IB History Review Guide/The Causes, Course, and Effect of World War One

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World War one[edit]

The Causes, course, and Effect of the First World War[edit]

From the Syllabus[edit]

  • long-term, short-term and immediate causes
  • campaigns, war at sea, effects on civilian population
  • factors leading to the defeat of the central powers
  • social and economic changes during and after the war
  • the Paris Peace Settlements and their political and economic effects on Europe.

Events leading up to World War One[edit]

  • March 1890: The German statesman Otto Von Bismarck resigns, mostly forced by the new Kaiser, Wilhelm II. The Kaiser takes a more active role in German Weltpolitik. However, the blunders of the Kaiser and other chancellors alienate Germany from other European powers and gave increasing influence to army leaders within Germany.
  • March 1890: The German refusal to renew the Reinsurance Treaty with Russia made Russia suspicious of German intentions. One of the factors of Russia's alliance with France.
  • December 1893: France and Russia sign a military convention pledging to help each other in the event of a German attack.
  • December 1895: Failure of the Jameson Raid. German intervention recognizing the new government angers the British. Increase in Anglo-German rivalry.
From the Wikipedia article on it "The life brought Anglo-Boer relations to a dangerous low and the ill feeling was further heated by the "Kruger telegram" from the German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II. It congratulated Paul Kruger on defeating the raid, and also appeared to recognize the Boer republic and offer support. The emperor was already perceived as anti-British, and a naval arms race had started between Germany and Britain. Consequently, the telegram alarmed and angered the British."
  • November 1897: Germany seizes control of Kiao-Chaw, a Chinese port. Britain and Russia do likewise. Imperial rivalries inflame the region and eventually lead to the Boxer Rebellion of 1902.
  • March 1898: Germany introduces the Navy Code - a plan to increase the size of their navy. The British perceive this as a threat. Escalated in 1906 with the British development of the HMS Dreadnought.
  • Also in 1898: The Fashoda Incident which was "the climax of territorial disputes between France and the United Kingdom in East Africa".
  • 1899-1902: The Second Boer War: Britain trying to control it's colonies in South Africa. Though the British won, they suffered relatively large losses, which were quite unexpected. Britain began to seek allies to help protect its large imperialist empire.
  • January 1902: British-Japanese alliance.
  • February 1904: Russo-Japanese War. Japan was a rapidly modernizing country with imperial interests in Korea and Manchuria. These interests conflicted with Russian interests and the result was war. Russia lost horribly.
  • April 1904: Anglo-French Entente settled colonial disputes between them. Seen in Germany as a clear British alignment with France, and therefore Russia as well against the Triple Alliance of 1882. (German, Italy, Austro-Hungary).
  • March 1905: Germany assures the Morrocan Sultan of his independence in an attempt to challenge the Anglo-French agreement concerning the area.
  • January 1906: Algeciras Conference called by Kaiser Wilhelm. Anglo-French agreement over North Africa recognized. German humiliation.
  • August 1907: Russia and Britain settle their disputes over Persia and Afghanistan. Germany begins to fear encirclment by Russia, Britain, and France.
  • 1908: Revolt in the Ottoman Empire. Austro-Hungary annexes Bosnia-Herzegovina. Obtains Russian agreement by promising to support the ending of travel restrictions on Russian warships between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Austro-Hungary ignores the agreement. Germany mobilization forces in support of Austro-Hungary. Russian protest ends, increased tensions in the Balkans.
  • April 1911: Italy seizes control of Tripoli (Libya).
  • April 1911: Morrocan sultan calls for French support in quelling a rebellion. The French intervene. Germany protests and sends a warship to Agadir.
  • 1912: First Balkan War - Balkan states drive the Turks out of the Balkans.
  • 1913: Second Balkan War - Balkan states quarrel among themselves.
  • June 1914: Archduke Franz-Ferdinand assassinated.

Glossary of Terms[edit]


Causes[edit]


  • The historian Fritz Fischer contends that Germany was determined to start a war. Germany had prepared many minor modifications. Moreover, Germany was at the height of its military power and wanted to exploit the situation.

Nationalism[edit]

  • There was an emerging problem of aggressive patriotism in Europe.
  • In Austria-Hungary , a large number of ethnic groups (such as Serbs, Hungarians, etc.) lived under the Austro-Hungarian Empire. These minorities wished for independence. This created tension between the government in Vienna and the minorities.
  • In France, there was still a powerful feeling of resentment, since France had to give up Alsace and Lorraine to Germany in the Franco-Prussian war.
Imperialism[edit]
  • Problems with colonies, growing industries- countries needed more raw materials
  • Colonies wanted independence
  • Britain had conflicts with Russia in both China and India
  • Russia wanted control of the Straits, Black Sea and Mediterranean
  • Britain and France in Egypt, Africa, and Sudan
  • Germany and Britain
  • Wanted to build a railway from Berlin to Baghdad, and this conflicted with British aims.
  • Increase in the German navy.

Alliances[edit]

  • In 1882, The Triple Alliance was formed between Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary. This was a treaty in which the nations offered to support each other militarily in the event of an attack against any of them by two or more great powers
  • In 1894, the Franco-Russian Alliance was established, as a result of Russia's feeling of vulnerability after the Triple Alliance and France's isolation. It promised mutual military assistance if either country was attacked. Ten years later, in 1904, France and Britain formed the Entente Cordiale, ending conflicts between the countries. In 1907, Britain, France and Russia formed together the Triple Entente, to constitute as a counterweight to the Triple Alliance.
  • After Germany's isolation in the Algeciras Conference, it realized that its only ally was Austro-Hungary. Suddenly, Austro-Hungary took on a new importance. This led to it's blank-cheque of 1914.
  • France also offered Russia a blank-cheque in 1912.
  • The alliance system reduced the ability to deal with responses flexibly. If one thing led to another, countries had to respond to events in the fashion they promised. And indeed, that's what happened.

Problems of Industrial Societies[edit]

  • Colonies: Russia, Britain and France all wanted colonial posessions. Britain had done the best during the Scramble for Africa. Russia was eyeing Northern China. In North Africa, Britain and France shared Egypt, along with the tensions this produced. Germany, too, was seeking influence in the Middle East, as it was building a new railroad between Berlin and Baghdad.
  • Russo-Japanese War- rival imperial ambitions of the Russia and Japan over Manchuria and Korea
  • Moroccan Crises- fighting over the status of Morocco, and a substantial amount of fighting and conflict between Germany and France over it.
  • Algeciras conference- meeting held to settle the Franco-German dispute over Morocco, in which Germany was isolated.
  • The Boer War - conflict in South Africa between Britain and the Boers, as Britain desired to dominate the region and the Boers wanted independence.
  • Arms Race: Both Germany and Britain competed in the Arms Race.
  • Germany had the best equipped and largest army in all of Europe.
  • Admiral Tirpitz supervised the construction of the new German Navy, which was meant to challenge the British (who had the most powerful naval forces) in the Indian Sea
  • The British launched a new class of battleships, pioneered by the H.M.S. Dreadnought in 1906, which was heavily armed and shielded.
  • It can be said that Britain's isolation and fear of the German Navy led her to pursue more cordial relationships with France and Russia.
  • German army reforms led the Britsh High command to believe that a preventive war against Russia made sense.
  • New inventions: 75mm Field Gun, magazined rifle, machine gun
  • Commercial Rivalry: There was a great deal of commercial rivalry between the Major Powers in Europe. This was manifested most obvious in the colonies and the countries around the colonies. Britain dominated the market, by having the most manufactured goods. Germany was closing in on France especially by exporting more and more Iron. This also contributed to Britain's uneasiness concerning Germany.

Europe During World War I (Practice of World War 1)[edit]


1914 - Plans to Stalemate[edit]

  • Archduke Franz Ferdinand was murdered by Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo, during a state visit in June of 1914. This led Austro-Hungary to declare war on Serbia in July 1914.
  • Germany puts the Schlieffen Plan, which had been developed by von Schlieffen in the late 1800s and modified through the early 1900s until its nearly final form was reached in 1906, and invades Belgium. The Belgian army is overwhelmed, and the Germans soon take over most of Belgium, with very small pockets of resistance still holding.
  • Austro-Hungary invades Russia, but progress is moderate, due to the fact that the Austro-Hungarian army was poorly equipped and trained.
  • France develops the Plan 17 XVII, which would take back Alsace and Lorraine. Its application is a fiasco, since the German defenses were a lot more well prepared than expected by the French. Within a few weeks, the French were back in their starting positions, while the Germans had advanced almost unopposed through Belgium and northern France and were threatening Paris.
  • The German high command diverted troops to the Eastern Front and to a counterattack in Alsace-Lorraine, which was in turn repulsed by the French.
  • The Russians mobilize quickly to prevent Austro-Hungary's attack. They drive the latter back until the German Army, which was superior by far to their allies', comes to the help of Austro-Hungary and manages to stop the Russians at the Battle of Tannenberg.

1915 - Weak Point Strategy[edit]

  • As at the end of 1914, no major territorial changes were produced by the war, the Major Powers decide to focus their efforts on their enemies' weak points, hence the name Weak Point Strategy.
  • 1915 sees Italy entering the war and on the Austro-Italian Front there was some fighting. The countries were fighting each other in the Alps. The Italians benefitted from a superiority of almost 2:1. The Austrians were controlling the higher ground, so the Italians' superiority didn't help them at all.
  • Britain starts a blockade in the North Sea, trying to make Germany rely solely on its internal goods, and thus starve it.
  • Britain also started the Gallipoli Campaign, by which it tried to take over Istanbul, thus knocking Germany's ally, Turkey, out of the war. Unfortunately for Britain, the Turks were very well prepared for the attack. This led to a disaster for Britain, which lost its own troops, as well as ANZAC troops dispatched to fight for her.
  • Britain tried to attack Turkey through Basra and Palestine, but with no success.
  • As 1914, 1915 fails to bring any significant changes to the front lines.
  • Basra Landing
  • Palestine.

1916 - Great Attacks[edit]

  • By 1916, Trench Warfare was starting to take its toll on the men in the front lines.
  • Germany starts a massive attack on Verdun, during which 400.000 Germans, 400.000 British and 200.000 French lose their lives. The attack was ineffective and leads to no real change. Pétain, the French general in charge of the troops at Verdun, says about the Germans: "Ils ne passeront pas" (They will not pass.) - Battle of Verdun
  • The biggest British attack is on the river Somme. Nothing is achieved and Britain loses 800.000 men in the process. - Battle of the Somme
  • Jutland, in May 1916, was considered the showdown between the British and the German Navies. Both sides claimed victory. The British had lost more ships and more sailors, but Germany's plan of destroying Britain's navy had failed. For the remainder of the war, apart from brief sorties in August 1916 and April 1918, the German Fleet stayed in port. They continued to pose a threat that required the British to keep their battleships concentrated in the North Sea, but they never again contested control of the seas. Instead, the German Navy turned its efforts and resources to unrestricted submarine warfare.
  • On the Austro-Italian front, the only major confrontation was the series of Battles of the Isonzo. Initially, the Italians slightly gained ground, since the Austro-Hungarian lines were poorly manned, due to the Brusilov Offensive. Towards the end of the series of battles, nothing much changed.
  • The Brusilov Offensive was the greatest Russian attack during World War I. It was a major offensive against the Central Powers on the Eastern Front, launched June 1916 and lasting until early August. It took place in what today is Ukraine, and its purpose was to lift pressure off the British and the French on the Western Front. The operation succeeded in its basic purpose, as Germany had to terminate its attack on Verdun and transfer considerable forces to the East. It also broke the back of the Austro-Hungarian army which lost nearly 1.5 million men. This weakening of Austro-Hungarian power convinced Romania to enter the war on the side of the Entente. Russian casualties were about 500.000.

1917 - Changes[edit]

  • The United States entered the war in April 1917, becase of the Unrestricted Submarine Warfare tactic pursued by Germany, which also sunk many US ships.
  • Germany sent Mexico an invitation to start a war against the US, which became known as the Zimmerman Telegram.
  • In the summer, the first American troops begin landing in France and helping the British and French soldiers fighting in the Trenches.
  • The Nivelle Offensive was undoubtedly the most successful French action of the war. The French began their advance after the German forces they were attacking started retreating.

1918 - Last Offensives to Armistice[edit]

  • President Woodrow Wilson announced his Fourteen Points in January 1918, which would serve as a guide for reconstructing Europe after the War. They included freedom of the seas, abolishing secret treaties, disarmament, restored sovereignty of some occupied lands, and the right of national self-determination of others.
  • Due to the turmoil in Russian Society, the Russian Revolution errupted in 1917, resulting in Russia pulling out of the war and signing the treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918.
  • This put more pressure on the Western Front, since the Central Powers' soldiers fighting on the Eastern Front could now be dispatched to the West.
  • Germany launches what proves to be the first of the final three offensives on the Western Front, Operation Friedenssturm. This was General Ludendorff's last chance of breaking Allied lines, as the social situation in Germany was getting worse and worse. Friedenssturm was stopped at the Second Battle of the Marne, in July - August.
  • The German people were deprived of food and basic needs for most of the war, so there is a great deal of tension in the country. This leads to the Kiel Mutiny, in which sailors refused to obey orders and the Munich Revolt, in which the city was taken over by German Communists.
  • The Allies' Hundred Days Offensive begins, which ends in Kaiser Wilhelm's abidication from the Throne of Germany, on November 10th.
  • On November 11th, at 11:00, the Peace Treaty between Germany and the Allies is signed, and all fighting ends.

Effects of World War One[edit]


  • Changes in Population Structure
  • Most killed were between 18-38.
  • Fall in the birth rate between 1914-1918.
  • Manpower shortage during the 1930s.
  • Changes in Society
  • Social barriers undermined because of the emphasis of national unity.
  • Improvement in the status of women.
  • Increased Role of Governments
  • Increased intervention in areas of health and education.
  • Greater control over the private sector.
  • Belief in need for economic self-sufficiency
  • Promoted idea of autarky
  • International Effects
  • Nationalism exploded, reached it's climax.
  • Spread of democractic ideals.
  • Emergence of world's first Communist state.
  • The US came out favourable in the war while the power of France, Germany, Russia, and England all declined tremendously. Europe begins to leave the spotlight as the center of the world.
  • Development of international organizations.
  • Led to the development of the League of Nations, the dream of Woodrow Wilson. The United States congress voted against US participation and Germany was originally unable to join the league.

The Treaty of Versailles[edit]

  • The terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which Germany had no choice but to accept, were announced on the 7th of May of 1919. Germany lost:
  • 10% of its land
  • All its overseas colonies (including Togo)
  • 12.5% of its population
  • 16% of its coalfields, and half its iron and steel industry.

Territorial Restrictions on Germany

  • Alsace-Lorraine returned to France.
  • No annexation of Austria allowed.
  • No annexation of Czechoslovakia.
  • No annexation of Poland and Danzig.
  • Lost all of its overseas colonies including Togo, Cameroons, Namibia, and Tanzania.

Military Restrictions on Germany

  • The Rhineland was to be declared a demilitarized zone.
  • The German armed forces can be no larger than 100,000.
  • No manufacturing of weapons.
  • No importing or exporting weapons
  • No poision gas.
  • No tanks.
  • Small navy, 12 destroyers, 6 battleships, and 6 cruisers.
  • No Submarines
  • No military aircraft.

Economic Restrictions on Germany

  • These were denounced by John Mayard Keynes.
  • Saar coal fields given to France.
  • Compensation for all damages.
  • Article 231: War Guilt Clause justifies reperations.
  • The Germans were outraged and horrified at the result - since Wilson's idealistic and rejected fourteen points painted the picture of a different outcome. They did not feel as though they started the war, nor did they feel as though they had lost. The German people percieved this as a peace conference and not a surrender. At first, the new government refused to ratify the agreement, and the German navy sank its own ships in protest. The German leader, Ebert, eventually agreed to the agreement on the 28th of June 1919.

The Impact of the Treaty of Versailles[edit]

  • In 1919, Erbert's government was hanging on the edge of a knife. Right-wing opponents threatened revolution.
  • 1922-1923: Germany falls behind in its Reparation payments.
  • French and Belgian soldiers invade the Ruhr region and sack raw materials and goods in order to compensate. (Allowed under the Treaty of Versailles)
  • German government orders the workers to strike. French kill 100 workers and expell 100,000 protestants from the region in retaliation. The strike aids in causing the growing inflation.
  • The three powers were not satisfied with the Versailles treatment. Clemenceau did not think the treaty was harsh enough on Germany. Lloyd George viewed as a hero, but realised the long-term effects of the war. The American Congress refused to approve the treaty.

Other Treaties

  • Treaty of St.Germain: 1919 with Austria.
  • Treaty of Neuilly: 1919 with Bulgaria.
  • Treaty of Sévres: 1920 with Turkey
  • Treaty of Trianon: With defeated Hungary.