General Knowledge

What were the Causes and Impact of the First World War?

The First World War, also known as World War 1, is an international conflict held on 1914-18, led to most European nations, Russia, the United States, the Middle East, and other regions.

It ended with a lot of bloodshed and destruction of people, economy, infrastructure, etc.

History of World War 1

In 1914, the great power of Europe are divided into main 2 rival alliance, France, Britain, and Russia as Allied powers later many countries joined them and Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy on the other side as Central powers.

Firstly the Allied powers were formed in the fear of Germany, later Germany feared surrounded by enemies and created Triple alliance as Central powers.

On 28th June, an incident sparked for the World War I in a city called Sarajevo in Austria-Hungary, the incident know as Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, here is the incident explained in brief.

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

(Phase I)

Franz Ferdinand was born in 1863 in present Austria-Hungary, but it was not called yet in those days. He became wealthy soon in his teens due to his cousin died, because he was picked to inherit the cousin’s land.

Another death of his cousin Crown Prince Rudolf in 1889 made his destiny, Rudolf’s father was to rule the throne of Austria-Hungary, but he refused and transferred his position to Franz Ferdinand. If you study about him in deep you will come to know a lot of people were not liking him.

He had a wife called Duchess Sophia, and his main hobby was hunting some record tells us he killed more than 2,50,000 creatures in his life.

He hated Hungarians because he thought the Slavs are lesser than humans.

Gavrilo Princip was a member of young Bosnians, one of the violent secret societies in Balkans and he was just 19 years young boy.

He decided to kill Franz Ferdinand because he wanted to free his homeland and unite the Serbian people from the Austro-Hungarian Empire rule.

He thought if Franz Ferdinand was killed it remains a symbol of oppression by Serbia.

In those days people were taking the training of shooting in parks it was common likewise even he had been taken the training. At the end of May, Princip and company traveled to Sarajevo for 8 days to kill Franz Ferdinand.

The evening when Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophia arrived early than estimated and enjoyed the rounds in the town, a member of the Bosnian parliament informed Sophia to cancel the trip for safety purposes.

Sophia did not take it seriously because her surrounding environments were in peace and friendly while they are traveling.

That night went well and the next morning, it was 14th wedding anniversary co-incidentally. The 7 young Bosnian groups were deployed near the town’s bridge, one of the places Ferdinand has to cross.

One of them threw the bomb at his car when he was passing but it bounced before the explosion and wounded 2 of the Ferdinand men, then he changed his plans.

He decided to visit the hospital to see the injured men are OK. But there was confusion in the new route, the driver stopped the car because there was no reverse gear functioning.

On 28th June 1914, the incident was the last breath-taking for Franz Ferdinand because in front of them Gavrilo Princip was standing.

Gavrilo Princip shot twice in the closer distance, immediately Sophia died and within few seconds Franz Ferdinand also died.

Throughout Europe this news was spread, within the end of July 5000 Serbs were arrested, many of them hanged when the war was declared.

Princip was also put in jail later after 27 days he was sentenced to death under Austrian law.

But they have chosen the wrong person to kill because he was having the plan to divide the country into 3 parts namely, Austria, Hungary and Union of Slavic peoples.

(Phase 2)

Serbia became the base of World War 1, after the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand what happened?

Serbia rejects the warning given by Austria-Hungary which resulted in Austria-Hungary to declare war, within a few hours the border gets heated up and started shelling at Belgrade on 28th July.

Further the Russian Tsar, Nicholas II felt the honor to defend Serbia and mobilize its troops on 30th July. Another side German Emperor Wilhelm II promised to support Austria-Hungary, these incidents made the declaration of war against Russia by Germany.

But Germany was knowing that War with Russia means even it has to face the allied powers that too France because it was residing them. Hence Germany created a Schlieffen Plan to defeat the 2 fronts facing opposite directions.

Firstly planned its army to enter the Paris through Belgium and encircle the French army and destroy them and win, then planned to reach Russia since they will take a longer time to mobilize. with a huge army.

Finally, Germany declared war on France, there were 6 million troops were placed across Europe. But Italy and the United States still did not take any active part yet.

When it comes to Britain initially, it was neutral but when they invaded Belgium it sent a strong signal about war, and they sent Ultimatum from London to Berlin to stop the war but it was ignored then even Britain declared war.

On 12th August 1914, the British force landed in France, meanwhile, Belgium has also started the war with Germany because of invasion.

Beside France was not knowing the plan made by Germany but when the war commenced a lot of damages and life loss took place on both sides. The British army took the chance and attacked Germany in the place called Mons (Belgium).

But the British were outnumbered soon and Germany reached River Marne(known as Battle of the Marne) where France fought every possibility and sent back the German army.

The French and British armies dig the total land area of the 350-mile border to protect themselves from the opponent’s weapons.

Till now the war was on the land but now it moved to the sea battle, the British won the first navy battle at Heligoland Bight by sinking 3 German Cruisers.

When it comes to navy battle no one able to face Britain because it was having 29 battleships with high technology. Hence it planned to block German ships which aimed to make a huge economic loss with no trades and make them surrender.

Another side Russian army invaded the eastern part of Germany for war, there were 2 main battles – Battle of Tannenberg and Battle of Masurian Lakes, both were won by Germany.

Even the Austria-Hungary and Serbia were also in the battle. Meanwhile, the Turkish Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers to defeat its old enemy Russia.

Turkish Warships entered the Russian ports and bombarded which made Russia angry and they also entered the Turkish border and the battle was continuing…

These were enough to trigger the First World War, the European colonies were used in all parts of the world.

German troops crossed East Africa and occupied Taveta, Allied forces occupied the Togoland which was a German colony, likewise, all the countries who were participated made the concentration on colonies of different parts of the world.

This made every country to involve in Warlike New Zealand, Australia, Japan, etc. everywhere you could see is attack, revenge, invasion, bloodshed, and surrender.

(Phase 3)

World War in Sea
World War in Sea

The War will not have any boundaries whether it’s land, water, air, anywhere it can take place, here’s how started in the Ocean.

On the sea British Passenger liner Lusitania traveling from New York to Liver-pool, the German U-boat destroyed the Passenger-liner without any warning. It was containing even American people which made this incident sparked America to involve in World War 1 later.

On August 19th German destroyed another passenger boat called S.S. Arabic 44 lost their life including 3 Americans, later to the incident Germany withdraw on attacking passenger ships for the warning given by America.

The British after several attacks they started releasing poison gas in Loos(Battle of Loos), the incident made a great life loss of all sides.

In 1917, it was breaking point for War to reach its peak and Germany knew that the opponents are strong hence involved in submarine warfare to stop the food supply through the sea and make them surrender seeing the hunger throughout the country.

But the neutral American ships caught in the crossfire while shipping the wheat to England, at the same time Germany sent orders to the German ambassador in Mexico that if America declares war against them then Mexico to be prepared for war against America.

After many incidents, America finally declares war on Germany.

On the other side, Germany was losing the opportunities since many countries including America against them and it was difficult to handle, then the Reichstag passes a “Peace Resolution” in German parliament but ignored by the high command. Since it was ruling with dictatorship it was not in the state to adopting peace.

The Allied forces strength was increasing to fight against Germany including the Middle East and Asia, from then many more battles took place.

Also read: International Boundaries of India and Related Issues

(Phase 4)

Till now all were fighting as the opportunity comes but now it’s time to understand the situation of one’s own country.

Even though the Allied Countries has the strength they were not confident to win the war because all countries were started behaving differently like Russia stopped fighting, French armies were in the recovery of damages, the Italian military almost collapsed and America still it was taking time. But only the British were active in the war at some point in time at the end of 1917.

Finland got Independence on 6th December 1917 by separation of Russia, then Russia and Romania signed the agreement to stop the war.

The Major Country left the War so what will happen next? Will Central powers win or Allied powers? let us see.

All the allied and central powers were in trouble, due to the shortage of weapons, machinates, men’s everything was exhausted but the German fear was with America since it did not involve the war till now they contain huge army with huge resources.

American President Wilson Brought his vision with 14 main points to adopt post World War 1, they are as follows:

  • No more secret treaties.
  • Free navigations of seas.
  • No more economic barriers between nations.
  • Reduction in armed forces.
  • Impartial settlement of colonial issues.
  • German troops to withdraw from Russia.
  • The Restoration of Belgian Independence.
  • France to be liberated and to reclaim Alsace-Lorraine.
  • Italy’s frontiers to be readjusted along lines of nationality.
  • Self Determination for the people of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
  • The Balkan states to be freed from occupation.
  • The Turkish empire to be dismantled.
  • An independent Polish state to be created.
  • A ‘general association of nations’ to be formed to guarantee independence and territorial integrity of all nations.

But this idea was ignored by almost all European leaders as wishful thinking.

Russia signs a Peace treaty with Central powers in exchange for territory, half of the army was redeployed from the eastern front and sent to the western front to strengthen the war against France.

French General Ferdinand Foch was appointed as the head of Allied forces to make strategies of the war.

The Americans entered France to defeat Germany, there were more than a million troops later added almost 10,000 every single day. Other side Austria-Hungary attacked Italy but it lost many people.

The German’s play came to an end, on the 8th of August 1918 at Amiens, all the rest of allied forces like British, Australia, Canada, France, supported weapons to fight with Germany and made them step backward many miles.

Another side Bulgarian army also collapsed and signed the peace agreement, Germany was beaten a lot with the forces and made itself extremely bad conditions.

Then Germany sends a letter to American president the withdrawal of all occupied territory. With the collapse of central powers, even the Ottoman Empire signs the agreement followed by Austria-Hungary.

On 11th November even Germany signs the armistice with the allies. With a small incident how many lives it has taken away in a few years do you know?

You will be shocked to hear, there were 9½ million soldiers were dead, 21 million were wounded and 7 million civilians were dead in the act.

After all these incidents a lot of changes came into force along with many re-arrangements of geographical, political, thinking, etc..

Some Interesting facts  of World War 1 are been explained in the video below

Causes of the First World War

1) Economic Rivalries

a) During the last quarter of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century, most of the European powers had been locked in tariff wars.

Example: Tariff wars between Italy and France, Russia and Germany, Austria and Serbia and so on.

b) There was stiff competition among the powers in general, and between Germany and Great Britain, especially for overseas markets.

c) The emergence of Germany as an economic superpower made it a stiff competitor for overseas markets, where other European powers including Britain had great stakes. This competition had profound political repercussions.

d) These relations got further severe when the competing countries began to build powerful navies for the prevention of commercial routes and navigation.

e) The emergence of Germany as an economic power supported by the strong navy and an army became intolerable for Britain and other hostile powers resulted in inevitable competition.

2) Colonial Disputes

a) The European powers, in order to protect the markets for their surplus capital and industrial products, have been involved in conflicts over the overseas colonies.

b) Germany was the youngest in the race of the colonies. With its emergence as an economic superpower, it became very aggressive in the demand for the overseas colonies which could provide markets for its growing economy.

c) All major powers were engaged in the scramble for dependencies in the years preceding the First World War.

3) Conflicting Alliance Systems

Germany signed the Dual Alliance with Austria-Hungary (1879), with the aim of strengthening Germany against a possible French over the recovery of Alsace-Lorraine.

The Alliance was also designed to protect Austria-Hungary against Russia with which the former had protracted clashes in the Balkon region.

‘The Alliance became Triple Alliance in 1882, when Italy joined Austria-Hungary and Germany, seeking their support in their struggle for colonization against France’.

4) Growing Tide of Nationalism

a) The growing nationalism of the subject minorities made them restless against foreign rule. They were demanding the right of self-determination.

Example: The French people in Alsace-Lorraine were opposed to German domination in their territory. The Hapsburg Empire, ruled by the Austrians and the Hungarians, facing growing discontent by the minorities.

b) Italians, Romanians, and the Slavic peoples who lived in the Austro Hungarian Empire woke up and demanded self-determination or unification with their brothers in their neighboring states. The leaders, however, tried to suppress the nationalist forces.

c) The Nationalist movement within the empires transformed into militant revolutionary movements.  Radical and militant secret organizations rise up in different places in the Balkan region.

The Course of the War

i) During the assassination of the Archduke, Austria-Hungary issued a warning notice to Serbia on 23 July 1914.

Serbia was having little knowledge about the conspiracy to kill the Duke. However, Serbia politely replied to the notice, agreeing to comply with all except one demand.

ii) The notice included demanding for apologies, suppression of anti-Australian movements, and participation of Austria’s officials in the inquiry for fixing responsibility for the murder.

iii) Serbia refused to include Austria-Hungary officials for conducting the investigation.

iv) Austria declined to accept Serbia’s response and declared war with Serbia on 28th July 1914.

v) Russia joined the clash in favor of Serbia on July 30th, The involvement of Russia’s led Germany into the war, and Germany declared war against Russia and France on 1st and 3rd August respectively.

vi) German strategy to attack France by defeating Belgium, hence Britain declared war on 4th August.

Thus the war broke out on a large scale between all blocs, consisting of Austria-Hungary and Germany on one side and France, Britain and Russia on the other. The former bloc came to be known as Central powers and the latter became famous as the Allies.

Impact of the First World War

1) Treaties that lacked foresight

  • These treaties have sown the seeds of resentment and extreme national rivalries.
  • The United States did not sign the peace agreements and has never joined the League of Nations and reverted back to the policy of Isolation.

2) Change in the people’s perspectives towards war

War was now condemned by many thinkers due to losses it made and the war described as inhuman. The wars were no longer romanticized and glorified sacrifices.

3) The United States emerging as a Superpower

  • The war did not take place on US soil.
  • The US intervened militarily only during the last phase of the war, therefore it lost very few soldiers.
  • The United States stood as a backbone by lending loans and supplied weapons to the allied powers during the war which enriched their country.
  • Although during World War 1, the United States was a leading industrial economy, the First World War catalyzed its arrival as a true global power on the world stage.

4) Set back to the European Economy

Due to the destruction of war and servicing of loans borrowed from the United States.

5) League of Nations

It was created to ensure collective security, world peace, and social work.

6) Russia has become a Communist Country

World war 1 led to the rise of revolting Bolsheviks who opposed Russian participation in the war because of the economic burden it brought to the Russian people and accept communism.

7) The rise of the New Nation-States

Countries like Turkey, Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Serbia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania.

8) Introduction of sophisticated weapons

Weapons such as Barbed wire, Machine guns, Tanks, Poison, Gas, Shelling which made the future wars even more dangerous.

9) Imperialism continued in new ways

The German colonies were converted into an official policy that was handed over to the victors for preparing them for independence at a suitable future date.

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