The First World War

World War I, also called The First World War or Great War, an international conflict that in 1914–18 embroiled most of the nations of Europe along with Russia, the United States, the Middle East, and other regions.

Introduction of the First World War:-

Name of the Great War:

A great war broke out in 1914, and continued for four years till 1918. For the first time in history, almost all the countries of the world were directly or indirectly involved in it, and its impact was felt by the whole world, by all the people, even by those, who were not interested in wars. Therefore the great war came to be called, the First World War (1914 1918).

Unlike the wars before i914, the First World War was fought on the land, and under it in trenches, on the sea and under the sea, and in the air. Armies, navies and air-forces were put to the most effective use. All big powers of the world and their allies took part in it. All nations, even those which did not take part in it directly, were affected by it.

All Wars Not Totally Bad:

All wars are destructive. They cause great loss of life and of property. But all wars are not totally bad. No sane man would regard the First World War as good. However, even out of the evil of this war, certain beneficial changes took place. While the First World War wrought unprecedented loss of life and destruction of property, it came as a boon to several suppressed nationalities or nations,Several countries, which had suffered long under foreign yoke, emerged as independent nations. It seems the people of a country have to pay the high price of independence in terms of blood and money through war. The First World War pulled down certain empires and freed several exploited countries.

Causes of the First World War:-

We may briefly analyses the causes of the First World War (1914-1918).

False Pride and Egoistic Nationalism:

False pride and egoistic nationalism was one of the important causes of the First World War. Nationalism can be wholesome and constructive, if it is normal and expressed properly. But it can be an evil force and a curse to humanity, if it is based on false pride and ego. Unhealthy and aggressive nationalism of the 19th century planted the seeds of the-First World War. Aggressive nationalism is based on the evil theory My country, right or wrong. In some countries people felt that they were superior to others in many respects and that they were born to rule and dominate over others. Certain nations felt that they were destined to exercise control over weak and backward nations. Under Bismarck, Germany developed aggressive nationalism in the 19th century, and in the 20th century her expansionist policies in the name of nationalism were responsible for the war. The roots of the First World War  could be traced to the 19th century events.


False pride and egoistic nationalism leads to imperialism, which was the main factor behind the First World War. Imperialism is built on the bed-rock of aggressive nationalism. In the nineteenth century, side by side with nationalism and democracy, imperialism grew. European countries, in which the Industrial Revolution had broken out, wanted to have cheap Yaw materials for manufacturing goods on-a-large scale and markets all over the world for their surplus goods. Several European countries therefore engaged themselves in empire building. In the nineteenth century, Africa was partitioned among European, imperialists. In the various countries of Asia, too, European Imperialism spread.

Imperialists became jealous of one another and a keen rivalry started among them. In the later stages, they began to fight on the battle-field. In empire-building, England came first, and her empire over which the sun never set had the biggest empire. Germany and other countries were jealous of England, and they also began to race for empire. The First World War was fought between two groups of nations England and her allies, and Germany and her supporters. In both the groups, the leading nation was a great imperialist.

Germany as an empire-builder cut a sorry figure before England. Her possessions in Africa and in the Pacific were not of much value. She felt bad that France and Spain did not consult her regarding their special rights in Morocco. She therefore thought it necessary to spread her influence in the Balkans and into Asiatic Turkey. Bosnia and Herzegovina were placed under Austrian control at the Berlin Conference in 1908 for spreading German influence in the Balkans. Nations whose imperialist ambitions were checked, were waiting for better chances. Italy, which failed to seize Abyssinia in 1896, was nursing a grievance, that like England and France, she had not secured enough. Italy was also keen about securing Trentino and Triestie (the Italia Irredenta), which continued to be under the control of Austria, Hungary.

Serbia, who wished to bring the Slavs together right from the Danube to the Adriatic, angrily reacted against the Suspicious moves of Germany and Austria.

Russia, who wished to check Austrian expansion in the Balkans brought her army to the Austrian border. But soon this army withdrew, as England and France did not help Serbia. Serbia felt badly let down and humiliated. The Balkan area was like a Volcano threatening to erupt at any time.

Big Power Rivalry:

Big power rivalry based on ageressive nationalism and imperialism and alliances, secret and open, led to the First World War. By 1870 Germany was unified, and she became a powerful nation challenging the leadership of England in the international sphere. Germany and other nations were in search of allies to protect their interests.

Austro-German Secret Alliance:

Austria-Hunga ry joined hands with Germany by making a secret alliance in 1879 known as the Dual Alliance with the purpose of helping each other against possible Russian attack. Germany had helped Austria to spread her influence in the Balkans by making provision at the Congress of Berlin in 1878 that Bosnia and Herzegovina should be placed under Austrian administration. Germany wanted Russian influence to be checked, and Russia kept out of the Balkans.

Italy, whose national unification had been completed in 1870, did not wish to stand alone, and she also wished to have allies. Italy was disgruntled on the creation of the French Protectorate of Tunis, which was a part of the Ottoman empire with a huge Italian population. She wanted Tunis to be under her own sphere of influence.

Triple Alliance:

The Dual Alliance of 1879 became Triple Alliance, when Italy joined Austria and Germany in 1882. Romania joined the Triple Alliance in 1883.

Secret Franco-Russian Agreement:

France, which had been routed and humiliated by Germany in the Franco-German War (1870-1871) desired to recover Alsace and Lorraine. Russia wished to cheek Austrian influence in the Balkans. Both made a secret agreement in 1894 with the main aim of helping, each other i in case a big neighbor attacked them.

Entente Cordiale:

Britain came to an understanding with France in 1904. These two countries, which had been great rivals in trade and empire-building for centuries, became friendly by adjusting their mutual-claims. Their alliance known as Entente Cordiale was a turning point in the international field.

Triple Entente:

Great Britain, France and Russia formed the Triple Entente, and in 1907 Japan joined them. This was a counter-blast to the Triple Alliance. Regarding the marking of the spheres of influence in Persia, Afghanistan and Tibet, Russia and Britain reached, an understanding. Similarly, Britain adjusted her claims with those of Japan in the Far East and made a defensive alliance with her in 1902. The Anglo-Japanese alliance was – strengthened after Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).

Great fear, suspicion and tension arose between the powers, which were the members of rival alliances. Their activities spread jealousy and hatred, and led the world to the brink of war in 1914.

Raising Big Armies and Piling Armaments:

Desire to be mighty, terrible fear, suffocating suspicion, and excessive hatred resulted in piling of armaments on a large scale. In the 19th century itself European nations had huge armies and large stocks of armaments. In the 20th century, the armies became bigger and better equipped with all kinds of lethal weapons. Germany and her allies were spending very huge sums of money to train soldiers to kin their enemies on a large scale and were manufacturing armament in millions of tons.  All the scientific inventions were fully utilized for the manufacture of deadly weapons, about which the World knew nothing before. Big powers kept ready all the explosive, material literally and metaphorically for a world conflagration Nations armed to the teeth were snarling at each other in the rival camps. It was clear that large well-trained armies could not remain idle indefinitely and large piles of armaments could  not remain unused for a long time. Countries, which felt that they were adequately armed for aggression, could not be restrained from attacking others on a convenient pretex . Austria and Germany were happy to have a great chance of attacking others in 1914. Then the First World War broke out.

Assassination of Archduke of Austria:

The immediate cause of the war was the murder of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the nephew of Francis Joseph, emperor of Austria and heir to the Austrian throne, and his: wife on June 28, 1914 at Sarajevo, a town in the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia. This murder committed by Principe, a 24-year-old Serbian student in Bosnia, was motivated by political interests. In 1908, Bosnia had been annexed by Austria to cater to the imperialist designs of aggressive Germany. The assassin, a native of Bosnia, spoke Yugoslav, but he was not Serbian. An Austrian secret agent reported that the plot had been made at Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, and that certain Serbian officials had helped the assassin to secure arms.

In the Austrian empire, the suppressed nationalities wished to overthrow the imperialist yoke and be free. Austria wanted to punish the criminal and all those who backed him, as she feared that other nationalities may rise in revolt and threaten the very existence of the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary.

Two Day Ultimatum by Austria:

Count Berchiold, the Austro-Hungarian foreign minister, gave a strongly worded two-day ultimatum to Serbia on July 23, 1914. Berehtold deliberately made it extremely provocative. It carried a severe threat that the would take action if the agitation against Austria in Serbia was not quelled. Further Serbia was asked to allow Austria officers to enter Serbia and make the necessary investigation regarding the, crime that had been committed. Serbia promptly and submissively replied before the expiry of 48 hours that she was prepared to comply with all the demands of Austria, but she would not allow Austria to make an investigation of the crime on Serbian soil. She did not like to be treated as a vassal of Austria, and would not allow any insult to her sovereignty. However, she expressed her willingness to refer the matter to the Hague Tribunal for settlement. Austria angrily reacted against Serbia saying that the reply did not meet her demands. She wished to bully Serbia into submission and declared impatiently war on Serbia on July 28, 1914, five days after serving the ultimatum. The course of events since the middle of the 19th century till 1914 showed that Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy, England, France, Romania and Japan made their own contribution to the outbreak of the war. It would be unfair to single out any particular nation for apportioning blame.

Course of the War:

The War was a long nightmare of four, years (1914-1918). It began on July 28, 1914 and ended on November 11, 1918.


Britain and the whole of the British Empire, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Greece, Serbia, Belgium, Portugal, China and Japan were together known as Allies. Germany, Austria, Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria were known as the Central Powers. The United States joined the Allies in April 1917. 29 nations were involved in the titanic struggle.


Austria declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914

Germany and Russia:

Russia refused to stop mobilizing an army as demanded by Germany. This made Germany declare War On Russia on August 1, 1914.

Germany and France:

As France refused to be neutral, Germany declared war on her on August 3, 1914.

Germany and England:

Germany wished to send an army through Belgium to crush France. European powers had guaranteed Belgium’s neutrality. Therefore, when a German army invaded Belgium on August 4, the very same day England declared war on Germany.

Italy :

Italy’s position became awkward. AS she was a member of the Triple Alliance, she had to help Germany. But she said that she was not prepared to help Austria and Germany in the war of aggression. Italy had made a secret agreement with France. For some time, she remained neutral. But in1915 she entered the war on the Allied side.

Germany’s Early Action:

When the war broke out Germany with ample resources was in a, buoyant mood. She had the most powerful army in Europe, and the German people were full of enthusiasm to fight for making Germany the greatest power. As Germany’s army marched through Belgium towards France, the Belgians gave a tough fight enabling the French to prepare themselves for resistance. But the Belgians mere defeated, and Belgium became a German province. Then German army cut through several French cities.

Rout of Russia:

Russia invaded Germany and Austria to help Serbia. But the Russian army was neither well trained not well equipped. The Germans routed the Russians, and occupied Russian Poland. In 1917 in the bloody Bolshevik Revolution, Tsar Nicholas II was overthrown, and-a communist republic was established. The Russians had no other alternative but to surrender Austria and Germany and sue for peace. Russia had to withdraw from the war before it ended by signing the humiliating Treaty of Brest Litovsk on March 18 and surrendering &huge piece if tear It has to be specially noted that the side of Britain and her Allies on which Russia fought was ultimately victorious, But Russia was-a loser in the bargain.


In 1914 Turkey entered the war on the German side.


Bulgaria joined this war in 1915 and took the German side.


Romania taking the side of Britain entered the war in 1916. She fared badly, and was severely beaten and conquered by the Central Powers.

Entry of the United States of America:

While Germany did well in the early rounds of the war, her prospects of victory became dim later, and she thought of using desperate measures. With the aim of destroying British sea power, Germany began submarine warfare. To begin with; she promised the United States of America that she would not attack her ships. But on January 81, 1917, suddenly Germany withdrew the promise and threatened to prevent, the entry of all ships in the seas round Britain, France and Italy. Germany played have on the ships of England and of the United States. In May a German U-boat sank the British steamer Lusitania with 1,200 passengers including 100 Americans. This outrage raised a storm of protest in the United States.

The United States was provoked, as Germany violated the freedom of the seas. Moreover, she heard that Germany was planning attack on her by Mexico and Japan. She therefore declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917 and on Austria i in December 1917.

The entry, of the United States was a turning point in the war, She joined fresh and poured her huge resources in favor of the Allies.

Failure of Austria:

The Austrians failed in June 1918 in their attack on the Italians, and this was, a great set-back to Germany.

Allies Hit Back:

The Allies hit back ultimately against Germany’s submarine attacks, though in the beginning their losses Were very heavy. Gradually Germany lost the edge of submarine warfare, as the British over-all naval supremacy could not be beaten. Germany failed to isolate England with the help of her submarines.


Bulgaria surrendered unconditionally on September 80, 1918 Turkey and Austria-Hungary followed Bulgaria’s footsteps a month later. Germany herself surrendered unconditionally in November 1918, Kaiser William II of Germany fled to the Netherlands on November 9, 1918. Soon other members of his family followed him.

On November 11, 1918 Germany and the Allies signed the Armistice.

Use of New Weapons and Tactics:

In the First World War new weapons and tactics were used. Cavalry was put to little use, but artillery had a very wide scope. Airplanes flew on both the sides to drop bombs. After Germany used poisonous gases, the Allies retaliated with the use of the same prohibited gases. Tron tanks were used extensively by the Allies. Germany sent her U-boats (under-sea boats or submarines) with terrific effect. The engines of destruction were put to the most devastating use by both the sides. Quite unlike the wars of the ancient and middle ages, it was the machine and not man that counted much in battle. Machine-guns, bombs, airplanes, warships, submarines and other weapons or equipment were employed to let loose a veritable hell on earth.

The British navy, which was supreme on the sea during the war, was a great asset to the Allies. The Central Powers, which were fighting against the biggest empire commanding unlimited resources, surprised the world by the display of their terrible war machine.

The Central Powers in the Dust:

Regarding the fate of Germany and her friends, At could be aptly said as in the proverb

Pride goes on horseback grand and gay, but returns on foot and begs its way.

The Central Powers lay in the dust with total humiliation and disgrace. They surrendered all their war equipment and were ready to carry out the dictates of the victorious.

It was agreed that the final peace settlements would be made on the basis of the statements of President Woodrow Wilson of America. These statements known as the Fourteen Points laid down the following in January 1918 in the form of the war aims of the Allies:

  1. No secret diplomacy.
  2. Freedom of the seas.
  3. Elimination of economic barriers.
  4. Reduction of National Armaments.
  5. Impartial adjustments of colonial claims.
  6. Evacuation of Russia.
  7. Restoration of Belgium.
  8. Restoration of Alsace-Lorraine to France.
  9. Completion of Italian national unification.
  10. Self-determination for the peoples of Austria-Hungary.
  11. Self-determination for the Balkans.
  12. Self-determination for Turkey.
  13. Independence of Poland.
  14. Establishment of the League of Nations.

The Paris Peace Conference:

The Peace Conference was held in January 1919 at Paris. The victorious powers intended to dictate treaties to the vanquished powers. Therefore only the dictate treaties to the representatives of the Allies were present and those of the defeated powers were conspicuous by their absence. 70 delegates representing 32 nations met. Among them the most important were Lloyd George, the British Premier, Clemenceau, the French Premier nicknamed. Tiger, President Woodrow Wilson of the United States and Premier Orlando of Italy. These were known as the Big Four.

Unfortunately, the great statesmen, who met at Paris, failed to show true statesmanship and to exercise proper imagination. They committed costly mistakes and sowed the seeds of another World War. Twenty years later, the Second World War (1939-1945), more terrible and longer than the First World War, broke out.

The following five treaties were drafted to make the Peace of Paris (1919-1920)

  1. The Treaty of Versailles with Germany on June 28, 1919 in the Hall of Mirrors.
  2. The Treaty with Austria at St. Germain on September 10, 1919.
  3. The Treaty with Bulgaria at Neuilly on November 27, 1919.
  4. The Treaty with Hungary at the Trianon in Versailles on June 4, 1920.
  5. The Treaty with Turkey at Sevres on Angus 10, 1920.

Effects of the World War I :-

We may briefly analyses the effects of the First World War, which were felt by the whole world. In many respects, it changed, the course of history.

1. Great Loss of Life and Property:

The war caused great lose of life and property. The cost of the war was estimated at 886 thousand million dollars, Forty-two million soldiers fought -on the side of the Allies and twenty-three million soldiers on the side of the Central Powers. Among these, mine million died and twenty million were wounded. Millions of civilians all over the world indirectly died of starvation, disease and other causes. The birth rate fell.

The destruction of property was colossal and far beyond the imagination of people in 1914, when the war began. The victorious as well as the defeated powers lost in terms of astronomical  figures. Every country had to borrow heavily from the public. The Allied side borrowed around ten billion dollars from the United States of America.

Not only the existing property was destroyed, but future production of wealth sharply declined. It took the world a long time to recover from the shocks of the war and begin production at the pre-war level. The post-war period was of great misery. Prices were high and continued to spiral higher, while unemployment became rampant. Several countries like unfortunate individuals were reduced to bankruptcy. Government took desperate measures, and printing presses turned out currency notes in tons. The inflation in some countries became so devastating that paper money was ; hardly worth the paper on which it was s printed. Savings of people were wiped out overnight.

2. Fate of the Defeated:

The German, the Austrian, the Russian and the Ottoman (Turkish) empires crashed with a big thud. The map of the world was redrawn, as boundaries of different,countries had to be changed. The fate of the defeated powers could better be imagined than described.

Germany was completely broken. Her dream of world supremacy vanished. She now became a second rate power thrown to the tender mercies of the treaty-makers at Paris in 1919-1920. She had to surrender all her warships, submarines, motor trucks, railway trains and other material. Her colonies were seized by the victorious powers.  Compulsory military training ended, and war industries came to a grinding halt. She was asked to pay  huge reparations to the victors, as she was held solely responsible of for the war in the War-guilt clause. To ensure that Germany paid them, the left bank of the Rhine was to be occupied by Allied armies.

The Dual Monarchy of f Austria Hungary came to an ignominious end, Austria and Hungary became separate states. The Austrian empire was broken up, and its territory was redistributed, On its ruins rose the independent republic of Czechoslovakia.

The Russian empire was torn to pieces in Europe, and its territory was redistributed. The Polish Provinces were linked With the Polish Provinces of Prussia and Austria. This resulted in the creation of the independent state of Poland. Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia broke off to become independent States.

The Ottoman empire was broken, and its territory was redistributed. Egypt and the Arab state of Hedjaz. were given independence, but they were placed under British supervision. Similarly Palestine also became independent and placed under British control. Syria was put under French control. The British, who secured Mesopotamia, rechristened it as Iraq and appointed an Arab king to rule under their control. Thus Turkey the Sick Man of Europe was put on his death bed.

3. Allied Powers became Stronger:

The Allied Powers became stronger. The loss of the defeated powers in terms of territory was partly the gain of the victorious powers. The British empire was enlarged; though Britain came out of the war exhausted. The French gained territory at the expense of Germany. They could recover Alsace and Lorraine conquered from them by Prussia in 1871.

Italy gained territory, which she said was far below her expectation. As a disgruntled victor, she secured Trent, Trieste and Istria, which were under Austria. Japan became more powerful at the expense of Germany, Russia and China.

The United States of America became the real victor. No battles were fought on her territory and the theaters of war were far away. The war gave a tremendous Boost to American industries, which earned tons of dollars, The fabulous wealth of the United States further increased and she could afford to be the creditor of European nations and act as a patron. America came out of her shell of traditional isolation in the international field in a big way, for profit making, politics, and diplomacy. President Woodrow Wilson was at Paris in 1919 carving out, the future of the world, America became a great power incline to increase her power through her dollar.

4. Emergence of Mew Nations on the Principle of Self determination:

The war marked the great triumph of nationalism. Several suppressed nationalities became independent nations to the ruins of the old empires, As observed earlier, as empires disintegrated, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Albania became nation states. Austria Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Baltic States, and Germany became republics.

5. Birth of the League of Nations:

The League of Nations, an international organization to prevent the out-break of future world wars, took birth. The treaties of Paris in 1919-20 which brought the war to a formal closure made provision for the establishment of the League of Nations.

6. Revival of Barbarism:

The First World War exposed, the Civilized man of the twentieth century as a mad barbarian more ruthless than his counterpart in the Stone Ages before the dawn of history. Never had the world seen such inhumanity, cruelty and degradation of man as during the war. Masses of people were Wiped out as the big powers were playing the game of power polities through a bloody war. Man’s crookedness, meanness, sadism and hypocrisy had free play for four long years of war hysteria. The lethal weapons which were made seemed to suggest that man was as brutal as the jungle tiger, and centuries of civilization not only taught him nothing, bat also made him worse.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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