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Term Paper on the First World War
Term Paper Contents:
- Term Paper on the Introduction to First World War
- Term Paper on the Origin of the First World War
- Term Paper on the Causes of First World War
- Term Paper on First World War as a Great War
- Term Paper on Guilt due to First World War
- Term Paper on the Experience of First World War
- Term Paper on World at First War
- Term Paper on the Major Battles of First World War
- Term Paper on War and Revolution
- Term Paper on the Consequences of First World War
- Term Paper on the Impact of First World War
- Term Paper on the End of First World War
Term Paper # 1. Introduction to the First World War:
The 20th century was the century of crisis and disaster for Europe after the immense prosperity, peace, and optimism of the 19th. The century saw two devastating wars across the continent of Europe, but, owing to the European domination of the world, these became world wars.
The theatre of war in World War I was mostly Europe; but the rest of the world was forced to contribute as colonies, or others like the USA entered the war for their own reasons. World War II, however, was fought globally also, with Japan striking at the USA and invading all of South East Asia, ultimately assaulting even India. Similarly, all the Middle East and North Africa were theatres of war.
They were total wars, that is, fought not merely by professional Armies, but as much by civilian populations engaged in producing for the war effort and being targeted in effect as combatants. The degree of mobilization of resource was colossal, and the level of destruction left observers speechless. The capacity and nature of destruction now acquired new features.
The wars destroyed much that was familiar of the 19th century, and of the modern world that this course has dealt with. Modern class society, built around the central drama of the struggle between capital and labour, became obsolete in Europe and America, as new technologies and organization systems led to new social relations, collectively called the post-industrial. The War put an end to the nation-state system, with supra-national agglomerations taking shape.
Term Paper # 2. Origin of the First World War:
The trigger that started World War I was the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, on June 28, 1914 by a Serbian terrorist. A month later, Austria declared war on Serbia and in a week Europe was engulfed in a world war.
On one side were the central powers made up of Austria-Hungary and Germany, joined by Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. On the Serbian side were Russia, France, and Great Britain, joined by Greece, Romania, Italy, and Portugal.
i. Nationalism and the Alliance System:
One of the main causes of World War I was nationalism in Eastern Europe. In Eastern Europe, nationalism was defined by ethnic, linguistic, and religious identities that did not coincide with political citizenship. In the Austro-Hungarian Empire, millions of citizens did not identify themselves as either Austrian or Hungarian.
The success of nationalism required the break-up of the empire. Therefore, the Habsburg officials viewed the nationalistic aspirations of seven million Serbians living in Austria-Hungary as a threat to the existence of the Habsburg Empire. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand provided the Habsburg Empire the opportunity to crush the Serbian threat once and for all.
On July 23, Austria issued an ultimatum, and when Serbia failed to meet all of the provisions, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. The war between Serbia and Austria-Hungary turned into a European-wide war largely because of the alliance systems established in the previous decades.
The unification of Germany in 1871 created an economic and military power in the center of Europe. As a new nation, Germany sought alliances to protect its national security and to ensure influence. In 1882, Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary established the Triple Alliance.
This made possible a Franco-Russian Alliance in 1894, resulting in the threat of a two-front war. In 1898, Germany began constructing a navy, which Britain saw as a threat to its security. Britain began making economic, imperial, and military agreements with France and Russia.
These agreements resulted in the formation of the Triple Entente. These agreements did not require Britain to join a war. By the beginning of the 20th century, Europe was divided into two opposing camps. When the threat of war appeared, Germany gave Austria full support (commonly known as a ‘blank check’).
ii. Industrialized Military and the Will to War:
Part of the reason for the start of World War I was the gap that had developed between diplomacy and the needs of a military in the age of industrialization. In the preceding decade, military planning had fully incorporated the rail-road as a tool of mobilization. By using the rail-road, troops could be mobilized and put in place very quickly.
Once a nation mobilized, the momentum toward war was dictated by the needs of the military plans. In the case of Germany, the Schlieffen Plan was devised to meet the needs of a war on two fronts. It required fast mobilization against France and an attack through Belgium in order to defeat France and then turn around to face the Russian forces in the east.
Russia was expected to mobilize slowly because of its underdevelopment. When the Russian government ordered mobilization, Germany declared war. Germany proceeded to invade Belgium and attack France. The invasion of Belgium brought Britain into the war as the guarantor of Belgium neutrality.
Another key factor in the road to war was the pressure of public opinion. The popular press had involved the masses in foreign affairs, and new technologies in communication made news even more accessible. Mass nationalism influenced public opinion, and the masses supported the war as a ‘we vs. them’ nationalistic competition.
Only a minority in each country opposed the war. In every country, socialist parties, which had been committed against war, now voted for war credits. For those who feared racial degeneration, war was seen as a chance to reassert male virility. For political leaders facing aggressive unions and socialist movements, war was seen as unifying the population. Most people expected the war to be short and that the soldiers would be home by Christmas.
Term Paper # 3. Causes of the First World War:
First World War is actually much more complicated than a simple list of causes. While there was a chain of events that directly led to the fighting, the actual root causes are much deeper and part of continued debate and discussion.
Below given list is an overview of the most popular reasons that are cited as the root causes of First World War:
i. Mutual Defense Alliances:
Over time, countries throughout Europe made mutual defense agreements that would pull them into battle.
Thus, if one country was attacked, allied countries were bound to defend them. Before First World War, the following alliances existed:
a. Russia and Serbia
b. Germany and Austria-Hungary
c. France and Russia
d. Britain and France and
e. Belgium Japan and Britain
Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Russia got involved to defend Serbia. Germany seeing Russia mobilizing, declared war on Russia. France was then drawn in against Germany and Austria-Hungary. Germany attacked France through Belgium pulling Britain into war. Then Japan entered the war. Later, Italy and the United States would enter on the side of the allies.
Imperialism is when a country increases their power and wealth by bringing additional territories under their control. Before World War I, Africa and parts of Asia were points of contention amongst the European countries. This was especially true because of the raw materials these areas could provide. The increasing competition and desire for greater empires led to an increase in confrontation that helped push the world into First World War.
As the world entered the 20th century, an arms race had begun. By 1914, Germany had the greatest increase in military buildup. Great Britain and Germany both greatly increased their navies in this time period. Further, in Germany and Russia particularly, the military establishment began to have a greater influence on public policy. This increase in militarism helped push the countries involved to war.
Much of the origin of the war was based on the desire of the Slavic peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina to no longer be part of Austria Hungary but instead be part of Serbia. In this way, nationalism led directly to the War. But in a more general way, the nationalism of the various countries throughout Europe contributed not only to the beginning but the extension of the war in Europe. Each country tried to prove their dominance and power.
v. Immediate Cause: Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand:
The immediate cause of World War I that made all the aforementioned items come into play (alliances, imperialism, militarism, nationalism) was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary. In June 1914, a Serbian nationalist assassinated him and his wife while they were in Sarajevo, Bosnia which was part of Austria-Hungary.
This was in protest to Austria-Hungary having control of this region. Serbia wanted to take over Bosnia and Herzegovina. This assassination led to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia. When Russia began to mobilize due to its alliance with Serbia, Germany declared war on Russia. Thus began the expansion of the war to include all those involved in the mutual defense alliances.
Term Paper # 4. First World War as a Great War:
So then, we have the following remarkable sequence of events that led inexorably to the ‘Great War’ a name that had been touted even before the coming of the conflict:
I. Austria-Hungary, unsatisfied with Serbia’s response to her ultimatum (which in the event was almost entirely placatory: however her jibbing over a couple of minor clauses gave Austria-Hungary her sought-after cue) declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914.
II. Russia, bound by treaty to Serbia, announced mobilisation of its vast army in her defence, a slow process that would take around six weeks to complete.
III. Germany, allied to Austria-Hungary by treaty, viewed the Russian mobilisation as an act of war against Austria-Hungary, and after scant warning declared war on Russia on 1 August.
IV. France, bound by treaty to Russia, found itself at war against Germany and, by extension, on Austria-Hungary following a German declaration on 3 August. Germany was swift in invading neutral Belgium so as to reach Paris by the shortest possible route.
V. Britain allied to France by a more loosely worded treaty which placed a ‘moral obligation’ upon her to defend France, declared war against Germany on 4 August. Her reason for entering the conflict lay in another direction: she was obligated to defend neutral Belgium by the terms of a 75-year old treaty.
With Germany’s invasion of Belgium on 4 August, and the Belgian King’s appeal to Britain for assistance, Britain committed herself to Belgium’s defence later that day. Like France, she was by extension also at war with Austria-Hungary.
VI. With Britain’s entry into the war, her colonies and dominions abroad variously offered military and financial assistance, and included Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa.
VII. United States, President Woodrow Wilson declared a U.S. policy of absolute neutrality, an official stance that would last until 1917 when Germany’s policy of unrestricted submarine warfare-which seriously threatened America’s commercial shipping (which was in any event almost entirely directed towards the Allies led by Britain and France)—forced the U.S. to finally enter the war on 6 April 1917.
VIII. Japan, honouring a military agreement with Britain, declared war on Germany on 23 August 1914. Two days later Austria-Hungary responded by declaring war on Japan.
IX. Italy, although allied to both Germany and Austria-Hungary, was able to avoid entering the fray by citing a clause enabling it to evade its obligations to both. In short, Italy was committed to defend Germany and Austria- Hungary only in the event of a ‘defensive’ war; arguing that their actions were ‘offensive’ she declared instead a policy of neutrality. The following year, in May 1915, she finally joined the conflict by siding with the Allies against her two former allies.
Term Paper # 5. Guilt due to First World War:
In 1919, in the Treaty of Versailles between the victorious allies and Germany, the latter had to accept a ‘war guilt’ clause which explicitly stated that the war was Germany’s fault. This issue which was responsible for the war has been debated by historians and politicians ever since.
Over the years trends have come and gone, but the issues seem to have polarised like this- on one side, that Germany with their blank cheque to Austria-Hungary and rapid, two front mobilization was chiefly to blame, while on the other was the presence of a war mentality and colonial hunger among nations who rushed to extend their empires, the same mentality which had already caused repeated problems before war finally broke out.
The debate has not broken down ethnic lines- Fischer blamed his German ancestors in the sixties, and his thesis has largely become the mainstream view. The Germans were certainly convinced war was needed soon, and the Austro-Hungarians were convinced they had to crush Serbia to survive; both were prepared to start this war. France and Russia were slightly different, in that they weren’t prepared to start the war, but went to lengths to make sure they profited when it occurred, as they thought it would.
All five Great Powers were thus prepared to fight a war, all fearing the loss of their Great Power status if they backed down. None of the Great Powers was invaded without a chance to step back.
Term Paper # 6. Experience of the First World War:
The realities of war shattered expectations of a short war. The war moved beyond Europe into Asia, Africa, and the Atlantic Ocean. To meet the demands of total war, governments exercised stronger control and women entered the workforce.
i. The Western Front: Stalemate in the Trenches:
Following a modified version of the Schleifen Plan, the German troops advanced into France and seemed poised to take Paris by the first week of September. French and British forces stopped the German advance at the Battle of the Marne, saving Paris, but were unable to push the Germans out of France.
For the next four years, Germans faced the British and French troops along miles of trenches stretching from the Swiss border to the Belgium coast. Both sides found themselves confined to underground dwellings. For four years, men stood in muddy ditches 3-4 feet wide and 7-8 feet deep, reinforced by sandbags and barbed wire.
The trenches zigzagged at sharp angles to limit the range of fire, which also ensured that everywhere a soldier looked he saw mud. Between the lines was no-man’s land, pocketed by deep craters from the shelling and littered with the decomposing corpses of the dead. In 1915, a new deadly weapon, poison gas, was introduced, which blinded, blistered skin, and caused death by asphyxiation.
During 1915, an average of 300 British men became casualties every day. Throughout the war, the offense remained the main strategy on both sides. Each offensive began with a massive artillery bombardment followed by the advancement of men against the no-man’s land to enemy lines only to be mowed down by the enemy’s machine guns. The casualties mounted and neither side gained any ground.
ii. The War in Eastern Europe:
Only in Italy did events in the Eastern front match those of the Western front. The war in Eastern Europe was one of movement, as Russian troops made surprising advances into Germany and Austria and were then chased deep into Russian territory.
iii. The Eastern Front: A War of Movement:
In 1914, the Russians mobilized faster than expected and advanced into eastern Germany and Austria. At the Battle of Tannenberg, the Germans, under the command of Generals Hindenberg and Ludendorff, stopped the Russians, advanced, and then pushed them back deep into Russian territory.
For the next two years, the pattern of Russian advance and retreat continued, revealing the inability of the Russian government and economy to supply its troops. Defeated and demoralized, the Russian soldiers started deserting in mass. As the pressure mounted on the Russian economy, revolution occurred in March 1917, and the tsar was forced to abdicate.
In November, a small group of socialist revolutionaries called the Bolsheviks overthrew the provisional government and withdrew Russia from the war and in March of 1918 with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Because of the large numbers of troops needed to hold these territories, Germany did not benefit as much as expected.
Term Paper # 7. World at First War:
Because of the imperialist expansion of the late 19th century, the war became a world war. The British colonies and dependencies supplied at least 40 per cent of British troops. Japan wanted Germany’s colonies in China. Portugal joined the war to expand its holdings in Africa.
Because of British needs to protect its access to India, the Middle East became an important battleground. The British gained the aid of the Arabs with promises of postwar independence made by T. E. Lawrence. Arab nationalists pushed the Ottoman forces out of the Arabian Peninsula and the British captured the Sinai Peninsula and Jerusalem by 1917.
Despite the Ottoman losses in the Middle East, Germany remained in a winning position at the beginning of 1918. Germany had made huge gains in Eastern Europe, Russia had dropped out of the war and was undergoing a revolution, while Romania and Serbia were occupied.
i. The War at Sea and the Entry of the United States:
At sea, the British Navy had blockaded Germany and its allies, and the consequent food shortages were causing riots in Germany. Desperate for a quick win, Germany renewed unrestricted submarine warfare.
This action, the interception of the Zimmerman telegram (the exposure of a German plan to convince Mexico to invade the U.S.), and the tight economic link between the U.S. and the Allies, led to the U.S. declaration of war in April of 1917. Although American troops did not arrive in France until 1918, American entrance into the war provided a psychological boost.
ii. Back in Motion: The Western Front in 1918:
In March of 1918, the Germans quickly broke through the lines in surprise attacks and reached within 50 miles of Paris. The Allies, reinforced with American troops, followed suit with similar tactics and began pushing the Germans back, particularly with the new, advanced technology of the tank.
The Germans’ rapid advance overextended their manpower and supply lines. The armies of the Ottoman and Austrian Empires and Bulgaria collapsed in October, and Germany signed an armistice on November 11, 1918.
iii. The Home Front:
Four years of war transformed the societies involved. The term ‘home front’ was coined to highlight the role played by the civilians in the war effort.
iv. Gender Upheavals:
One of the most important changes of the war was in the role of women. With the men at the front, women were employed in the munitions factories and as ambulance drivers at the front. The war smashed many of the boundaries that had confined women.
In a rather ironic turn of events, the men who had gone to war to be heroes were rendered immobile in the trenches while women were transporting wounded and ferrying supplies. These gains for women were reversed with the end of the war.
v. Social Transformation:
The war required that economy be mobilized in order to supply the machine guns, poison gas, canned food, and uniforms needed by the troops. At first the governments did not realize the role played by industry and labor. By 1915, governments on both sides began assuming power to requisition supplies, limit profits, and dictate wages.
In 1915, France and Britain introduced coalition governments that included the socialist parties. The governments acted in favor of the basic needs of the workers and the labor unions made a no-strike pledge. Despite these pledges, the number of strikes did increase in 1916 and 1917. The military and big industry seized control of the economy. While the industrialists made enormous profits, the workers were ground down by food shortages and inflation.
Term Paper # 8. Major Battles of the First World War:
The casualties suffered in the First World War were of a scale never before experienced. Great Britain and her Empire lost over 1,000,000 combatants; France, 1,300,000; Russia, 1,700,000; Germany and its allies, 3,500,000. Losses in life per day of the war exceeded 5,500.
Although each soldier would have been involved in some form of continual conflict whilst serving on the front-line (e.g. trench raids, snipers, shelling), it is possible to distinguish major battles (or pushes) whose names have gone down in history as some of the bloodiest conflicts ever waged.
Below are details on five of the main battles involving British troops and their allies:
i. The Battle of Verdun, 1916
ii. The Battle of the Marne, 1914-1918
iii. The Battle of Years 1914, 1915, 1917
iv. The Battle of Somme, 1916
v. The Battle of Cambrai, 1917
i. The Battle of Verdun, 1916:
A major military engagement of World War I, the Battle of Verdun was a ten month long ordeal between the French and German armies. The battle was part of an unsuccessful German campaign to take the offensive on the western front. Both the French and German armies suffered incredibly with an estimated 540,000 French and 430,000 German casualties and no strategic advantages were gained for either side.
The Battle of Verdun is considered to be one of the most brutal events of World War I, and the site itself is remembered as the ‘battlefield with the highest density of dead per square yard.’
In the years preceding World War I, Germany became Europe’s leading industrial power. France felt increasingly threatened by German industrialization; and although France ruled the second largest colonial empire in the world (Britain was the largest), French leaders realized that France could not protect itself on its own from the burgeoning power of Germany.
As a response to the German threat of invasion, France built a continuous line of sunken forts in the hopes that an invading army would not be able to manoeuvre through it. The line of fortifications extended from the Swiss frontier to the French city of Verdun, thus making Verdun a vital strong point for the French war effort.
The German attack began on February 21, 1916 with an intense artillery bombardment of the forts surrounding Verdun. The French army retreated to predetermined positions while the German army pounded through the French lines. On February 25 1916, Fort Douaumont, near Verdun, surrendered to German forces.
On that same day, General Joseph Joffre, the French Commander and Chief, dedicated to ceasing further French retreat, assigned General Henri Philippe Petain to command the French Army at Verdun. Petain fought with the motto ‘Ils ne passeront pas,’ which means, ‘They shall not pass!’ While the exhausted German Army was lingering at Fort Douaumont, Petain restructured his troops and transported reserves to the region continuously.
On March 6 1916, the German commanders ordered an attack, and on March 22, 1916, another French fort near Verdun, Harcourt, surrendered to the German army. A week later, on March 22 1916, Malancourt, a French fort near Verdun, had fallen to the Germans. Although three French forts near Verdun had capitulated to German forces, Verdun itself remained undefeated.
German attacks ensued, but by April, the French Air Force had secured the sky over Verdun, which would help the French to successfully defend the area. However, the French forts of Thiaumont and Vaux had fallen to the German Army in June, although the pressure on France had diminished due to the British attack on German forces near the Somme River.
This British attack and a Russian offensive in the east forced the German Army to transfer troops away from Verdun. These events put Germany in a defensive mode, and the French quickly took the offensive.
By November of 1916, Fort Vaux, Fort Thiaumont, and Fort Douaumont had been reclaimed for France. By December, the French had advanced to their February 1916 lines, their original position. No new advantage had been gained for either side.
ii. The Battles of the Marne, 1914 and 1918:
On September 4, 1914, the rapid advances of the German army through Belgium and northern France caused panic in the French Army and troops were rushed from Paris in taxis to halt the advance. Combined with the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) the Germans were eventually halted and the War settled into the familiar defensive series of entrenchments.
Ironically, by the end of May, 1918, the Germans had again reached the Marne after the enormous successes of Ludendorff’s offensives of that year. The intervening four years had cost hundreds of thousands of lives and the armies were still, literally, exactly where they had started.
iii. The Battles of Years, 1914, 1915 and 1917:
There were in fact three battles fought around the Years salient during the War. The first, in 1914 was an attempt by the BEF to halt the rapid advances made by the Germans. The second, in 1915, was notable for the first use of poison gas by the Germans. However, it is the long-planned offensive of July 31, 1917, that holds the most significance.
Here, a combination of over-ambitious aims, appalling weather conditions, and misguided persistence by Haig led to horrific losses. By the time the offensive was called off total casualties for both sides had been approximately 250,000. The horrors of the battle, in which men drowned in liquid mud has become synonymous with the images of the War. One of the central objectives, the village of Passchendale (eventually taken on November 6 by the Canadians), lent its name to the whole conflict.
iv. The Battle of the Somme, 1916:
On the 1st July, 1916, after a weeklong artillery bombardment launched the now infamous ‘Big Push’ attack across the river Somme. With the French Army being hard pressed to the south at Verdun the British intended to break through the German defences in a matter of hours.
The mistrust that High Command had of the so- called ‘New Armies’ manifested itself in the orders to the troops to keep uniformed lines and to march towards the enemy across no-man’s land. This, coupled with the failure of the artillery bombardment to dislodge much of the German wire, or to destroy their machine-gun posts, led to one of the biggest slaughters in military history.
When the attack began the Germans dragged themselves out of their dugouts, manned their posts and destroyed the oncoming waves of British infantry.
After the first day, with a gain of only 1.5km, the British had suffered 57,470 casualties. Despite this, Haig pressed on with the attack until November 19th of the same year. For the meager achievements, total losses on the British and Imperial side numbered 419,654 with German casualties between 450,000 and 680,000. When the offensive was eventually called off the British were still 3 miles short of Bapaume and Serre, part of their first-day objectives.
v. The Battle of Cambrai, 1917:
On November 20, 1917, the British launched the first full-scale offensive that was designed exclusively to accommodate the British secret weapon, the tank (so-called because when the first shipment came from England they were described as water tanks to maintain secrecy).
A surprise artillery barrage started the offensive and 476 tanks, packed tightly for a mass attack moved against the German lines. Supported by infantry the gains were dramatic, breaching the almost impregnable Hindenberg line to depths of 4-5 miles in some places.
However, these gains seemed to surprise British High Command equally as much as the Germans and the following cavalry failed to take advantage. Nevertheless, Cambrai demonstrated how a well-thought out attack, combining tanks en masse with surprise, could be used to break the trench deadlock.
Term Paper # 9. War and Revolution:
Total war tore apart the social and political fabric of Europe and gave the opportunity to socialist and nationalist revolutionaries to attempt to create a new Europe.
i. The Russian Revolution:
In Russia, Tsar Nicholas II assumed command of the army at the front. Nicholas left domestic political affairs in disarray, which quickly destabilized the Russian government. The lack of strong leadership and the enormous military losses of the war and extreme hunger added to the growing disaffection of the tsarist regime.
ii. The Popular Revolution:
In March of 1917, the Tsarist regime was overthrown. Two centers of power emerged in its place. One was the provisional government led by liberals. The second was the soviets, or councils of workers and soldiers. With the return of the Russian socialists from exile, they assumed leading roles in the Petrograd Soviet.
The Russian people demanded land, bread, and peace. The Provisional Government could not satisfy these demands. With German armies deep in Russian territory, peace seemed impossible.
The Provisional Government was committed to liberal principles of respect for property, so it could only offer a gradual redistribution of royal and monastic lands. Consequently, the Provisional Government grew unpopular and weaker; the soldiers deserted in mass, and the peasants began taking over the lands they wanted.
iii. The October Revolution:
In November of 1917 a second revolution led by the Bolsheviks overthrew the provisional government. The Bolsheviks were led by Vladimir Lenin. He argued that a group of professional revolutionaries could bring about a working-class revolution in Russia.
The Bolsheviks proclaimed a policy of land partition without compensation to the estates’ owners. In March of 1918 they signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which brought peace by giving Germany the western territories of Russia. For the next two years, the Bolsheviks fought a brutal civil war to hold on to power.
iv. Nationalist Revolutions:
The collapse of the eastern European and Ottoman Empires made nationalist revolutions possible. The Habsburg Empire had been plagued by ethnic divisions for several decades. During the war, groups of Slavic soldiers defected to the Russian side. With the defeat at the hands of the allied armies, the empire disintegrated. Nationalist politicians declared Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, and other Balkan regions.
In the Middle East, the English fostered Arab nationalism with the promise of post-war independence. At the same time, the British promised in the Balfour Declaration support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The Balfour Declaration was seen by the Palestinian Arabs as a betrayal.
The war also stimulated nationalist aspirations in the European empires. The war blockades eroded the economic connections between the empire and the European nations. In the British white dominions of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa, the war further enhanced, industrialized, and diversified their economies, which added to their economic independence.
The war also bolstered nationalist movements in India and Egypt. The war led native leaders to question the right Western leaders had to involve their people in a war. In India, Mohandas Gandhi turned Indian nationalism into a mass movement and introduced a new form of revolution by nonviolent protest and civil disobedience.
v. The Spreading Revolution:
The victory of the Bolsheviks inspired other socialist revolutions in Europe, most significantly in Germany. A revolution from below led by the Sparticists attempted to follow the Russian example and rejected the gradualization of the SPD, which was in charge of the postwar government. Sparticist leaders Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg proclaimed Germany a revolutionary communist state. After a civil war, the SPD defeated the communists.
Term Paper # 10. Consequences of the First World War:
Though there were widespread consequences of the First World War in many dimensions of life, a brief review of the important ones are laid down below:
i. A New Great Power:
Before their entry into World War I, the United States of America was a nation of untapped military potential and growing economic might. But the war changed this in two important ways:
Their military was turned into a large-scale fighting force with intense experience of modern war, a force which was clearly equal to the old Great Powers, and the balance of economic power started to switch from the drained nations of Europe to America. However, decisions taken by US politicians caused the country to retreat from the world and return to isolationism, initially limiting the impact.
ii. Socialism Rises to the World Stage:
The collapse of Russia under the pressure of total warfare allowed socialist revolutionaries to seize power and turn one of the world’s growing ideologies into a major European force. While the global revolution that Lenin believed was coming never happened, the presence of a huge and potentially powerful communist nation in Europe and Asia changed the balance of world politics.
iii. The Collapse of Central and Eastern European Empires:
The German, Russian, Turkish and Austro- Hungarian Empires all fought in World War I, and all were swept away by defeat and revolution (although not necessarily in that order). The fall of Turkey (in 1922, from a revolution stemming directly from the war) and Austria-Hungary were probably not that much of a surprise-
Turkey had long been regarded as the sick man of Europe, and vultures had circled their territory for decades, while Austria-Hungary appeared close behind. But the fall of the young, powerful and growing German Empire, when the people revolted and the Kaiser was forced to abdicate, was a shock. In their place were a series of new governments, from democratic republics to socialist dictatorships.
iv. Nationalism Transforms and Complicates Europe:
Nationalism had been growing in Europe for decades before World War I, but the aftermath saw a major rise in new nations and independence movements. Part of this was to do with Woodrow Wilson’s commitment to ‘self-determination’, and part to the destabilization of old empires and the chance for nationalists to take advantage and declare new countries.
The key region for European nationalism was Eastern Europe and the Balkans, where Poland, the three Baltic States, Czechoslovakia, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and more emerged. But nationalism conflicted hugely with the ethnic makeup of this region of Europe, where many different nationalities and ethnicities all lived merged with one another, and where self-determination and national majorities created disaffected minorities who preferred the rule of a neighbour.
v. The Myths of Victory and Failure:
German commander Ludendorff suffered a mental collapse before he called for an armistice, and when he found out the terms, having recovered, he insisted Germany refuse them. He claimed the army could fight on. But the new civilian government overruled him, as once peace had been mooted there was no way to keep the army, or the public, fighting. These civilians acted exactly as the scapegoats for both the Army and himself that Ludendorff had wished.
Thus began, at the very close of the war, the myth of the undefeated German Army being ‘stabbed in the back’ by liberals, socialists and Jews which damaged Weimar and fuelled the rise of Hitler. It came directly from Ludendorff setting up the civilians for the fall. Italy didn’t receive as much land as it had been promised in secret agreements, and right wingers exploited this to complain of a ‘mutilated peace’.
In contrast, in Britain the successes of 1918 which had been won partly by their soldiers were increasingly ignored, in favour of viewing the war, and all war, as a bloody catastrophe. This affected their response to international events in the 1920s and 30s; arguably, the policy of appeasement from born from World War One.
vi. A ‘Lost Generation’:
While it’s not strictly true that a whole generation was lost and some historians have complained about the term eight million people died, which was perhaps one in eight of the combatants.
In most of the Great Powers, it was hard to find someone who had not lost someone to the war. Many other people had been wounded or shell shocked so badly they killed themselves, and these aren’t reflected in the figures. Facial injuries were particularly affecting.
Term Paper # 11. Impact of the First World War:
The impact of the war on the world was all pervading. One of the most significant effects of the war was the emergence of the USA as the super power. The war gutted Europe but made the USA affluent. USA, after the war, almost became the banker and the workshop of the world.
Factories and workshops mushroomed spectacularly to meet the almost unending war-time demand for manufacturing goods. The USA, which had been once the debtor country and owed nearly $ 4 billion to European states, now became the creditor country. By 1919 Europeans owed to the USA more than $ 3.7 billion and the debt increased to $ 8.8 billion in 1930.
The USA became the highest manufacturing country in the world, the industrial output even surpasse3 the industrial outputs of all the European nations taken together. USA’s contribution to the world’s manufacturing goods rose to 42.2 per cent in 1930. Along with economic supremacy, the USA had also established its supremacy, in other fields.
Progress was made in many fields although Persia did not match the modernisation efforts of Turkey. The country was industrialised to a large extent Many factories, including textile mills, cement plants, sugar refineries, etc., were founded. In East Asia, Japan emerged as a super power.
Japan joined the war in support of the Allies with the intention of capturing foreign territories as far as possible. Soon Japan took the German islands in the Pacific and the German holdings in the Shantung Peninsular. The Treaty of Versailles almost approved the Japanese demands.
The treaty transferred from Germany the leased territory of Kiaochow in Shantung to Japan, who was also given the mandate to administer Germany’s North Pacific islands. This emboldened Japan, which gradually became an imperialist power. China entered the war in 1917 with the hope of regaining her territories.
But the peace makers did not pay heed to the Chinese demands. China refused to sign on the treaty and wild demonstration broke out throughout China against Japan in particular and against foreigners in general. The movements reoriented the Chinese national movement with radical thoughts and activities.
In India the repercussions of the war were also far-reaching. During the war the British government promised to grant advanced forms of administrative reforms after the war, in exchange for India’s support to British war efforts. The British did not honour their promise. Consequently the ongoing national movement in India took a different course which ultimately forced the British to accord freedom to the subcontinent.
The impact of the war on the other parts of the world was no less. The war destroyed the Tsarist regime in Russia. The repeated setbacks on the war fronts lowered the prestige of the Tsar which expedited the impending Bolshevik Revolution and wiped out the ancient Tsar dynasty from the map of Russia.
The impact of the war in the Middle East was also all- pervading. The defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the war and the stripping from Turkey of her colonies hastened the revolution in the land. The revolution ended the despotic rule of the Ottoman dynasty, modernized the ancient state and founded democratic Turkey under the inspiring leadership of Mustafa Kamal. Efforts were also made in Persia (now Iran) to modernise on the lines of Turkey.
Term Paper # 12. End of the First World War:
Signed on June 28th 1919 as an end to the First World War, The Treaty of Versailles was supposed to ensure a lasting peace by punishing Germany and setting up a League of Nations to solve diplomatic problems. Instead it left a legacy of political and geographical difficulties which have often been blamed, sometime solely, for starting the Second World War.
The First World War has been fought for four years when, on November 11th 1918, Germany and the Allies signed an armistice. The Allies soon gathered to discuss the peace treaty they would sign, but Germany and Austria-Hungary weren’t invited; instead they were only allowed to present a response to the treaty, a response which was largely ignored. Instead terms were drawn up mainly by the ‘Big Three’: British Prime Minister Lloyd George, French Prime Minister Frances Clemenceau and US President Woodrow Wilson.
ii. The Big Three:
a. Woodrow Wilson:
Wanted a ‘fair and lasting peace’ and had written a plan the 14 Points to achieve this. He wanted the armed forces of all nations reduced, not just the losers, and a League of Nations created to ensure peace.
b. Frances Clemenceau:
Wanted Germany to pay dearly for the war, including being stripped of land, industry and their armed forces. Also wanted heavy reparations.
c. Lloyd George:
While he personally agreed with Wilson, he was affected by public opinion in Britain which agreed with Clemenceau.
The result was a treaty which tried to compromise, and many of the details were passed down to uncoordinated sub committees to work out, which thought they were drafting a starting point, rather than the final wording.
It was an almost impossible task, with the need to pay off loans and debts with German cash and goods, but also to restore the pan European economy; the need to sate territorial demands, many of which were included in secret treaties, but also allow self-determination and deal with growing nationalism; the need to remove the German threat, but not humiliate the nation and breed a generation intent on revenge, all while mollifying voters.
iii. Selected Terms of the Treaty of Versailles:
I. Alsace Lorraine, captured by Germany in 1870, was returned to France.
II. The Saar, an important German coalfield, was to be given to France for 15 years, after which a plebiscite would decide ownership.
III. Poland became an independent country with a ‘route to the sea’, a corridor of land cutting Germany in two.
IV. Danzig, a major port in East Prussia (Germany) was to be under international rule.
V. All German and Turkish Colonies were taken away and put under Allied control.
VI. Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Czechoslovakia were made independent.
VII. Austria-Hungary was split up and Yugoslavia was created.
I. The left bank of the Rhine was to be occupied by Allied forces and the right bank demilitarised.
II. The German Army was cut to 100,000 men.
III. Wartime weapons were to be scrapped.
IV. The German Navy was cut to 36 ships and no submarines.
V. Germany was banned from having an Air Force
VI. An anschluss (union) between Germany and Austria was banned.
c. Reparations and Guilt
I. In the ‘war guilt’ clause Germany has to accept total blame for the war.
II. Germany had to pay £ 6,600 million in compensation.
d. The League of Nations:
I. A League of Nations was to be created to prevent further world conflict.
I. The map of Europe was redrawn with consequences which, especially in the Balkans, remain to the modern day.
II. Numerous countries were left with large minorities groups: there were three and a half million Germans in Czechoslovakia alone.
III. The League of Nations was fatally weakened without the United States and its army to enforce decisions.
IV. Many Germans felt unfairly treated, after all they had just signed an armistice, not a unilateral surrender, and the allies hasn’t occupied deep into Germany.
v. Modern Thoughts:
Modern historians sometimes conclude that the treaty was more lenient than might have been expected, and not really unfair. They argue that, while the treaty didn’t stop another war, this was more due to massive fault lines in Europe which WWI failed so solve, and they argue that the treaty would have worked had the allied nations enforced it, instead of falling out and being played off one another.
This remains a controversial view. You rarely find a modern historian agreeing that the Treaty solely caused World War II, although clearly it failed in its aim to prevent another major war.
Germany lost 13 per cent of its land, 12 per cent of its people, 48 per cent of its iron resources, 15 per cent of it agricultural production and 10 per cent of it coal. Perhaps understandably, German public opinion soon swung against this ‘Diktat’, while the Germans who signed it were called the ‘November Criminals’.
Britain and France felt the treaty was fair they actually wanted harsher terms imposed on the Germans but the United States refused to ratify it because they didn’t want to be part of the League of Nations.
First World War altered the idea of ‘the West.’ With the American entry into the war, the United States became a force in Western culture. The globalization of the war introduced new nations to the affairs of the West, such as India and Australia. The aftermath of the war produced a conflict between two ideologies: U.S.-dominated capitalism and Soviet-dominated communism.
The war ultimately challenged the liberal faith in scientific progress, as millions of men, women, and children were killed or wounded as the result of technological developments in weaponry. At the same time, the war produced a positive belief that the war would prevent any future wars. Many Westerners were determined to construct a better world, but this task proved to be a daunting one.