Causes of war

A satirical map suggests the levels of tension between European countries at the beginning of the First World War.

“Kill That Eagle” by J. H. Amschewitz, 1914. University of Amsterdam.(external link)

“Kill That Eagle” by J. H. Amschewitz, 1914. University of Amsterdam.

Context

This cartoon, originally published in England (possibly by the map-publisher Geographia) attempts to show some of the complex relationships between European countries at the start of the First World War. Germany is shown as an eagle, alongside the naive and clownish Pierrot character of Austria-Hungary. They are being attacked by France on one side and Russia on the other. Other countries show varying degrees of interest and involvement.

Before the war, two groups of countries had already agreed to support each other, and tensions between these two groups were increasing. The final event that caused war to be declared was the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. From that point on, one country after the other became involved to support their allies.

Before using this image, it may be useful to start with a more general discussion about what conflict is.

A link to a detailed explanation of the cartoon is given below under the heading Supporting resources.

Key questions

  • What can we observe?
  • What do we already know?
  • How might people view this map in different ways?

Possible discussion questions

  • What is conflict?
  • What can happen when people disagree about something?
  • Think about a time that you experienced conflict. How did the people involved react? How was the conflict resolved?
  • What types of reactions might people have in conflict situations?
  • Why does conflict play an important part in society? Is conflict always negative or can it be positive? What are some reasons conflict might be positive?
  • What can you see in the cartoon image? What types of reactions can you notice? What alliances or hostilities can you identify? Which countries are choosing to get involved, and which are not? How was the conflict resolved?
  • Consider a recent or current conflict known publicly. Who are or were the individuals or groups involved? What types of reactions can you notice? What alliances or hostilities can you identify? Which individuals or groups are choosing to get involved, and which are not? How was the conflict resolved, or how might it be resolved?
  • This image was created in England – how does that affect the portrayal of the different countries? If a similar map had been made in Germany, what similarities or differences might there be?
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