World History Textbook Resource

World War I and It's Aftermath (1914-1919)

BIG IDEA - Aggressive nationalism, economic and imperial rivalries , and militarism pushed Europe toward war.
In the early 1900's the world seemd at peace. People joined anit-war groups. Leaders met to talk (diplomacy). At the same time, however, other forces pushed Europe toward war. (See diagram below.) One of these forces was NATIONALISM - a strong loyalty to a nation and culture. Pride of country and fierce racial bonds divided much of Europe. Nations also wanted economic power. Britain had been a leader of industry. now it had to keep up with modern German factories. Industrialized countries needed raw materials. France, Britain, and Germany all competed for lands in Africa. Fearful of losing their colonies, nations built up military power. This MILITARISM, or glorification of the military, led to an arms race. No one wanted war, but everyone was getting ready to fight. Fear and distrustgrew. Nations formed ALLIANCES, promising to protect each other against attack. By 1914, there were two big alliances. One was the Triple Alliance including Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. The Triple Entente was made up of France, Britain, and Russia. More nations soon joined the alliances. Each country promised to help its friend if war broke out in Europe. The stage was set so that a small conflict could easily become a huge war.

BIG IDEA - The murder of Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary led to World War I.
By June of 1914, Europe was tense. In an eastern region known as the Balkans, things were about to explode. Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was going to visit the province of Bosnia. Many Serbs lived there. Some thought Bosnia should belong to Serbia rather than to Austria-Hungary. As Archduke planned his trip, Serb terrorists made plans too. Gavrilo Princip was part of a group known as the Black Hand. Their goal was to join all South Slavic people in one nation. This goal is known as Pan-slavism - know this term! Now the Black Hand plotted to kill the archduke. On June 28, the archduke and his wife drove through the Bosnian city of Sarajevo. Acting on a Black Hand plan, Gavrilo Princip shot them. Austria-Hungary blamed Serbia for the murders. On July 28 1914 it declared war Alliances came into play. Germany stood by Austria-Hungary. Russia, a slavic nation backed Serbia. France came to the aid of Russia. On August 3, 1914 Germany attacked Belgium as a pat to France. An angry Britain declared war on Germany. World War I had begun. The assassination, or murder, of Archduke Francis Ferdinand sparked trouble. However, most historians agree that all the nations involved must share the blame for the war on one wanted.

BIG IDEA - Modern weapons resulted in a huge number of casualties and stopped either side from gaining an advantage.
Some have called World War I "The Great War" and it was also known as the "War to end all Wars". More troops fought and died than ever before in history.
Heavy fighting took place on the Western Front, a 600 mile stretch from English Channel to Switzerland. The Germans hoped for an early victory there. However, French and British troops stopped them. For four years, neither side advanced. Troops dug trenches along the front. When they came out to fight, many were killed. Neither side won much ground and it was pretty much a stalemate. There was also an Eastern Front in Europe. One part ran from the Baltic Sea. The other part ran between Italy (which joined the Allies in 1915) and Austria-Hungary. This was the first war to make sure of modern technology and machinery. Warplanes flew the skies. Submarines sailed under the sea. Machine guns, tanks, and poison gas made battles dealy. World War I became a global conflict. Its effects were felt worldwide. The powers of Europe looked to their colonies for soldiers, workers, and supplies. In the Middle East, the Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers. Japan, allied to Britain, took German colonies in China and islands in the Pacific. The United States would soon join the battle as well.

BIG IDEA - In their efforts to win World War I, governments engaged in total war, committing all of their nation's resources to the effort.
World War I was what we call a total war. In a total war, ALL of a nation's resources go into the war effort. Governments drafted men (AKA - conscription) to fight the war. They raised taxes to pay the cost of fighting. They rationed, or limited the supply of goods, so that they could supply the military. An example of this would be "meatless Tuesdays" where the government would ask people not to eat meat on that day of the week to allow the saved meat to be sent to the soldiers who were fighting in the war. They used the press to publish propaganda that made the enemy look bad. Propaganda is the spreading of ideas to promote a cause or damaage an opposing cause. You are exposed to propaganda on a daily basis one way or another. Women played a major part in total war. Many took jobs that soldiers left behind. Some joined the armed services. Others went to the front as nurses. Also, women started to "fill in" for men in thier jobs that society considered a "man's job" and that a female could not do. Their involvement in the workforce helped women receive their right to vote with universal women's suffrage. By 1917, Europe had seen too much death and ruin. In Russia, low morale, or spirits, led to revolution. Early in 1918, the new leader signed a treaty with Germany that took Russia out of the war. Russia's withdraw was good news for the Central Powers. However, theres was good news for the Allies too. The United States was no longer neutral. In April 1917, the United States declared war on Germany. With new soldiers and supplies from the United States, the Allies gained control. The other Central Powers had given up, and the Germans stood alone. They asked for an end to the fighting. On November 11, 1918 an armistice, or agreement to end fighting was declared. The Great War was over.
Events Change the Balance of Power.jpg

BIG IDEA - As Europe struggled to recover from the devastation of the war, world leaders met in Paris to craft a peace treaty.
As World War I ended, Europe faced huge losses. More had been wounded. Hunger threatened many lands. In addition, a deadly epidemic of influenza swept the world in 1918. Much of the European continent was in ruins. Cities had to rebuilt. Governments had fallen in Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. United States President Woodrow Wilson and British Prime Minister David Lloyd George joined French leader Georges Clemenceau in Paris. The were the "BIG THREE" of the Paris Peace Conference. Each had his own goals. Wilson had his 14 points. Some of his goals were no secret alliances, formation of a League of Nations, and stressed self-determination, by which people choose their own government and not ruled by a foreign country. Britain and France wanted to punish Germany! By June 1919, the conference had drawn up the Treaty of Versailles. The document blamed the Germans for the war. They had to pay over $300 billion in reparations (payment for war damages), give up colonies and some European lands, and cut back their military (100,000 soldiers and reduce the size of their Navy). There were others changes as well. New nations formed on land that had belonged to Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Germany. The treaty also set up the League of Nations. This group of 40 countries hoped to settle problems without war. This was the predecessor to our modern United Nations. Interested enough, even though the league was President Wilson's plan, the United States never joined! Go figure.....

BIG IDEA - Two Revolutions rocked Russia in 1917.
In 1917, Russia was in trouble. Millions of Russians had died in World War I. There was not enough food, and citizens were starving. Many people blamed Czar Nicholas II for the problems. A strike of workers began a revolution in March. A new government seized power and promised to be democratic. However, this government decided to continue the war against Germany. This decision drained more men, money, and food.

Vladimir Lenin, an enemy of the czar, with the help of the Germans Lenin returned to Russia in April from exile in Switerland. He and his followers, the Bolsheviks, started a second revolution. Lenin called for classless society based on socialist teachings of the German Karl Marx. He and his Bolsheviks promised, "Peace, Land, and Bread" and won control of the government in November 1917. They set up councils, called soviets, to govern the nation. Lenin made peace with Germany, but for the next 3 years faced unrest in Russia.

Russians had expected democracy. But they found that the Bolsheviks, now called Communists, ran the soviets. A civil war erupted when rebel forces fought against Lenin's Red Army. By 1921, the Communists had defeated the rebels.

In 1922, Lenin and the Communists controlled much of the Russian empire. They called it the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The USSR, or Soviet Union was made up of many republics or states. Russia was the largest republic and controlled the others.

Propaganda Resources

British propaganda posters:
French propaganda posters:
German propaganda posters:
United States propaganda posters:
Postcards celebrating the strength of alliances:
Propaganda Leaflets:

Photos of World War I

Memoirs and personal recollections:

World War I poetry:

Rupert Brooke, War Sonnets:
Eva Dobell, Pluck:
John McCrae, In Flanders Field:
Wilfred Owen, Dulce et Decorum Est:
Isaac Rosenberg: Break of Day in the Trenches:
Siegfried Sasson, Survivors:
Alan Seeger, Rendezvous: