Origins of the First World War

The First World War (or the 'Great War') was to be the ‘war to end all wars’. It was seen as the war that would, once and for all, settle the geo-strategic ambitions of the main European powers, and bring about a new and stable international order. However, after a four-year war of attrition, from 1914-1918, in theatres across Europe and the Middle East, and millions of dead, the world would go to war again in 1939 to confront the forces unleashed by the First World War and the Treaty of Versailles.

Gathering Information  

  1. Read the article on the BBC website 'Origins of World War One'
  2. Read 'Europe in 1914' and 'Outbreak of War' on the Great War website
  3. Make a list of the main Allied Powers and the main Central Powers. Which group was Britain in? Which group was Germany in?
  4. In two groups, or even numbers of groups, complete the table 'Causes of the War', taking care to give alternate groups the responsibility to identify and list short-term and long-term causes, respectively.
  5. Maintaining the groups, fishbowl the information in your tables, ensuring that groups with the responsibility to list short-term causes are paired with groups who identified long-term causes. Fill in the blank column in your table while listening to the discussion of the responsible group.  

Analysing and presenting information  

  1. Reconvene in your original group and complete a flowchart showing the sequence of events that led to the war.
  2. Present your flowchart to the class in a PowerPoint, comparing each group’s theory of the sequence of events that led to the First World War.


For the teacher | Background | Introductory activity | The origins of the First World War | Convincing Australians | Forging an identity | The conscription debate | ANZAC in contemporary Australia