History of the First World War (1914-18): What were the major causes, forms, and consequences?
World War I was the first catastrophic war to be fought on a global scale. Almost all the influential nations of the world participated in it. This war took place between the Allies (England, France, Russia, United States of America, Italy, Romania, and their allies) and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, Bulgaria, etc.). The victory of the Allies and the defeat of the Central Powers took place in the First World War.
Main causes of World War I
Many reasons were responsible for the First World War. The following are important among these:-
1- European Power – Deterioration of the Balance –
Germany did not play an important role in European politics before the unification of Germany in 1871, but a powerful German nation emerged under the leadership of Bismarck. Due to this, the European power balance got disturbed. Germany became a challenge for England and France. This increased the spirit of competition among European nations.
2- Creation of secret alliances and factions-
After the unification of Germany, Chancellor Bismarck adopted policies of secret treaties to make his country influential in European politics and to keep France friendless in Europe’s politics. He made Dual Alliance with Austria-Hungary (1879). A friendship treaty was also made with Russia (1881 and 1887). Bismarck also made friendly relations with England. In 1882, he made a friendship treaty with Italy and Austria. As a result, a new bloc was formed in Europe called the Triple Alliance. Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy were included in this. England and France stayed away from this group.
3-The enmity between Germany and France
There was an old enmity between Germany and France. During the unification of Germany, Bismarck had taken over Alsace-Lorraine, the rich region of France. French interests were also damaged in Morocco. That’s why the public opinion in France was against Germany. France was always trying to humiliate Germany. On the other hand, Germany also wanted to keep France powerless. That’s why Germany made a tripartite pact to keep France friendless. In return, France also formed a group of its allies against Germany. By the time of World War I, the enmity between Germany and France increased so much that it made war inevitable.
4- imperial competition
Mutual rivalry and clash of interests of imperialist countries for empire expansion can be considered the root cause of the First World War.
As a result of the Industrial Revolution, there was a need for a market for raw materials to run the factories and for the consumption of the goods produced in the factories. As a result, the imperialist powers England, France, and Russia established their own colonies in Asia and Africa and took control over them.
When Germany and Italy later joined the colonial race, there was little scope for expansion. Therefore, these countries adopted a new policy of colonial expansion. This policy was to strengthen our position by forcefully occupying the colonies of other nations.
Before the start of the First World War, the economic and industrial conditions of Germany had become very strong. Therefore, the German emperor became anxious to get Germany a proper place on earth and under the sun. His army was strong, now he started trying to develop his empire by building a strong naval fleet and challenging England’s sovereignty over the sea.
In 1911, the crisis of Agadir arose as a result of Anglo-German naval competition. An attempt was made to resolve it but it failed. In 1912, a huge ship, Emperor, was built in Germany, which was the largest ship at that time. As a result, animosity and competition increased between Germany and England.
Similarly, the crisis in Morocco and Bosnia further fueled the competition between England and Germany.
In order to increase its sphere of influence, when Germany made the Verlaine Baghdad Rail Route plan with the aim of establishing control over the economy of the declining Turkish Empire, England, France and Russia opposed it. This increased bitterness.
Like imperialism, militarism also brought the First World War closer. To implement its security and expansionist policy, every nation engaged in manufacturing and buying, and selling of weapons. It also became necessary to be strong from the military point of view for the security of our own colonies. As a result, new weapons of war were created. A large part of the national income started being spent on the manufacture of weapons and military organizations. For example, France, Germany, and other major nations were spending 85% of their income on military systems. Compulsory military service was implemented in many countries.
The number of soldiers greatly increased. Military officers dominated the politics of the country. In this way, the whole of Europe sat on a pile of gunpowder. The explosion was just delayed. This explosion happened in 1914.
Radical or distorted nationalism also became a fundamental reason for the First World War.
It developed equally in all the nations of Europe. This feeling grew rapidly that if people of the same caste, religion, language and historical tradition work together and work together, they will have a separate identity and progress.
Earlier also Germany and Italy were unified on this basis. This sentiment was stronger in the Balkan region. The Balkan region was under the Turkish Empire. With the weakening of the Turkish Empire, the demand for independence started gaining momentum in this region. In many areas of the Turkish Empire and Austria-Hungary, people of the Slavic race predominated. He was demanding a separate Slavic nation.
Russia believed that after becoming independent from Austria-Hungary and Turkey, the Slavs would come under the influence of Russia. That’s why Russia promoted the All-Slav or Sarvaslavism movement. This soured the relations between Russia and Austria-Hungary.
Similarly, the All-German movement also started. People of Sarva, Czech, and Pole races were also demanding independence. This increased the feeling of bitterness among the European nations.
7- Lack of international organization
Before the First World War, there was no such institution to maintain cordial relations between different nations by controlling imperialism, militarism, and militant nationalism. Each nation was independently doing its own arbitrarily, due to which a kind of chaotic situation prevailed in Europe politics.
8- Opinion polls and newspapers
The then public opinion was also no less responsible for the First World War. Politicians, philosophers, and writers from every country were advocating war in their articles. The capitalist class also became a supporter of the war in its own interest. Newspapers had the most important role in creating war-oriented public opinion. Newspapers of each country used to publish false and inflammatory articles against the other nation. Due to this, bitterness arose among different nations and the people there. The false propaganda of newspapers poisoned the atmosphere of Europe and made war inevitable.
9- Immediate cause
The immediate cause of World War I was the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, Crown Prince of Austria, in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia. On June 28, 1914, a Bosnian youth belonging to the Black Hand, a terrorist organization, shot and killed the prince and his wife. This shocked the whole of Europe. Austria considered Serbia responsible for this incident. Austria threatened Serbia to clarify the situation in this regard within 48 hours and repress the terrorists. Serbia rejected Austria’s demands. As a result, on 28 July 1914, Austria declared war against Serbia. Along with this, other nations also joined the war in support of their respective factions. Thus began the First World War.
Responsibility for World War I
It is difficult to determine who was responsible for the First World War. None of the parties involved in the war considered themselves responsible for the war. On the contrary, everyone argued that they tried to maintain peace, but the war happened because of the policies of the enemy nation. It was mentioned in a section of the Treaty of Versailles that Germany and its allies were responsible for the war. It was a unilateral decision of the Allies.
In fact, all nations were responsible for the First World War, only Germany was not responsible for it. Serbia started the war by rejecting the legitimate demands of Austria. Austria forced Russia to take military action by declaring war.
Russia also made haste on the question of Serbia. Instead of solving Serbia’s problem at the diplomatic level, he decided to solve it through military action. The compulsion of Germany was that it could not leave the side of its ally Austria. Russia, France, and England were fierce enemies of Germany. Germany could not sit quietly when military action was started by Russia.
It was necessary for him to control France and Russia. France, on its part, did not try to stop Russia. Rather, on the contrary, assured full support to Russia in the anti-Austrian campaign. Due to this a small nation like Serbia got ready to fight with Austria and Germany.
England also did not take any concrete steps to avoid the situation of war. He also did not ask his allies to stay away from the war. As a result, the nations of both tactics got involved in the war. No one could have predicted that a small war would turn into a world war.
In this way, all nations were responsible for the First World War, for this, no one nation can be held responsible.
Major events of World War I
The early stage of the war
On July 28, 1914, as soon as Austria declared war against Serbia, the war bugle rang. Russia started military action in support of Serbia and Germany in support of Austria. England and France came in support of Russia. Japan also declared war against Germany. The German army trampled Belgium and reached Paris, the capital of France. At the same time there was a Russian attack on Germany and Austria. Due to this, Germany sent a piece of its army to stop the spread of Russia on the eastern front. This made France safe and the city of Paris was saved.
In West Asia, there were campaigns against Turkey and Germany in Palestine, Mesopotamia, and Arab nations. In the Far East, Japan took control of German territories. England and France took control of most of the German colonies in Africa.
US entry into the war
Till 1917, the United States remained neutral in the war despite sympathizing with the Allies. In 1915, Germany sank a British ship, Lusitania, in which American passengers were also aboard. America could not remain calm after this incident. He declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917. America’s involvement in the war turned the tide of the war.
Withdrawal of the Soviet Union from the war
While America joined the war in 1917, the Soviet Union withdrew from the war. After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the government led by Lenin decided to withdraw from the war. The Soviet Union made an alliance with Germany and withdrew from the war.
The decisive phase of the war
In April 1917, America joined the First World War. With this, the cycle of events went fast. A series of defeats of the Central Powers and victories of the Allies began. Being forced, Turkey and Austria surrendered in October-November 1918 respectively. Germany was left alone. Defeat in the war and economic crisis created a situation of rebellion in Germany. In this situation, German Emperor Kaiser William II had to abdicate. He fled to Holland. The Weimar Republic was established in Germany. The new government signed a declaration of the armistice on 11 November 1918. With this, the catastrophic First World War ended.
Features of the First World War-
The war of 1914-18 is called the First World War for many reasons. Its main features were the following-
This was the first war in which almost all the powerful nations of the world participated. It was not limited to Europe but was also fought in Asia, Africa, and the Far East. This was the first time such a widespread war. That’s why the war of 1914-18 was called the First World War.
- Apart from land, this war was also fought in the sky and sea.
- New lethal and destructive weapons and other means of warfare were used in this war. In this, machine guns and liquid fire were used for the first time, airplanes were used for bombing, tanks in England and U-boat submarines were used on a large scale in Germany.
- In the First World War, apart from the soldiers, the common people also participated in the war as auxiliary forces.
- In this war, soldiers and civilians were killed on such a large scale that it did not happen in any previous war.
- In this war, it was clearly shown that the misuse of scientific inventions can be fatal for humanity.
In this way, the First World War can be considered as an epoch-making event in world history.
Paris peace conference
- This includes ending secret treaties,
- Maintaining freedom of the seas,
- Removal of economic sanctions,
- To reduce armaments,
- To form an organization of different nations for the establishment of peace,
- Giving Alsace-Lorraine to France to free the Russian territory,
- Giving Serbia access to the sea,
- Granting the right of self-government to non-Turks of the Turkish Empire,
- Suggestions like building an independent Poland were given.
Treaty of St. Germain
By 1919, Austria had to give its industrial region of Bohemia and Moravia to Czechoslovakia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina to Serbia. With this, Montenegro was merged to form Slovakia. Poland was reorganized. Some area of Austria was also given to Italy.
According to the Treaty of Trianon in 1920, Slovakia and Ruthenia were given to Czechoslovakia. Many areas were also given to Yugoslavia and Romania. As a result of these treaties, the political and economic conditions of Austria-Hungary became extremely weak.
The Treaty of Niuli in 1919 gave many areas of Bulgaria to Greece, Yugoslavia, and Romania.
The Ottoman Empire was disbanded by the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920. Many of its areas were given to Greece and Italy. France was given Syria and Palestine, Iraq, and Transjordan under British Mandate. This ignited the flame of rebellion in Turkey. The most comprehensive and influential of all these treaties was the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 with Germany.
Treaty of Versailles
There were 440 clauses in this treaty. This paralyzed Germany from a political, military, and economic point of view. The main provisions of the treaty were as follows—
- Germany and its allies were strongly condemned as guilty of the war. Also, Germany was forced to pay reparations for the losses suffered by the Allies in the war.
- In 1870, Alsace and Lorraine provinces conquered by Germany were given back to France. Apart from this, the entire territory of Germany, which was full of iron and coal mines, was given to France for 15 years.
- Most of Germany’s eastern border was given to Poland. In order to reach Poland to the sea coast, a wide land area in the middle of Germany was taken out and given to Poland. This area was called Police Corridor.
- Dajing and Memel ports were handed over to the League of Nations. Overall, Germany lost 13 percent of its territory and 10 percent of its population.
- Arrangements were made for the disarmament of Germany. The maximum limit of the German army was fixed at one lakh. The production of war useful goods was banned.
- By confiscating all the naval ships of Germany, it was given the right to keep only six warships. The possession of submarines and aircraft was also banned.
- 31 miles of land on the left bank of the Rhine river was completely demilitarized and given to the Allies for 15 years.
All the colonies of Germany were divided among themselves by the Allies. The colonies of South West Africa and East Africa were given to England, Belgium, Portugal, and South Africa. Togoland and Cameroon were taken over by France. Japan got the Pacific Ocean region and the German-occupied area of China.
The Treaty of Versailles was extremely harsh and humiliating for Germany. Its terms were imposed on a conquered nation by coercion and threats by the conquered nations. Germany accepted it under compulsion, it called this treaty unjust, and Germany was forced to sign the treaty. Since he never accepted it voluntarily. That’s why the Treaty of Versailles is called an accused treaty, German citizens could never accept it. There was a strong public opinion in Germany against the treaty. Hitler and the Nazi party seized power by turning public opinion in their favor against the Treaty of Versailles. As soon as he came into power, he started increasing his power by rejecting the arrangement of the treaty, which resulted in the Second World War, therefore it is said that the seeds of the Second World War were contained in the Treaty of Versailles.
Results of the first world war
From the point of view of results, the First World War has been considered a turning point in world history. This had many immediate and far-reaching consequences. The effect of this war was political, military, social, and economic.
End of empire
- The great empires that participated in the First World War with the Central Powers collapsed after the war.
- As a result of the Paris Peace Conference, the Austro-Hungarian Empire disintegrated.
- The rule of the Hohenzollern in Germany and the Hapsburg dynasty in Austria-Hungary came to an end. There the republic was established.
- Similarly, as a result of the Russian Revolution in 1917, the power of the Romanov dynasty came to an end in Russia, and the republic was established.
- Turkey’s Ottoman Empire also ended, and most of it was given to Greece and Italy.
Change world map
- The world map changed after the First World War. With the disintegration of empires, new nations like Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia emerged.
- The borders of Austria, Germany, France, and Russia changed.
- The Baltic states became independent from the Russian Empire.
- The situation changed there also due to the occupation of Asian and African colonies by the Allies. Similarly, Japan also got many new territories. Iraq was placed under British and Syria under French protection.
- Palestine was given to England.
Rise of the Soviet Union
The Bolshevik Revolution took place in Russia in 1917 during World War I. As a result, the Soviet Union emerged in place of the Russian Empire. The Socialist government took the place of Jarshahi.
During the Civil War in the colonies, the Allies announced that the doctrine of the Final Judgment would be implemented at the end of the war. Due to this, the feeling of getting independence in many colonies and dependent countries was strengthened. Nationalist movements started in each colony.
In India too, the decisive phase of the freedom struggle began in 1917 under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.
Weakening of Europe’s influence on world politics
Europe had a leading role in world politics before the war. World politics used to revolve around Germany, France, England, and Russia. But this situation changed after 1918, and America’s dominance increased in the post-war period.
Rise of authoritarianism
- Totalitarianism emerged as a result of the First World War.
- Hitler and his Nazi party seized power in Germany by resorting to the Treaty of Versailles.
- Nazism gave a new political philosophy, due to which all the power was concentrated in the hands of a powerful leader.
Like Germany, fascism emerged in Italy under the leadership of Mussolini. Italy was also dissatisfied with the Paris Conference. Therefore, Italy’s bitterness towards the Allies increased. In Hitler’s stuff and Mussolini too, he concentrated all the power in their hands.
Planting the seeds of World War II
The First World War also sowed the seeds of the Second World War. The way the defeated nations were treated, they started thinking of themselves as humiliated. In those nations again fierce nationalism became effective, and each nation once again organized itself and started increasing its power, one by one the terms of the treaty were added. Due to this, the world once again sat on a pile of gunpowder, its final result was the Second World War.
First attempt to establish world peace
Disarmament was arranged in the Paris Conference to weaken the military power of the defeated nation. The biggest victim of this policy was Germany. The conquered nations started increasing their military power, and due to this, a feeling of fear arose in the defeated nations. Therefore, they also started trying to strengthen themselves, due to which the arms race started, which had a bad effect on world peace.
Massive loss of public money
The First World War was a catastrophic war. Lakhs of people were killed in this. Property worth billions were destroyed. This had a bad effect on the socioeconomic system. Thousands of factories closed yesterday. Agricultural industry and trade were almost destroyed. The problem of unemployment and starvation arose.
The First World War created an economic crisis in the world. The prices of commodities increased and the problem of the currency situation arose. As a result, there was economic chaos in the whole world, and due to the increase in debt, and the tax burden on the people increased.
Change in government economic policies
Before the war, Europeans used to give more emphasis on racism or discrimination between black and white. He used to consider the black people of Asia and Africa as his own. But seeing his bravery in the war, he had to change his perception. Gradually, the difference between black and fair began to decrease.
- Loss of population
- Improvement in the status of women
- Improve the condition of laborers
- Change in social norms
In this way, it can be said that there were some happy results of the First World War, but most of the results were painful.