One of the most significant causes of World War One was the alliance system.  The two groupings of nations were intended to counteract each other by making it impossible for either side to take military action.  Yet instead, they created a situation where two large armed forces were watching each other suspiciously.  The alliances also guaranteed that any war breaking out would not be a small war; it would be a large war involving multiple nations.  For example, if Germany invaded France, rather than the war being another war between just Germany and France, it would drag other countries in on the conflict.

Key points to remember:

  1. The Triple Entente consisted of Britain, France and Russia. (Remember, the French name has France in it!)
  2. The Triple Alliance consisted of Germany, Austro-Hungary and Italy.
  3. The alliances had been in place for a long time.  They were not made just before the war.  The Triple Alliance had been formed by 1887, and the Triple Entente by 1907.
  4.  The Triple Alliance was a full alliance.  This meant that the countries had agreed to support each other if war broke out.
  5. The Triple Entente was a pair of agreements.  The first, the Dual Entente (1888) was between Britain and France; the second, the Entente Cordiale (1904) was between Britain and France.  These were combined in 1907 as the Triple Entente.  An Entente was an agreement, not an alliance.  Britain, France and Russia agreed not to threaten each other’s empires, not to help in  war.
  6. Out of the 6 countries, only 5 actually joined World War One at the start.  Italy decided not to, as she was worried about British naval threats to their economy.  (Later in the war, Italy joined on the side of the Triple Entente!)

Below is a link to a PowerPoint that goes over these alliances.  Have a look at it to help you revise.

Alliances before WW1 revision powerpoint


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