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Interpreting the Evidence

War with Austria-Hungary, A Proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    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:

    Written Document

  • Regions:

    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load War with Austria-Hungary, A Proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson, December 11, 1917 in Main Image Viewer
  2. Load War with Austria-Hungary, A Proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson, December 11, 1917 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson acknowledging war with Austria-Hungary, December 11, 1917. In this document, Wilson proclaims that a state of war exists between the U.S. and Austria-Hungary. He asks that all civil and military officers "exercise vigilance and zeal in the discharge of the duties incident to such a state of war" and that the American people uphold the laws of the land and give their support to the war effort. President Woodrow Wilson's acknowledgment of war with Austria-Hungary. In this last part of the document, Wilson provides public safety regulations, such as not allowing Austro-Hungarian citizens living in the U.S. who are over the age of 14 to leave the U.S. without a court order or permit from the President.

Historical Context

One of the main causes that led to the start of World War I was the complex alliances between many European countries.  As militarism and nationalism were on the rise, many countries began to fear attacks from their neighbors.  As a result, some countries formed defensive alliances.  A defensive alliance was a pact between two or more countries in which each member of the alliance promised to come to the aid of another in case of an attack. Many European powers created alliances in hopes of preventing war.  In short, since an attack on one ally was considered an attack on all members of that alliance, the goal of alliances was to make war so risky that no country would want to begin a war.

Two of the major alliances at the time of World War I were the Dual (later, Triple) Alliance and the Triple Entente.  The Dual Alliance was a defensive agreement between Germany and Austria-Hungary created in 1879.  In 1882, Italy also joined the pact, and the Triple Alliance of the Central Powers was formed.  In response, Great Britain, France, and Russia formed their own alliance, the Triple Entente, in 1907.  When the war began, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and their allies became known as the Central Powers, and the members of the Entente were called the Allied Powers.

When the United States entered the war in 1917, it fought alongside the Allied Powers.  Germany and Austria-Hungary were two countries that became enemies of the United States.  The document above is American President Woodrow Wilson’s declaration of war upon Austria-Hungary.

Essential Question
Why are nations far removed from regional conflicts drawn into war?

Check for Understanding
Summarize the main idea of the president's proclamation and explain why this proclamation was necessary.

Historical Challenges
If you were a leader of European power in the years leading up to World War I, would you join an alliance? What positive and negative arguments would you use to support your choice?

Interdisciplinary Connections
English: Divide into two groups. Each group is part of a panel of advisors to a European ruler in the early 1900s. Each group is assigned to either persuade or dissuade the ruler from joining an alliance. After each group researches and prepares statements, the teacher serves as moderator for a well-ordered mock-debate.