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World War 1

World War 1 began as a local European conflict between Austria-Hungary and


Serbia on July 28, 1914

It was transformed into a general European war by the declaration of war made
by Germany against Russia, on August 1, 1914.

These intermingled conflicts eventually became a global war involving thirty two
nations, twenty eight of which, known as the Allies and the Associated Powers,
and including Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy and the United States, opposed
the coalition known as the Central Powers, consisting of Germany, Austria-
Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria.

The immediate cause of the war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia was the
assassination on June 28, 1914, at Sarajevo, capital of the Austro-Hungarian
province of Bosnia, of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir-presumptive to the
throne of Austria-Hungary, by Gavrilo Princip, a Serb nationalist.

The fundamental causes of the conflict, however, were rooted deeply in the
European history of the previous century, particularly in the political and
economic policies of the nations of Europe after the year 1871, which marked
the emergence of Germany as a great world power.

The unarmed British passenger ship Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by a
German submarine on May 7, 1915. This outraged the American public opinion
against Germany.

Hostilities’ between the Allied and Central Powers continued until the signing of
the Armistice on November 11, 1918, a period of four years, three months and
fourteen days. The aggregate direct war costs of all the belligerents amounted
to about 186 billion dollars.

Casualties in the land forces amounted to over 37 million; in addition deaths


amoung civilian populations caused indirectly by war approximated 10 million.

Belligerent Nations of World War 1:

The war was fought by two main power blocks: the Entente Powers, or 'Allies'
comprised of the Russia, France, Britain (and later US) and their allies on one side
and the Central Powers of Germany, Austro-Hungary, Turkey and their allies on the
other. Italy began as a Central power but later switched to the Entente.
Origins of World War 1:

European politics in the early twentieth century were a dichotomy: many politicians
thought war had been banished by progress while others, influenced partly by a
fierce arms race, felt war was inevitable. In Germany this belief went further: the
war should happen sooner rather than later, while they still (as they believed) had
an advantage over their perceived major enemy, Russia. As Russia and France were
allied Germany feared being attacked from both sides and had developed the
Schlieffen plan to deal with it: a swift looping attack on France designed to knock
it out early, allowing concentration on Russia.After rising tensions, the catalyst
occurred on June 28th 1914, when Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand
was assassinated by a Serbian activist, an ally of Russia. Austro-Hungary asked for
German support and was promised a 'blank cheque'; they declared war on Serbia on
July 28th. Russia mobilised to support Serbia, so Germany declared war on Russia;
France then declared war on Germany. As German troops swung through Belgium
into France days later, Britain declared war on Germany too. Declarations
continued until much of Europe was at war with each other. There was widespread
public support.

World War 1 on Land:

After the swift German invasion of France was stopped at the Marne, 'the race to
the sea' followed as each side tried to outflank each other ever closer to the
English Channel. This left the entire Western Front divided by over 400 miles of
trenches, around which the war stagnated. Despite massive battles like Ypres,
little progress was made and a battle of attrition emerged, caused partly by
German intentions to 'bleed the French dry' at Verdun. There was more movement
on the Eastern Front with some major victories, but there was nothing decisive and
the war carried on with high casualties.Attempts to find another route into their
enemy’s territory led to the failed allied invasion of Gallipoli, where Allied forces
held a beachhead but were halted by fierce Turkish resistance. There was also
conflict on the Italian front, the Balkans, the Middle East and smaller struggles in
colonial holdings where the warring powers bordered each other.

World War 1 at Sea:

Although the build up to war had included a naval arms race between Britain and
Germany, the only large naval engagement of the conflict was the Battle of
Jutland, where both sides claimed victory. Instead the defining struggle involved
submarines, and the German decision to pursue Unrestricted Submarine Warfare
(USW). This policy allowed submarines to attack any target they found, including
those belonging to the 'neutral' United States, which caused the latter to enter
the war in 1917 on behalf of the Allies, supplying much needed manpower.

Victory:

Despite Austria-Hungary becoming little more than a German satellite, the Eastern
Front was the first to be resolved, the war causing massive political and military
instability in Russia, leading to the Revolutions of 1917, the emergence of socialist
government and surrender on December 15. Efforts by the Germans to redirect
manpower and take the offensive in the west fail and on November 11th 1918 (at
11:00 am), faced with allied successes, massive disruption at home and the
impending arrival of vast US manpower, Germany signed an Armistice, the last
Central power to do so.

Aftermath of World War 1:

Each of the defeated nations signed a treaty with the Allies, most significantly the
Treaty of Versailles which was signed with Germany, and which has been blamed
for causing further disruption ever since. There was devastation across Europe: 59
million troops had been mobilised, over 8 million died and over 29 million were
injured. Huge quantities of capital had been passed to the now emergent United
States and the culture of every European nation was deeply affected and the
struggle became known as The Great War or The War to End All Wars.

Top 5 Causes of World War 1


World War 1 is actually much more complicated than a simple list of causes. While
there was a chain of events that directly led to the fighting, the actual root causes
are much deeper and part of continued debate and discussion. This list is an
overview of the most popular reasons that are cited as the root causes of World
War 1.
1. Mutual Defense Alliances
Over time, countries throughout Europe made mutual defense agreements that
would pull them into battle. Thus, if one country was attacked, allied countries
were bound to defend them. Before World War 1, the following alliances existed:
• Russia and Serbia
• Germany and Austria-Hungary
• France and Russia
• Britain and France and Belgium
• Japan and Britain
Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Russia got involved to defend Serbia.
Germany seeing Russia mobilizing, declared war on Russia. France was then drawn in
against Germany and Austria-Hungary. Germany attacked France through Belgium
pulling Britain into war. Then Japan entered the war. Later, Italy and the United
States would enter on the side of the allies.

2. Imperialism
Imperialism is when a country increases their power and wealth by bringing
additional territories under their control. Before World War 1, Africa and parts of
Asia were points of contention amongst the European countries. This was especially
true because of the raw materials these areas could provide. The increasing
competition and desire for greater empires led to an increase in confrontation that
helped push the world into World War I.

3. Militarism
As the world entered the 20th century, an arms race had begun. By 1914, Germany
had the greatest increase in military buildup. Great Britain and Germany both
greatly increased their navies in this time period. Further, in Germany and Russia
particularly, the military establishment began to have a greater influence on public
policy. This increase in militarism helped push the countries involved to war.

4. Nationalism
Much of the origin of the war was based on the desire of the Slavic peoples in
Bosnia and Herzegovina to no longer be part of Austria Hungary but instead be
part of Serbia. In this way, nationalism led directly to the War. But in a more
general way, the nationalism of the various countries throughout Europe
contributed not only to the beginning but the extension of the war in Europe. Each
country tried to prove their dominance and power.

5. Immediate Cause: Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand


The immediate cause of World War I that made all the aforementioned items come
into play (alliances, imperialism, militarism, nationalism) was the assassination of
Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary. In June 1914, a Serbian nationalist
assassinated him and his wife while they were in Sarajevo, Bosnia which was part of
Austria-Hungary. This was in protest to Austria-Hungary having control of this
region. Serbia wanted to take over Bosnia and Herzegovina. This assassination led
to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia. When Russia began to mobilize due to
its alliance with Serbia, Germany declared war on Russia. Thus began the expansion
of the war to include all those involved in the mutual defense alliances.