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Interpreting the Evidence

Map of Europe, 1914

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Era:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Global History and Geography
    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:


  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Map of Europe, 1914 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A map of European political boundaries, as of July 1914.

Historical Context
The major causes for World War I involve Militarism, Alliances, Imperialism, and Nationalism. European countries became increasingly militaristic during the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. Many countries sought to build military forces modeled after the German military program. As countries increased their armed forces, they also began to form alliances with surrounding nations. Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary formed the Triple Alliance in 1882. In response to this alliance, France and Russia formed their own alliance in 1891. Great Britain joined France and Russia in 1907 to form the Triple Entente. Europe was now divided into two distinct camps with each country having its own nationalistic goals. One major goal of all these countries was imperialism. Each European country had intentions to expand its territory. With only so much territory available, this led to border disputes among the various countries. 
The map shows the borders of European countries prior to the escalation of the conflict to world war status. Central Europe consisted of many different ethnic and nationalist groups all seeking their own territory and control. With the increase in military power, the creation of alliances, and the desire to expand, war became inevitable during the early part of the twentieth century. When a Serbian nationalist killed the heir to the Austria-Hungarian throne, each European country followed their allies and war began

Essential Question
How does geography influence a country's history?

Check for Understanding
Explain how the location of each country led to the creation of the two alliances.

Historical Challenges
Notice the location of Switzerland on the map? Research Switzerland’s political position in the war. How did this country manage to stay in this political position for the entire duration of the war?

Interdisciplinary Connections
Science/Technology: Research map-making methods from the early 1900s. How are these methods different from methods used today?