World War I (1914-1918) involved more countries and caused greater destruction than any other war up to its time. An assassin's bullets set off the war. A system of military alliances (agreements) plunged the main European powers into the fight. The war lasted four years. It took the lives of about 9 million troops and more than 6 million civilians. World War I was originally called the Great War.
Weapons of World War I Several developments led to the awful bloodshed of the Great War. Military drafts raised larger armies than ever before. Industries arose to equip those armies with advanced weapons. Each nation believed it was fighting a war of self-defense. Government propaganda whipped up support by making the enemy seem villainous.
On June 28, 1914, an assassin gunned down Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary in Sarajevo. Sarajevo was the capital of Austria-Hungary's province of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The killer had ties to a terrorist organization in Serbia. Austria-Hungary believed that Serbia's government was behind the assassination. It seized the opportunity to declare war on Serbia and settle an old feud.
Within weeks, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand sparked the outbreak of World War I. But historians believe that the war had deeper roots. The unification of Germany in 1871 created a powerful and fast-growing new state in the heart of Europe. In the decade before the war, Germany’s quest for power caused a series of crises. Armed forces expanded. Military organizations became increasingly powerful. When the fighting began, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom—known as the Entente—backed Serbia. They opposed the Central Powers, made up of Austria-Hungary and Germany. Other countries later joined each alliance. The Entente and its allies came to be known as the Allies.
World War I: Battlefronts Germany won early victories on the main European battlefronts. On the Western Front, France and the United Kingdom halted the German advance in September1914. The opposing armies then fought from trenches that stretched across Belgium and northeastern France. The Western Front hardly moved for 31/2 years in spite of fierce combat. On the Eastern Front, Russia battled Germany and Austria-Hungary. The fighting seesawed back and forth until 1917. In that year, a revolution broke out in Russia. Russia soon asked for a truce.
The United States remained neutral at first. But many Americans turned against the Central Powers after German submarines began sinking unarmed ships. In 1917, the United States joined the Allies. The support of the United States gave the Allies the resources and resolve they needed to win the war. In the fall of 1918, the Central Powers surrendered.
World War I: the warring nations
Important dates during World War I World War I had results that none of the warring nations had foreseen. The war helped topple emperors in Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Russia. The peace treaties after the war carved new countries out of the defeated powers. The war left Europe exhausted. The continent never regained the controlling position in world affairs that it had held before the war. The peace settlement also created conditions that helped lead to World War II (1939-1945).
Background to the war
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand triggered World War I. But the war had its origins in developments of the 1800's. The chief sources of tensionin Europe before World War I were the rise of nationalism, a build-up of military might, competition for colonies, and a system of military alliances.
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The rise of nationalism. Europe avoided major wars in the 100 years before World War I began. Although small wars broke out, they did not involve many countries. But during the 1800's, a force swept across the continent that helped bring about the Great War. The force was nationalism. Nationalism is...
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