WORLD WAR I Eastview High School – AP European History McKay et al., 8 th edition – Chapter 27 Section 1
The Essential Questions
Why do the Bismarckian system of alliances, which were intended to keep peace in Europe, ultimately fail?
What are the causes of the First World War and what event served as the catalyst to begin the war?
Why does there appear to be so much enthusiasm for war and what causes the war to stalemate resulting in record casualties?
What are the political and social consequences of the war?
The Bismarckian System of Alliances
After the German victory over France in 1871 Bismarck strove successfully to maintain peace between Austria-Hungary and Russia, and to keep France diplomatically isolated .
The Three Emperors’ League linked Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Russia.
Bismarck maintained good relations with Britain and Italy .
Causes of WWI (long-term)
In 1890 the new emperor, William II of Germany , dismissed Bismarck , partly because of his friendly policy towards Russia.
Nationalism: The growing nationalism in areas of Europe that remain under the rule of governments of other nationalities. Especially in central/eastern Europe and in the Balkans. There was also a nationalism in the European powers that encouraged a feeling of superiority and encouraged action.
An Arms Race especially between Germany and England begun most specifically with a naval race between the two. But the arms race applied to all of the nations of Europe as each had huge standing and reserve armies with weapons, many of them quite modern.
Causes of WWI (long-term cont.)
William then refused to renew the neutrality treaty between Germany and Russia (the Russian-German Reinsurance Treaty).
As a result, France and Russia concluded a military alliance in 1894 .
Economic and colonial competition between European powers caused distrust and suspicion. Conflicting claims for colonies as well as conflicting boundaries for neighboring colonies caused several crisis and possibly could lead to war. Competition over markets with similar products between European powers also caused hostility.
A long era of peace made war less horrible and even quite possibly a thrilling experience. A sort of camp where as some might get hurt but not me.
There was a belief that a war in Europe would be bloody but also short. Each side felt they would win easily.
Causes of WWI (long-term cont.)
Commercial rivalry and expansion of the German fleet led to tensions between Britain and Germany .
Between 1900 and 1904 Britain improved relations with France and the U.S. and signed a formal alliance with Japan.
Generally poor political leadership governed in Europe. This included a Kaiser (Williamm II) who may have been a megalomaniac, a Tsar (Nicholas II) who was weak and indecisive and dominated by the disease of his son, and a ruler in Austria-Hungary that was very old and possibly going senile.
An alliance system that may help keep peace but if war did break out it would be throughout all of Europe.
A increasing number of terrorists and their organizations generally wishing anarchism or some other radical political “ism.”
Short-Term Causes of WWI
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by the Black Hand (terrorist group)
The failure of arbitration or attempts to keep the peace
The strange consequences of mobilization plans. That is, once one nation begins to mobilize you are forced to respond because if you don’t you will lose the war even before you begin.
The Outbreak of War
The weakening of the Ottoman Empire , the rise of independent and fiercely nationalist states in the Balkans , and Austrian attempts to expand in the area raised tension between Austria and Russian-backed Serbia.
In June 1914 a Serbian nationalist assassinated Francis Ferdinand , heir to the Austrian throne.
Austria decided to destroy Serbia and issued an ultimatum.
Germany offered Austria unconditional support and Russia backed the Serbs.
Fearful of falling behind in mobilization, all the major powers rushed toward war.
As part of its war plan against France, Germany attacked neutral Belgium . In response, Britain joined the Franco-Russian war against Germany.
Germany invades France through Belgium, they are turned back at the 1 st Battle of the Marne (Sept 5-12, 1914)
After this battle, the lines at the Western Front barely change for the rest of the war
1916: Battles of Verdun & Somme – devastating battles (over one million dead in the battle of the Somme, and only 7 miles are advanced)
Enormous Russian losses on the Eastern Front
All Quiet on the Western Front
The following reading is taken from Erich Maria Remarque’s novel All Quiet on the Western Front (1929), the most famous literary work to emerge from World War I. A veteran of the trenches himself, Remarque (1898-1970) graphically described the slaughter that robbed Europe of its young men. His narrator is a young German soldier.
We wake in the middle of the night. The earth booms. Heavy fire is falling on us. We crouch into corners. We distinguish shells of every calibre.
Each man lays hold of his things and looks again every minute to reassure himself that they are still there. The dug-out heaves, the night roars and flashes. We look at each other in the momentary flashes of light, and with pale faces and pressed lips shake our heads.
Every man is aware of the heavy shells tearing down the parapet, rooting up the embankment and demolishing the upper layers of concrete. When a shell lands in the trench we note how the hollow, furious blast is like a blow from the paw of a raging beast of prey. Already by morning a few of the recruits are green and vomiting. They are too inexperienced….
The bombardment does not diminish. It is falling in the rear too. As far as one can see spout fountains of mud and iron. A wide belt is being raked.
The attack does not come, but the bombardment continues. We are gradually benumbed. Hardly a man speaks. We cannot make ourselves understood.
Our trench is almost gone. At many places it is only eighteen inches high, it is broken by holes, and craters, and mountains of earth. A shell lands square in front of our post. At once it is dark. We are buried and must dig ourselves out….
Towards morning, while it is still dark, there is some excitement. Through the entrance rushes in a swarm of fleeing rats that try to storm the walls. Torches light up the confusion. Everyone yells and curses and slaughters. The madness and despair of many hours unloads itself in this outburst. Faces are distorted, arms strike out, the beasts scream; we just stop in time to avoid attacking one another….
The War at Sea
British impose a blockade of Germany – Germany responds with submarine warfare
Disagreements over the rights of neutrals – sinking of the Lusitania (1915)
Japan (1914) and Italy (1915) join the Allies
Each nation tries to stir up nationalist agitation against their enemies (e.g., Zimmerman telegram)
Plans to partition Ottoman Empire, German colonies
Russia Exits and the U.S. Enters the War
1917 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk – Revolutionary govt. in Russia withdraws from the war, loses 1/3 of their Eastern territories
Germany steps up submarine warfare against Allies to defeat them before the US would enter
April 1917 – US enters to “make the world safe for democracy” (use the convoy system to protect British merchant ships from German submarines)
US troops enter the trenches in 1918, help restore Allied morale, “tip the scales” in favor of the Allies
The End of the War
The armistice was signed on the 11 th hour on the 11 th day of the 11 th month.
Prior to the armistice, both sides tried to spend all of their remaining amunition and hundreds died
Germans launch a final offensive in 1918 – the 2 nd Battle of the Marne; Allies launch their final offensive in September German commanders know they will lose
Armistice signed on Nov 11, 1918
Austria and Hungary become separate republics
The German Empire collapses
The army knows the war is over, but wants the civilians/government (NOT the army) to surrender (junker/aristocratic pride)
Wilson demands that Germany form republic to accept the terms of defeat
Wilhelm II is forced to abdicate, by pressure from the army and socialists Germany becomes a republic
The Impact of the War
It’s essential to understand that the world had NEVER witnessed this scale of warfare.
It’s also essential to understand that the failures of the Treaty of Versailles serve as one cause of World War II.
Almost 10 million dead, 1-2 million from each Great Power
115,000 U.S. dead (the U.S. was only involved for a few months)
35-37% of Germans born between 1892-1895 were dead
Approximately 2-3% of the population of Britain, France, and Germany killed
15% of the Serbian population dead
Questions for your review
Why were the European alliances necessary yet fragile?
What was Bismarck’s system intended to do?
Which alliance linked Austria, Germany, and Russia?
What factors did the commercial rivalry play in the relations between Britain and Germany?
What was the “spark” that ignited the war?
How are the Balkan Wars linked to World War I?
How significant were nationalistic tensions in the Balkans? Explain.
Where was the first major battle fought? What is the result?
How would you characterize the offensives on the western front?
Where on the eastern front did significant battles occur and how would you characterize the war on the eastern front?
What brought the Ottomans and the Middle East into the war?
Identify the events which led to the U.S. involvement in the war.