Causes, Phases, and Consequences of the First World War

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FIRST WORLD WAR (1914-1918)

It was fought by various European countries and their African and Asian colonies, the United States, Japan, China, and some Latin American republics.

Causes of the war

Control of the Balkans: The Austro-Hungarian Empire and Russian Empire competed for the control of the Balkans. Also, Serbia was angry about the expansion of the Austro-Hungarian Empire into the area. This led to a crisis. Control of some colonies: France wanted to recover the region of Alsace-Lorraine. France and Germany also competed for control of colonies, important for economic expansion, especially Morocco. Great Britain supremacy of its merchant navy threatened: When the German empire, which had become an economic power during the Second Industrial Revolution, constructed a large fleet of merchant ships in order to dominate international trade.

This created a pre-war atmosphere and European countries bought arms.

-On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo (Bosnia-Herzegovina) by a young Serbian nationalist.

-On 28 July 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia.

The triple alliance

Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire

  • Triple Entente (winners) Great Britain, France, Russia (until 1917), USA (joined in 1917)

Phases of the war

Initial German offensives (1914) The Schlieffen Plan was put into effect. It consisted of invading Belgium and the north of France (Paris). Once France was defeated, German troops fought against the Russians. The plan failed. Trench warfare (1915-16) In this phase, both sides focused on defending their positions. To do this, they built trenches from which they could defend themselves. The trenches were no man’s land and this ended in stalemate. Incorporation and withdrawal of allies (1917) In 1917, the USA decided to join the war on the Allies' side because German submarines had sunk neutral merchant ships: Lusitania. The end of the war and Armistice (1918) The help of the American troops and weapons allowed the Allied forces to advance on the Western Front. Exhaustion and ever-increasing lack of resources drove the Central Powers to seek peace. Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated and on 11 November 1918 the Armistice was signed.

The peace settlement

The Paris Conference was held in 1919 to decide the peace conditions that would be imposed on the defeated countries.

The US. president, Woodrow Wilson, proposed the Fourteen Points, based on creating a League of Nations to preserve the peace after the war.

Allied countries insisted on severe conditions for defeated countries. Germany was considered to be responsible for the war and wanted to pay for the damage it caused.

After negotiations, the Peace Settlement was agreed, it consisted of 5 treaties ratified by the Allied countries and signed by the defeated.

GERMANY: The treaty of Versailles

  • It considered the German guilty for the war
  • It punished Germany: Prohibition of heavy artillery, planes, and submarines; payment of huge economic reparations; reduction of its territories; demilitarization of the region of the Rhineland; and division of its eastern in two parts in order to give Poland access to the sea.

AUSTRIA: Treaty of Saint GermainHUNGARY: Treaty of Trianon

BULGARIA: Treaty of NeuillyOTTOMAN EMPIRE: Treaty of Sèvres

Consequences of the First World War

Decrease in population: There were tens of millions of victims, and millions were injured, mutilated, or disappeared. Destruction of cities: Transport, networks, factories, and agricultural land were damaged and destroyed in areas of combat. Incorporation of women in the workplace: During the war, women demonstrated they were capable of doing the same jobs as men. Loss of Europe’s economic power: Due to material losses and loans. US became the world's leading economic power. Redistribution of colonies: The peace treaties included the redistribution of the colonies belonging to defeated countries between the victorious countries. The most benefited countries were Great Britain and France. The new map of Europe: End of the European empires and the creation of new states.

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