Causes and Consequences of World War I

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Central Powers

Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, Bulgaria, Italy (only 1 year)


France, Russia, Great Britain, Italy (1915), later Japan and USA

The war started in Europe but affected other continents due to the colonial expansion.


The 28 June 1914, Franz Ferdinand (the A-H heir to the throne) was murdered in Sarajevo, Bosnia. With his wife Sophie, by the Serbian nationalist student Gavrilo Princip. After an ultimatum, A-H declared war on Serbia, and Russia defended Serbia. France took the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine from Germany. Italy took Istria and Trent from A-H. Some claimed independence in the Balkans, countries were fighting against the oppression of the Austrian and the Turkish empires. Due to the competition in commerce and trade, they needed to control routes.


Arms race in some countries created a climate of war even before it was declared. 16 nations participated, some with large colonial empires. New weapons: machine guns, tanks, flamethrowers, mines, poison gas and masks, submarines, airplanes. New defensive systems: trenches, foot of trench problem. New tactics: psychological warfare, propaganda. This war was much more lethal and frightening than any other.

Total Warfare

Economy of the combatants focused on the war effort, conscription of all able men was necessary. The invention and production of weapons became a priority. Women started working to replace men that were fighting. All population suffered consequences; food was rationed, civil population suffered from air raids. 1914: war started in western and eastern fronts, offensive advances by German and Russian troops. 1915-1916: no victory, front formed by long lines of trenches protected by machine guns and barbed wire. Battle of Verdun, battle of Somme. 1917: USA entered, joined Allies (Japan too). President Thomas Woodrow Wilson maintained strict neutrality, providing material assistance to allies. May 1915: German submarine sank the British ocean liner Lusitania, killing 128 US citizens, but USA remained neutral. January 1917: Germany authorized to sink all ships that supported allies. German U-boat sank the American cargo ship Housatonic on February 3, 1917. Russia abandoned the conflict after the triumph of the Soviet revolution, Brest-Litovsk Treaty. 1918: after an attack on all fronts by the Allies, the Central Powers started to surrender. Germany was alone and without supplies, the Emperor Wilhelm II had to abdicate and the new republic government signed the armistice. The war ended on 11 Nov 1918, the ceasefire came into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

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