We should start off by saying there is no easy answer to this question, a question that gets asked from time to time by people who are trying to figure out how the world could have allowed such destruction and suffering to take place.
The first World War claimed the lives of more than 17 million people, out of which 10 million were soldiers and 9 million civilians who either got caught in the fighting or died as a result of the inhumane practices that were allowed back then.
We could, of course, point out that hostilities began soon after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the archduke of Austria-Hungary, at the hands of Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip who was part of a military group known as the Black Hand. This fuelled the events that soon followed, events that propelled the major European powers towards war.
It is widely said that Franz Ferdinand’s assassination is what started WW1 because it led to a domino effect that caused the six major European powers at the time: Germany, France, Britain, Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Italy to enter various forms of conflict with one another.
Exactly 30 days after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Soon afterwards, the Ottoman Empire and Germany signed a secret alliance treaty, which prompted Germany to declare war on France the next day. One day after that, Germany invaded Belgium, which led to Britain declaring war on Germany. On August 10, Austria-Hungary invades Russia and by then, it looked like it would be just a matter of time until the whole of Europe gets drawn into conflict.
Over the next few years, other countries were drawn into the war by various acts of aggression, including the United States, Australia, most European countries, and all the colonies that major European power possessed at the time.
Due to the sheer size of the conflict, a conflict that engulfed a majority of all the countries in the world at the time, it would be extremely difficult to pinpoint the exact causes for it not only to start, but to explain why it lasted as long as it did and why it destroyed so many lives.
The world was undoubtedly changed by the first World War, considering just the fact that more than 37 million lives were destroyed because of it, which allowed the victors to point fingers of fault at the central powers, thus leading to World War II. This type of obtuse, self-centered, and provocative reasoning led to many historians having different views on what exactly caused World War I.
Some say that it began because Germany and Austria-Hungary were to aggressive in pursuing their own geopolitical interests, to the point that they severely underestimated how committed the other European powers were to protecting theirs.
Although not intended as a war of conquest at any given time, the Central powers soon realized that neither France nor Britain would stand down, so they thought that the only way to secure their position would be to gain as much ground as possible before forcing their enemies to agree on the terms of a favorable peace.
This never happened, of course, and soon the whole of Europe was at war, each country fighting to secure their own interests. To some extent, once could argue that Germany and Austria-Hungary opened a Pandora’s Box of War that most historians will agree could have been closed much sooner if the decision-makers of all the parties involved weren’t so focused on gaining geopolitical advantages rather than trying to conduct themselves in a way that would bring an end to the conflict.
With this in mind, it would be quite harmful to point fingers at who might be to blame for World War I or in what exact moment it all started to unfold, yet it has to be said that Germany is a bit more to blame than others for its aggressive policies alone.
It is also believed that it was six people who could theoretically be blamed for starting World War I: Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, David Lloyd George the British Chancellor, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Archeduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary, Herbert Asquith the British Prime Minister, and Edward Grey, the foreign secretary who was ineffective at making the Germans understand what threatening Belgium’s neutrality would lead to.
All things considered, there are some scholars who claim that World War I started after Archeduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, others believe it started when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, while others believe it actually degenerated into worldwide conflict when Germany invaded Belgium.
This being said, the subject of World War I is too complicated to be summarized in a few words, which makes it very difficult for even the most knowledgeable of historians to pinpoint the exact cause of it all.