World War I       

1914-1918

 

 

Europe, 1900

 

World War I, which began as a local European conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia on July 28, 1914; was transformed into a general European war by the declaration of war made by Germany against Russia, August 1, 1914. It eventually became a global war involving thirty-two nations. The "Triple Entente" included Great Britain, France, Russia, later joined by Italy and others. The opposing coalition was known as the "Triple Alliance", consisting of Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Italy, later joined by Bulgaria.

 

Causes of World War I

 

1.  Arms Race

In 1871, Germany became a nation.  Before that time, Germany was made up of small kingdoms including Hess, Bavaria, Hanover, Prussia, and 100 or so others.  The man responsible for the unification of Germany was Otto Von Bismark, who created the new country by his policy of "blood and iron".

Otto Von Bismark

 

In 1871 Germany defeated France in the Franco Prussian War.  Berlin became the capital and Wilhelm II became Germany's first leader.  He was nicknamed "Kaiser Bill".

Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany

At the time, Germany had the strongest army in Europe.  However, Wilhelm was jealous of his cousin's navy (George V, King of England).  England, at that time, had the strongest navy in the world.  

The Arms Race began when Germany started to build large naval vessels, in order to match the power of England's navy.  Britain responded by increasing her naval strength to keep one step ahead of Germany.  Other European nations, fearing Germany, began to increase their militaries as well.  

 

2. Alliances

By the end of the 19th Century, Europe began to drift into major alliance groups.  France allied herself with Russia in order to have an enemy on both sides of Germany.

Britain later joined this alliance and it became known as the "Triple Entente".

Germany allied herself with the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Later, Italy joined, and the three nations became known as the "Triple Alliance".  By 1914, most major powers of Europe were allied against each other.  Before 1915, Italy belonged to the Triple Alliance, but after war broke out, Italy joined England, France, and Russia, in hopes of gaining some territory in Austria.

This alliance structure was primed for war.  Even the smallest spark would ignite a major European war. 

 

Triple Entente

France

Britain

Russia

Italy (1915)

 

 

Triple Alliance

Germany

Austria-Hungary

Italy

 

3.  Economic Imperialism 

During the 1800's, most major European countries built overseas empires to benefit themselves.  Britain and France boasted the two largest empires.

By 1900, Britain controlled 1/4 of the world's land surface and controlled 1/4 of the world's population.  The British Empire included India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, Hong Kong, Kenya, and dozens of other smaller countries.

The British Empire

France controlled Morocco, Algeria, French Indo-China (now Vietnam), Laos and many other smaller countries.

Germany, too, wanted to expand her empire.  Germany was able to claim parts of West Africa, some smaller parts of East Africa, and some islands in the South Pacific.

Each of these empires wanted to claim more land for themselves.  There was a great deal of money to be made by taking the raw materials from the colonies, turning them into manufactured goods, and reselling them on the world market.

 

4.  Nationalism 

Definition: the desire of a group of people connected by a common language and customs to form their own nation.

During this time, the Balkans were controlled by two Empires: The Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Turkish Empire.  Many different ethnic groups called this area home (Croats, Slovenians, Bosnians, Albanians, Montenegros, etc).

The Balkans

  Each of these groups wanted independence.  Small groups of Nationalists plotted against the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the hopes of forming their own countries.  On June 28, 1914 the Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, visited Sarajevo with his wife.  They were both assassinated by an 18 year-old Serbian student, Gavrilo Princip.  

Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, just before their assassination.

This was the incident that triggered World War I.

 

Later that month, Austria-Hungary demanded conditions from Serbia that would have made Serbia a state of The Austro-Hungary Empire.  Serbia refused and Austria-Hungary attacked.  This began a series of alliance attacks that would escalate into the first World War....

Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia

Russia attacked Austria-Hungary

Germany attacked Russia

France attacked Germany

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

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.

 

The Nations Involved in the Great War

Austria-Hungary
Declared war on Serbia .........July 28, 1914
Declared war on Russia ........Aug 6, 1914
Declared war on Belgium ......Aug 28, 1914
Declared war on Portugal ......March 15, 1916

Belgium
Refused German ultimatum demanding permission for German troops to cross Belgium Aug 2, 1914
Invaded by Germany .........Aug 3-4, 1914

Bolivia
Severed relations with Germany ........April 13, 1917

Brazil
Severed relations with Germany .....April 11, 1917
Declared war on Germany .......Oct 26, 1917

Bulgaria
Declared war on Serbia .......Oct 14, 1915
Declared war on Romania ......Sept 1, 1916

China
Severed relations with German .....March 14, 1917
Declared war on Germany .....Aug 14, 1917
Declared war on Austria-Hungary ....Aug 14, 1917

Costa Rica
Severed relations with Germany ....Sept 21, 1917
Declared war on Germany ...May 23, 1917

Cuba
Declared war on Germany ....April 7, 1917

Ecuador
Severed relations with Germany ....Dec 8, 1917

France
Invaded by Germany ......Aug 2, 1914
Declared war on Austria-Hungary .....Aug 12, 1914
Declared war on Turkey ....Nov 5, 1914
Declared war on Bulgaria ....Oct 16, 1915

Germany
Declared war on Russia ....Aug 1, 1914
Declared war on France ....Aug 3, 1914
Declared war on Belgium ....Aug 4, 1914
Declared war on Portugal .....March 9, 1916

Great Britain
Declared war on Germany ....Aug 4, 1914
Declared war on Austria-Hungary ....Aug 12, 1914
Declared war on Turkey ....Nov 5, 1914
Declared war on Bulgaria ....Oct 15, 1915

Greece
Declared war on Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany and Turkey ....June 27, 1917

Guatemala
Declared war on Germany ....April 23, 1918

Haiti
Declared war on Germany ....July 12, 1918

Honduras
Declared war on Germany ....July 19, 1918

Italy
Declared war on Austria-Hungary .....May 23, 1915
Declared war on Turkey .....Aug 21, 1915
Declared war on Bulgaria .....Oct 19, 1915
Declared war on Germany ......Aug 28, 1916

Japan
Declared war on Germany .....Aug 23, 1914
Declared war on Austria-Hungary .....Aug 25, 1914

Liberia
Declared war on Germany .....Aug 4, 1914

Montenegro
Declared war on Austria-Hungary ....Aug 5, 1914
Declared war on Germany .....Aug 8, 1914
Declared war on Bulgaria .....Oct 15, 1915

Nicaragua
Declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary .....May 8, 1918

Panama
Declared war on Germany ....April 7, 1917
Declared war on Austria-Hungary .....Dec 10, 1917

Peru
Severed relations with Germany .....Oct 6, 1917

Portugal
See Germany and Austria-Hungary in this table

Romania
Declared war on Austria-Hungary ....Aug 27, 1916
Capitulated to Central Powers by Treaty of Bucharest .....May 7, 1918
Re-entered the war on the side of the Allies ....Nov 10, 1918

Russia
Declared war on Turkey .....Nov 2, 1914
Declared war on Bulgaria ....Oct 19, 1915

San Marino
Declared war on Austria-Hungary ....June 3, 1915

Serbia
Declared war on Germany .....Aug 6, 1914
Declared war on Turkey .....Nov 2, 1914

Siam
Declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary .....July 22, 1917

Turkey
Declared war on Romania ....Aug 30, 1916
Severed relations with the US .....April 23, 1917

US
Declared war on Germany ....April 6, 1917
Declared war on Austria-Hungary ....Dec 7, 1917

Uruguay
Severed relations with Germany .....Oct 7, 1917

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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 among civilian populations caused indirectly by war approximated 10 million.