The Road to Versailles: Causes and Consequences of World War I

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Causes of World War I

Colonial Rivalries: Provoked strained relations and clashes.

Alliances: Created a "balance of power" fueled by mutual fear.

Arms Race: European countries engaged in military buildup and war preparations.

Balkan Crisis: Conflicts between Austria and Russia threatened peace between the Triple Alliance and Triple Entente.

The Spark that Ignited the World

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo, blamed on Serbia by Austria, provided Austria the opportunity to declare war on July 28, 1914.

Life in the Trenches

  • Long, narrow ditches dug into the ground.
  • Muddy conditions infested with rats and lice.
  • Rampant diseases like fever, gangrene, requiring amputations.
  • Constant threat of death.

Why Did the USA Enter the War?

German Provocation: The sinking of American ships and Germany's plans to ally with Mexico.

Why Did Russia Abandon the War?

  • Russian Revolution: The Tsar was overthrown by communists, leading to the formation of a new communist government.
  • Lenin's Decision: The new leader, Lenin, withdrew Russia from the war to address internal crises stemming from the revolution.

The End of the War

  • The USA's entry brought a powerful army with rested soldiers.
  • France and Britain launched the "Hundred Days Offensive".
  • Facing defeat and the withdrawal of allies, Germany signed the armistice.

The Paris Peace Conference (1919-1920)

In 1919, leaders of the victorious powers convened in Paris at the Palace of Versailles to determine the fate of the defeated powers. The conference lasted 12 months, resulting in five treaties.

Mood in 1919

  • Victorious nations demanded harsh punishment for Germany, whom they blamed for the war.
  • Europe grappled with exhaustion, economic turmoil, devastation, and shortages of food and medicine.

The Treaty of Versailles

The most significant treaty, the Treaty of Versailles, addressed Germany. The "Big Three" made the most crucial decisions:

Clemenceau (Prime Minister of France)

  • Driven by the immense damage France suffered.
  • Aimed to cripple Germany to prevent future attacks.

Wilson (President of the USA)

  • Believed in punishing Germany but not excessively, fearing future retaliation.
  • Sought to strengthen democracy in Germany to prevent another war.
  • Proposed international cooperation for world peace, outlined in his Fourteen Points, including the creation of the League of Nations.

Lloyd George (Prime Minister of Great Britain)

*He believed that Germany should be punished but not too harshly.
*He thought Germany should lose its navy and colonies.
*Economic recovery of Germany was important because it was a trade partner.
*He had a lot of pressure from the British people (he won an election promising to“make Germany pay”).

CHALLENGE: to make a balance between the victors expectations and to create a treaty that
defeated countries would sign.

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