of the war. Read about Franz Ferdinand's assassination, discover the diplomatic crisis that engulfed Europe in July, explore Germany's strategic war plans, and lots more. We've suggested an order for you to read, but feel free to dip in and out wherever you like.

Has this whetted your appetite about studying history? Find out more about The Open University's BA (Hons) in History.

The author of these articles, Annika Mombauer, will be part of a panel discussing the First World War at the British Library on Monday 17 February 2014. Visit the British Library's website to read more and book your place.