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Europe Before World War 1 - An Easy Guide for KS2/KS3

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

Tensions were high in Europe in 1914. Lots of powerful countries, such as Great Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia, had formed empires where they ruled over lots of smaller countries across the world.

Chart showing pre-war alliances between countries

Germany and Austria-Hungary were expanding their empires by taking control of smaller countries such as Bosnia and Morocco. Other powerful countries in Europe saw this as a threat. Because of this, countries started to make alliances – they agreed to protect each other if they became threatened – and expanded their armies.

Map of the allied powers on the run up to World War 1

By the 4th August 1914, the most powerful countries in Europe were at war. They formed two main groups allied against each other:

  • The Triple Alliance: Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy*


  • The Triple Entente: Great Britain, France and Russia

With these powerful allies, the countries in their vast empires went to war too. Over 30 different nations across the globe declared war between 1914 and 1918. It was now a World War.

*When war broke out in August 1914, despite being allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary in the Triple Alliance, Italy decided to remain neutral. It wasn't until 1915 that Italy eventually made the decision to join the war. And when they did join, it was actually on the side of the Triple Entente, against Germany and Austria-Hungary.


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