From 1914 to 1918, the world was plunged into a global war which traced its early roots to the European continent. This conflict, which claimed a lot of human lives, is referred to as World War I.
Other names given to this war include – First World War or the Great War. World War 1 is often described as the war that was meant to end all wars, a rather ironical description given to a bloody and shameful global disaster. Over seventy million soldiers participated in the war. That shows the magnitude of World War I.
The amount of destruction that remained after World War I was beyond imagination. History says, the First World War resulted in the deaths of over 7 million civilians. Genocides were common during the war; several nationalities and ethnic groups were completely wiped out.
In the last year of the war, in 1918, the situation got worse with the outbreak of a devastating pandemic influenza known as the Spanish Flu. Estimates of deaths from the pandemic stood between 50 and 100 million people across the world.
Without any doubt World War was one of the deadliest wars in the history of mankind due to the numbers of fatalities recorded from the war itself and the pandemic.
How World War I Started
Going through the history of the war, an Austro-Hungarian heir called Archduke Franz was assassinated by Gavrilo Princip; a Bosnian and Serbian nationalist on the 28th of June, 1914. Responding to this gruesome murder of an inheritor, Austria and Hungary issued a warning to the Serbians, probably demanding they apologize. The reply from Serbia did not appease the Austrians resulting in the two factions going into war.
Alliances started springing up in Europe and countries began to take sides in the bilateral issue. In July of 1914, the great powers in Europe were segregated into two. The coalitions were the Triple Entente (made up of Britain, France, and Russia) and the Triple Alliance of Italy, Germany, and Austria-Hungary.
Russia took interest in backing Serbia when Austria-Hungary bombarded the capital town of Serbia (Belgrade). Russia announced its readiness to deploy troops on 30th July. On 31st July, Germany asked Russia to demobilize its troops within 12 hours. Russia proved stubborn and disobeyed Germany’s demand. This forcibly brought Germany to support Austria-Hungary in the war on 1st August. France also came in to support Russia on 2nd August.
Germany requested permission to pass through Belgium to fight France. When this wasn’t granted, they invaded Belgium on 3rd August and declared war on France. Britain got vexed with this and also declared war on Germany. Britain and France then went further to declare a war on Austria-Hungary. Japan joined the war by confiscating German goods in China and the Pacific. A Turkish empire (Ottoman) joined the Alliance.
The war then took a colonial dimension and spread to Africa and the rest of the globe. Colonial empires were called to join the war to assist their colonizing nations. The Allied Powers was soon formed. It comprised the Entente and its allies namely, France, Britain and Russia. Austria-Hungary, Germany and other supporting powers also formed the Central Powers.
By 1915, Italy had joined hands with the Allied Powers, the Kingdom of Bulgaria also came in to support the Central Powers. When the Kingdom of Greece joined the Allied Powers in 1917, the war extended through the Balkans. Even though the powerful United States of America remained neutral at first, the Allied Powers obtained military supplies from the U.S.A. German submarines sunk American merchant ships and tried to influence Mexico to war with the United States. The US reacted by declaring a war on Germany on 6th April, 1917.
When Serbia got defeated in 1915, Romania joined the Allied Powers but got conquered a year later. The great powers continued fighting undefeated until 1918. The Russians backed out of the war by March 1918 when the Soviet Socialist Republic was created and a treaty signed by the new Russian government. When Russia laid down their war tools, it gave way for a huge transfer of German troops from the East to the Western Front.
The Allies teamed up and dislodged the infiltration of German troops. On 29th September, 1918 the Kingdom of Bulgaria (from the Central Powers) took a break in the war by signing the Armistice (a formal agreement between parties in war to end the war) of Salonica.
The Ottoman Empire of Turkey followed suit by signing the Armistice of Mudros on 30th October 1918. Surprisingly, Austria-Hungary agreed to sign the Armistice of Villa Giusti. When the allies of Germany were defeated and its military lost the zeal to keep fighting, Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm gave up his weapons. Germany then signed an armistice on 11th September 1918. They had lost the war after fighting for four years.
The Aftermath of World War I
The First World War became an economic, cultural, and a political turning point for the world. The devastating aftermath of the war brought forth revolutions and revolts in many countries. France, U.S.A, Britain, and Italy (then known as the Big Four) after defeating the Central Powers, imposed a series of terms and conditions on them. The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 was the venue where these treaties were signed. Germany also signed a highly famous treaty (the Treaty of Versailles).
Due to the other consequences from the war, the German, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian empires fell apart. New states (nations) were created from the parent ones. Despite the signing of several treaties and armistices after a resounding victory of the Allied Powers, a Second World War would follow World War I, about twenty years later.
World War I brought with it a huge social trauma. This was mainly caused by the high number of causalities. People who partook in the War were labelled as the Lost Generation. Millions of people spent years mourning and missing the dead. Many people were left disabled. Economically, new taxes were levied and laws were enacted in the hope of bolstering peace. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of three allies (US, Britain, and Italy) increased whiles that of Russia and France together with others decreased drastically.