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.
Explore the origins of the war
The assassination of Franz Ferdinand By Alexf (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons under Creative-Commons license
The spark that set light to a continent: how a conspiracy to kill an Archduke set off a chain of events ending in war. Read more: The assassination of Franz Ferdinand
The July Crisis: Immediate reactions By lebstock (The New York Times) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons under Creative-Commons license
A diplomatic crisis in 1914 led Europe towards war. Find out what happened after Franz Ferdinand's assassination. Read more: The July Crisis: Immediate reactions
The July Crisis: Ultimatum and outbreak of war Wilhelm Dahms, Lübeckische Anzeigen vom 2. August 1914 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons under Creative-Commons license
A series of diplomatic maneuverings in July 1914 led to an ultimatum from Austria-Hungary to Serbia, and to war. Read more: The July Crisis: Ultimatum and outbreak of war
France to the west, Russia to the east; Germany had a strategic plan in case of war in the early 20th century. Read more: The Schlieffen Plan
The August experience allegedly united people behind the 1914 war effort. But this shared enthusiasm is a myth. Read more: War enthusiasm
Kaiser Wilhelm II: from early years to exile Work found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kohner_-_Kaiser_Wilhelm_II.jpg / CC BY-SA 3.0 under Creative-Commons license
The last German Emperor and the last King of Prussia, Wilhelm II led German forces during the First World War. Read more: Kaiser Wilhelm II: from early years to exile
A diplomatic crisis among major European powers in 1914 led to the First World War. What happened when? Read more: The July Crisis: A chronology
The debate on the origins of the First World War By Edward N. Jackson (US Army Signal Corps) (U.S. Signal Corps photo) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons under Creative-Commons license
The way historians have viewed the causes of WWI has changed in the hundred years since war broke out. Read more: The debate on the origins of the First World War
Expert opinion: Origins of the First World War Featuring: Audio Copyright free: By Underwood & Underwood. (US War Dept.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Listen to two leading historians give their thoughts on the origins of the First World War. Listen now: Expert opinion: Origins of the First World War
The Britain's Great War presenter answers questions about the war and why he wanted to make the series. Watch now: Jeremy Paxman discusses Britain's Great War
Britain's Great War: Download your free 'The First World War Experienced' booklet The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license
From casualties to commemoration, explore the realities of war with this free booklet. Read more: Britain's Great War: Download your free 'The First World War Experienced' booklet