Chapter 7: FIRST WORLD WAR
Imperialism and World trade had made the entire world to become
affected by events in some parts. As Europe was the center of trade
and colonization a war that broke out in this area would soon spread
out and affect policies in the colonies too that were spread around
the world. The wars prior to this were confined to warring armies
and the civilian population wasn't affected. But in this war the
damage to civilian areas exceeded that of the military.
Due to its extent and impact it was known as the First
Reasons for the War
The European nations had started a scramble for colonies but by
the end of 19th century the race had finished and now more
colonies didn't exist. In order to capture more the country had to
dispossess other imperialists. The conquer of Africa saw many
European nations coming to a confrontation. However direct war was
avoided by negotiations but sometimes war was fought e.g. Russia -
New imperial nations developed like Italy ad Germany. They had
started the race for colonies late and wanted to compete with the
existing powers. Germany raced ahead of England and France in
terms of manufacturing and set its sights on declining Ottoman
Empire in Turkey. It built the Berlin Baghdad railway to achieve
its goals. This alarmed England and France who also had imperial
ambitions in Turkey.
Russia too was in confrontation with other imperial powers as it
sought to expand into Iran and Constantinople.
Conflicts within Europe
The internal conflicts were present in the countries of Europe
namely Austria -Hungary, England, France, Germany, Russia. Italy
claimed certain territories captured by Austria, France wanted to
wreck humiliation on Germany for the defeat in 1870 and also wanted
the Alsace Lorraine region.
The Balkan countries were fighting for freedom from Ottoman empire.
Russia had started the Pan Slav movement and wanted all Slav origin
people to be united under it. Serbia a Slav nation in Balkan wanted
to unite all Slavs and was encouraged by Russia.
England, France were alarmed at the rising influence of Russia in
Fig 1: Balkans and Ottoman Empire
Formation of Coalitions
The conflicts in these nations increased and there was a
arms race and propaganda for war. Each nation claimed glory over
others. The coalitions were formed of Triple Alliance and Triple
Entente. But these were only loose agreements made over colonial
possessions. A conflict seemed inevitable and also the tension that
a war in Europe would reach to all parts of the World as most of
these nations had colonial possessions.
Fig 1: Alliances during WWI
Incidents Preceding the War
Balkan nations had begun the freedom struggle and soon
Turkey lost all its possessions in Europe. The independent
nation of Albania was created by Austria and Serbia which
coveted Albania was frustrated. Bosnia and Herzegovina which
were coveted by both Austria and Serbia were captured by
Austria. Serbia and Austria almost came into conflict with
Russia backing Serbia and Germany backing Austria but war was
Germany came in conflict with France on Morocco as the German
Emperor had promised support to Morocco but it was annexed by
France. Negotiations between Germany and France avoided a war
but created further bitterness between them.
An incident occurred which otherwise wouldn't have affected much
but due to prevailing tensions started a European conflict which
escalated into the WWI - Assassination of Archduke
Franz Ferdinand of Austria by a Serbian national in Bosnia.
World War - I
Austria - Hungary declared war on Serbia, Russia joined on Serbia's
side and Germany declared war on France and Russia. German lightning
strikes through Belgium succeeded in reaching the borders of Paris
but army was diverted on the Russian front too. The army of either
side couldn't dislodge the other and a stalemate continued for four
The war extended to colonies in Far East, Africa too. The German
colonies in Africa were captured by England and France and Far East
too by Japan. A different kind of warfare was started where each
side dug trenches and attacked the other. The civilian populations
were bombed. Each side wanted to cutoff food and supply lines of the
other. Poison gas was used.
Submarines and Aerial bombings, liquid fire, tanks were used on a
large scale. Civilians population of colonies were used to dig
trenches and fight on behalf of their mother countries.
Russia was facing a revolution by the Bolsheviks and soon the Czar
was defeated. The Bolsheviks pursued peace against the Germans and
Germany put heavy terms on them. The Entry of USA turned the tides
of the War.
USA had become a supplier of arms to the Central powers and were
generally sympathetic to England. the central powers had taken loans
from US and these could be repaid only if they won. US was also
apprehensive f German domination that could challenge its own
strength. When a British ship Lusitania was sunk by German U-Boats
USA joined the War.
End of the War
The Revolution in Russia led to a civil war as Czar and
supporters were fighting against the revolutionary government of
Bolsheviks. The rebels were supported by England , France but the
Bolsheviks won and foreign powers were defeated. USA, Britain,
France launched an offensive against the Triple Alliance and the
Alliance was crushed. Austria Hungary surrendered, Turkey and
Bulgaria also saw revolutions against the rulers and surrendered.
German Emperor faced protests and abdicated to Holland. Surrender
of Germany ended the War and this was met with jubilation's.
After the War
President Woodrow Wilson's 14 point plan was proposed about
creating an international agency for peace, handing back captured
territories etc. But the Treaty of Versailles was framed by
victorious nations. In this the victors imposed conditions on the
defeated nations. The Republican government of Germany was forced
to accept the treaty by which a huge war indemnity was imposed,
The army was limited to 1 lakh and navy, air force were disbanded.
Alsace Lorraine was handed over to France along with Saar coal
The victors like British, France also divided the colonial
possessions amongst themselves. Some of the allies like Italy and
Russia didn't get the colonies they were seeking. The Sphere of
Influence of Germany in China was handed over to Japan due to its
alliance with Britain and France.
Ottoman empire had disintegrated and newer independent states
were created. Some of the protectorates of the Empire were given
as mandates to France and Britain. Old dynasty rulers in Russia,
Germany, Austria were destroyed and new governments emerged.
A new international organization was created to have
international peace but Russia and Germany weren't allowed to
join. Also USA did not join it. This made the League of Nations
ineffective. Many aggression's were committed but the league
couldn't handle them. It also couldn't solve the problem of
Thus, the imposing peace treaties and impotent
organizations created couldn't keep a lasting peace in Europe
but in fact became a reason for another devastating war which
started after 20 years.