History: Connections to Today
H A P T E R 27 World War I and
Its Aftermath (1914–1919)
C T I O N 1
The Stage Is Set
- After a century of relative peace, many Europeans felt optimistic about
- 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
- The growth of rival alliance systems made it likely that a local
conflict could easily mushroom into a general war.
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.
E C T I O N 3
A New Kind of
- 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.
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
- 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.
E C T I O N 5
- 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
- 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