World War I Essay, Research Paper
December 1, !999
World War I
World War I involved more countries and caused greater destruction than any other
war, except World War II. An assassin?s bullet set off the war, and a system of military
agreements plunged the main European powers into the fight. Each side expected a quick
victory; but the war lasted four years and took the lives of nearly ten million military
Military drafts raised larger armies than ever before, and extreme patriotism gave men
a cause they were willing to die for. Progaganda whipped up support for the war by
making the enemy seem villainous.
On June 28, 1914, an assassin gunned down Archduke Francis Ferdinard of
Austria-Hungary in Sarejevo, the capital of Austria-Hungary?s province of Bornia. The
killer, Gavrilo Princip, 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.
Austria-Hungary decided to use this assassination as an excuse to settle its fight with
Serbia. Germany backed Austria, and on July 23 Austria presented a warlike ultimatum
to Serbia. It allowed forty-eight hours for a reply. On July 28, Austria refused Serbia?s
reply and declared war on Serbia.
All nations in Europe had been expecting war and rival groups had been making
treaties and alliances for many years. Europe was divided into two camps. Germany,
Austria-Hungary, and Italy were members of the Triple Alliance, or Central Powers.
Russia, France, and England formed the rival Triple Entente Powers, which was later
called the Allies. The Balkan States sided with Serbia and the Allies. Serbia?s enemies
were on the side of the Central Powers. The alliances were brought into action when
Austria declared war. It took a week for all Europe to be at war. (Bender)
Germany won early victories in World War I on the main battlefields. The western
front hardly moved for three and a half years in spite of fierce combat. The fighting went
back and forth until 1917 when a revolution broke out in Russia which resulted in Russia
asking for a truce. (World Book Encyclopedia)
The United States remained neutral at first, but many Americans turned against the
Central Powers after Germany began sinking unarmed ships. In 1917 the United States
joined the Allies. As a result the Allies gained the manpower they needed to win the war.
In 1918, the Central Powers surrendered. (World Book Encyclopedia)
World War I grew into the greatest war the world had ever seen. The amount of
money spent was enormous. The war costed about two hundred billion dollars. The
United States alone spent as much money as it did on all the expenses of the government
from 1791 to 1914. (World Book Encyclopedia)
More than sixty-five million men were mobilized for the armies and navies. Over eight
million lost their lives, and more that twenty-one million were wounded. Civilian
populations worked as never before to produce enormous quantities of guns,
ammunitions, and other supplies. Civilians suffered more in World War I than in any
previous war. Because they played such an important part, this was called ?total war.?
The assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinard triggered World War I. But the war
had its origins in developments of the 1800?s. During this time one force that swept
across the continent that helped bring about World War I was nationalism. Different
groups of people felt they should each have a separate national government in a country
where everyone spoke the same language. Another cause of the war was that the
economic interest and rivalries played a considerable part in creating international tentions.
Also it was the growing feeling of insecurity that led the European governments, one after
another, to try to strength their positions by concluding alliances with other governments
having similar interest. (Tuchman)
During World War I, politicians and publicists spoke of great days to come, when
there would be no more wars or clashes between nations. Many historians have stated,
?The actuality of harsh compromises in the treaties along with continued violence in some
nations, distrust among the peoples, and a sharp recession produced a widespread sense of
disillustionment.? Peace agreements after the war did change the map of the world.
New governments appeared in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Finland, Germany,
Hungary, Latvia, Lithunia, Poland, Russia, Yugoslavia, and several countries of western
Asia. However this war did not solve the world?s problems. The peace settlements that
followed created conditions that plunged the world into another war less than twenty
years later. (Tuchman)
Bender,David L. World War I. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1998.
Tuchman, Barbara W. The Guns of August: Macmillan, 1962.
World Book Encyclopedia. Copyright 1996, V.21 World Book, Inc.