World War I: 1914 and the Shot Heard Round the World

The causes of WW I were a series of complex factors that some could argue might be traced back to changes in the balance of power in Europe since 1867. As such, the conflicts and hostilities of the succeeding four decades created a pent up tension fueled by militarism, shifting alliances, imperialism, and nationalism of the major countries of that era all involved in positioning themselves as "Great Powers." The countries involved in this international power struggle included Germany, the British Empire, the Austria-Hungarian Empire, Russia, Italy and France.

Individual and international tensions came to a head 1914 with the assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife by Gavrilo Princip. Vengeance was sought between the complex web of alliances and counterbalances that had developed between the various European powers at that time. A line was drawn in the sand, sides were formed, and in central Europe in late July 1914, the war began. The Great Powers had created The Great War, and the rest is the history of those battles and their outcomes as documented and preserved by the National WW I Museum and other museums like it around the world.