World History: Connections to Today

C H A P T E R  27  World War I and Its Aftermath (1914–1919)

S E C T I O N  1 The Stage Is Set

  • After a century of relative peace, many Europeans felt optimistic about the future.
  • By the beginning of the 1900s, powerful forces, including aggressive nationalism, economic and imperial rivalries, militarism, and rival alliance systems were pushing Europe toward war.
  • Two huge alliances emerged in Europe: the Central Powers dominated by Germany and Austria-Hungary, and the Allies, led by France, Britain, and Russia.
  • The growth of rival alliance systems made it likely that a local conflict could easily mushroom into a general war.

S E C T I O N  2  The Guns of August

  • Long-simmering conflicts in the Balkans boiled over in 1914 when a Serb nationalist assassinated Archduke Francis Ferdinand.
  • As the system of rival alliances came into play, the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand triggered World War I.
  • Today, historians agree that all the major powers share the blame for World War I.

S E C T I O N  3  A New Kind of Conflict

  • Soon after the start of the war, a stalemate developed on the Western Front, with both sides dug deep into a vast system of trenches.
  • Both the Allies and Central Powers launched massive offensives to break the stalemate, but modern weapons resulted in huge casualties while preventing either side from gaining a decisive advantage.
  • As the fighting drew in non-European powers and soldiers from Europe’s overseas colonies, World War I became a global conflict.

S E C T I O N  4  Winning the War

  • In their efforts to win World War I, governments engaged in total war, that is, they committed all their nation’s resources to the war effort.
  • Women played a major part in total war, working in war industries and serving in women’s branches of the armed forces.
  • After the Russian Revolution of March 1917 brought down the Russian monarchy, Russia signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany, ending Russian participation in World War I.
  • The United States entered the war on the Allied side in 1917, paving the way for an Allied victory the following year.

S E C T I O N  5 Making the Peace

  • In 1918, Europeans struggled to recover from the devastation of World War I. Millions had been killed or wounded, famine and disease were prevalent, factories and homes were in ruins, and several governments had collapsed.
  • At the Paris Peace Conference, President Wilson urged a “peace without victory” based on his Fourteen Points, while Britain and France called for punishment and reparations.
  • The Treaty of Versailles forced Germany to assume full blame for the war and to pay huge reparations. German resentment of the treaty would poison the international climate for 20 years and help spark another world war.