World War I – 1914-1918

by Admin

Germany had Kaiser Wilhelm II as her new emperor. He went about proclaiming that Germany was going to be the leader of the world. He wanted to establish a vast German empire.

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France and Germany were old rivals. After defeating France in Franco- Prussian war (1870-1871), Germany had seized the province of Alsace and most parts of Lorraine, which were rich in minerals and industrial products. French dreamed of revenge and of taking back their lost provinces.

Armament Race

1. Each country went for preparing for the war and arming itself.

2. Germany had acquired colonies in Africa and few islands in Africa.

3. Germany began to build powerful navy.

4. Germany dug the Kiel canal deeper so that battle ships could find shelter in its waters 

5. Britain and France were concerned about Germany’s growing military strength.

6. There was an arms race and the peculiar feature of such a race is that if one country increases its armaments, other countries are compelled to do so.

7. Krupps in Germany, Vicker Armstrong in England and Schneiders in France owned high profit armament industries.

Split of Europe into two armed camps:

1. In 1879 Germany and Austria-Hungary had signed a Treaty to help each other in case of enemy attack. Three years later Italy joined the pact, which came to be known as the TRIPLE ALLIANCE.

2. Opposed to Triple Alliance emerged TRIPLE ENTENTE in 1907, comprising Britain, France and Russia to contain German Expansionism.

3. Two major camps – England, France, Russia on one side and  Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy on the other.

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 Colonial Rivalry 

1. Britain and France had occupied most of the regions of Africa.

2. When Germany entered the race for establishing colonies, Britain and France made a secret agreement in 1904. According to this agreement Britain was to have political control over Egypt and France was to takeover Morocco. French claim was opposed by Germany. The german emperor proclaimed that he would uphold independence of Morocco and her Sultan. Germany tried to force her opinion on France by sending a gunboat, PANTHER.

3. The war between these nations seemed imminent but it was averted, partly owing to American mediation.

Trouble in Balkans:

1. Balkans – Area traditionally was controlled by Ottoman (Turkish) empire.

2. Since the 17th century, much of south-east Europe (the Balkans) had been part of the Ottoman Empire however by the 19th century, Ottoman military power was in decline.

3. In 1832, Greece won its independence and this marked a gradual weakening of power as other countries within the empire, such as Serbia and Bulgaria, also achieved independence.

4. Austria-Hungary was a large scattered empire that controlled over 11 different nationalities.

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5. The Austrians were Germans and the Hungarians were Magyars, but they also ruled over millions of ‘Slav’ subjects, such as Czechs, Serbs, Bosnians and Croats. The main aim of the Habsburg emperor of Austria, Franz Joseph, was to stop the growth of nationalism.

6.Since Serbia had gained its independence from the Ottomans in 1878, it had always been a problem for Austria-Hungary.

7. Several million Serbs lived in Southern Austria and were keen to unite with Serbia.

8. Franz Joseph of Austria thought it might be better to conquer Serbia to stop the threat as the Czechs and Croats also wanted independence.

9. Russia was determined to establish pro-Russian governments in the Balkans which would allow their ports to be used to transport Russian goods in the Mediterranean.

10.When the Bulgarians rose up against the Ottomans in 1876, Russia saw this as an opportunity to gain influence in the Balkans so they sent troops to fight on the side of the rebels.The Russian disguised their selfish aims by claiming they were just protecting Christians in the area, who were members of the Russian Orthodox Church, from the oppressive Muslim Ottomans.

11. Russians were also Slavs so were keen to promote Slav nationalism and thus help the Slav people in the region to win their freedom from the Ottomans. If this freedom threatened the Austro-Hungarians – then even better!

Reasons why the Balkans were a problem area:

1. The Ottomans were trying to keep their empire in Europe.

2. The Slav people were trying to set up independent countries.

3. Austria-Hungary was trying to stop these Slav countries being set up.

4. Russia was trying to encourage the Slavs to ensure it had a secure access to the Mediterranean.

5. Britain and France wanted to keep Russia out of the Mediterranean to protect their own trade.

The Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 – Balkan Wars were a series of small-scale conflicts resulting from the disintegration of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire.

In the First Balkan War (1912), a number of Balkan nations united (under Russian influence) to form the Balkans League and managed to expel the Turks from the region.

Austria-Hungary was afraid of Serbia becoming too powerful. They interfered at the peace talks, resulting in Serbia gaining less territory than they thought they deserved.

The Second Balkan War (1913) followed almost immediately when Bulgaria demanded more land. He made war on Serbia and Greece but was defeated.

The Serbs managed to win a lot of territory for themselves and now became the dominant power in the Balkans. Victory led to increasing Serbian nationalism.

Austria-Hungary became extremely worried about the growing power of Serbia. They were determined to crush the Serbs at the next opportunity.

In 1908, there was a revolution in Turkey. An army group called ‘the Young Turks’ took over from the Sultan and begun to modernise their country. Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina in September 1908 to prevent any Ottoman attempts to recover the territory. Bosnia-H contained a lot of Serbian Slavs. This angered both Serbia and Russia. The war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, supported by Russia, seemed imminent (The Bosnian Crisis 1908)

Sarajevo Crisis – The Immediate Cause of WW1

People of Bosnia which was annexed by Austria in 1908 were Serbians by ancestry. They wanted a union with other Slavic states and they fought against the Austro-Hungarian government.

On 28 June 1914, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the crown Prince of Austria and his wife were assassinated at Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia. The assassin, Gavrilo Princep was 19 year old Bosnian, student revolutionary. The assassination had been planned in Serbia by a secret society of patriotic terrorists called “Black Hand”. They wanted to achieve the union of all south Slavs under Serbia.

Austria declared war on Serbia on 28th July 1914. Russia mobilised her troops to defend Serbia.

Germany declared war on Russia on Aug 1 and on France on 3rd Aug 1914.

Britain declared war on Germany Aug 4, 1914, when the German army invaded Belgium whose neutrality had been guaranteed by England.

Italy left Triple Alliance and joined the war against Germany and Austria- Hungary in 1915.

Japan declared war on Germany with an aim of capturing Germany colonies in Far East.


Western Front – For 3 years scales of the war were tilted in German’s favour. The German army could reach upto Marne river, only 15 miles from Paris. But the Anglo – French armies succeeded in checking them.

Germany launched submarine warfare against Britain. They called their undersea boats ‘U-Boats’. Britain’s newest and fastest Atlantic Liner (ship) Lusitania had sailed from New York for Liverpool, carrying many Americans and European passengers. She was struck by a torpedo from a submerged ‘U-Boat’. It was sunk in matter of minutes. America was shocked and looked offended and on 6th April 1917 declared war on Germany.

Eastern Front – (From Baltic to Black Sea) Russians had to fight on 2 fronts, because they were fighting against Germany as well as Austria-Hungary. Germany and Austria-Hungary captured Russian territories like Courland, Livonia and Estonia. In 1916 Germany captured Bucharest, the capital of Romania and also occupied two-third of that country.


1. Turkey and Germany were friends but not allies

2. In 1914, Germany took support of Turkey against her enemies in the war.

3. British army defeated Turkey and captured Syria and Palestine.

4. Later Turkish army was forced to evacuate Mesopotamia (IRAQ)

5. Turkey surrendered in 1918

TODAY 2020

Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (March 1918)

Two important events:

1. Entry of US

2. Revolution in Russia in 1917

 Russian government passed into the hands of Bolsheviks (communists). Lenin signed a peace treaty with Germany to mark the ceasing of Russia’s hostility towards them. Treaty of Brest-Litovsk ended the war between Russia and Germany. Germany imposed many terms which were very harsh on Russia. Germany occupied many prosperous and industrial cities of Russia 


Britain, France and US launched a massive attack in July 1918. Germans were pushed back and German emperor Kaiser William lost. He fled to Netherlands. Germany became a republic and the new government signed the Armistice (an agreement to stop fighting).

Treaty of Versailles 1919

  • Treaty declared Germany guilty. Had to pay heavy sum and to evacuate the places she had captured during the war.
  • Germany lost all her colonies and overseas possessions.
  • Germany military crippled.
  • Germany had to supply huge quantities of coal to France, Italy and Belgium for 10 years.
  • Several countries gained independence.
  • Finally, League of Nations was added too Treaty of Versailles. 
Criticisms of it: Undoubtedly a dictated peace one that would assign all the war guilt to Germany. It imposed enormous compensations in the form of war damages on Germany. The peace arrangements therefore broke down and Germany under Hitler showed aggression in its political activities. This became an important cause of World War II. 

Remaining Peace treaties :  

  • Separate treaties were signed with Austria and Bulgaria. These treaties disarmed Austria and Bulgaria.
  • Austria and Hungary broken up. Hungary was recognised as separate state.
  • Turkey surrendered her authority on all non- turkey races.
  • Britain was given control over Iraq and Palestine.
  • Syria went under French control. 

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