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The World War 1

1. Background

The World War I was fought between the influential and populated countries at multiple zones. It was the first war after industrialization and engulfed almost the whole world between 1914-1918, causing great havoc and destruction.

Image: Scenes from World War 1

2. The Leading Causes for the 1st World War

The rivalries and conflicts between the imperialist countries such as between Russia- Japan acted as a major contributor to the 1st world war. 

Further, the rise of several states such as Germany, Austria- Hungary, Italy and USA also acted as a factor perpetuating into the world war as these states demanded the control of several areas such as seen in the USA annexation of Philippines and loss of French territories of Alsace- Lorraine to Germany. These expansionist aims of the states landed them into direct confrontations.

The formation of alliances from 1890 onwards, the triple alliance and Entente cordiale, made the war an inevitable fact. Further, the pan German movement and the Slav movement in Serbia also favoured the occurrence of the 1st world war.

Apart from the causes discussed above, there were significant incidents preceding the war which contributed to its development.

3. Events Leading to War

In 1904, Britain and France agreed to coordinate their position over certain dividing issues. An Entente Cordiale was established which a significant concern for Germany, as Germany saw the move was as directed towards containing its rise.

However, the formation of the entente represented the willingness of both Britain and France to resolve their conflict over colonial positions in North Africa. Britain agreed to restrict itself to the eastern parts (Egypt, Libya etc.) while France would limit itself to the west (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia etc.). This arrangement left little room to accommodate the colonial ambitions of Germany in North Africa.

3.1 1906 – The 1st Moroccan Crisis

Keeping with its colonial ambitions, France aimed to capture Morocco, an independent kingdom. Germany, on the other hand, professed support for Moroccan independence. As the standoff worsened, Britain also declared support for the French position over the Moroccan question.

This event confirmed Germany’s fears over the formation of Entente Cordiale (France-Britain alliance formed in 1904), and in this course, Germany was forced to back down over the Moroccan question. A compromise was arrived, which largely favoured France- who was granted policing powers, whereas Germany was given limited trading rights in Morocco and the Moroccan King was retained.

In 1907, further, the Triple Entente was formed between Britain, France and Russia. During the same period, Britain and France also entered into a Friendship treaty.

3.2 1908 – The 1st Bosnian Crisis

In 1908, Austria completed the annexation of Bosnia. Despite having strong support for Serbia over the Bosnian question, Russia failed to intervene on Serbia’s behalf due to its own military weakness and domestic troubles. Thus, the Bosnian crisis turned out to be major humiliation for Russia.

World empires and colonies around 1914
By Andrew0921 – Own work, CC BY 3.0,

3.3 1912 – The 2nd Moroccan Crisis

The French influence in Morocco increased further with the 2ndMoroccan crisis, also known as the Agadir crisis. The event witnessed France asserting its intention to colonize Morocco completely.

In order to counter this, Germany once again supported the Moroccan independence and even dispatched a naval fleet. However, it was forced to back down following Britain’s support of France. Thereby, France completed the colonization of Morocco, Germany was forced to withdraw, and it was a deep humiliation for Germany.

Thus, the 1stand 2ndMoroccan crisis represented the unwillingness of Britain and France to accommodate the colonial ambitions of Germany. This discrimination was coupled with the formation of the Triple Entente (1907) which largely contributed to the outbreak of the World War 1.

3.4 1912 – Balkan Wars

The four Balkan countries Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Greece, started wars against the Turks. As a result, Turkey lost all its possessions in Europe, while on the other hand, Austria also succeeded in making Albania independent.

3.5 1914 – The 2nd Bosnian Crisis and the Outbreak of War

On June 28 1914, the Austrian Crown Prince Archduke Frank Ferdinand was assassinated in Bosnia. The act was done by a group of Serbian extremists based in Bosnia. Austria blamed Serbia for these attacks, which denied any involvement in the assassination. Austria gave one month for Serbia to accept responsibility for the assassination. However, Serbia refused to comply with the Austrian demands.

Thus, on July 28, 1914, Austria declared an attack on Serbia and soon, Germany also declared an attack on France and Russia, leading to the outbreak of WW 1.

Image: Balkan
Image: Killing of Archduke Ferdinand

Russia supported Serbia in the course of war. On the other hand, on August 3rd1914, the German troops marched into Belgium and consequently, on August 4, Britain declared war on Germany. Japan intended to capture German colonies in the far East, Turkey, Bulgaria, etc. also declared war on Germany.

Further, despite the Triple Alliance, Italy joined the war against Germany and Austria – Hungary.

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4. Course of the War

Image: Historicair (French original)Fluteflute&User:Bibi Saint-Pol (English translation) – Translated in English from French SVG
Map_Europe_alliances_1914-fr.svg, CC BY-SA 2.5,

Germany adopted Schlieffen Plan, a strategy to fight on two fronts. Thus, simultaneously, it opened the war both on Russia and France. The German plan was to quickly defeat France on the western side and then mobilize the troops using railways to fight Russia.

Thereby, Germany rapidly defeated Belgium and entered France. However, when German troops were nearing Paris, the French adopted trench warfare, a defensive strategy. It helped to halt rapid advances and spoil the German plan.

Moreover, during the war, ‘naval blockades ‘were imposed by Britain and Germany on each other. This led to food and fuel shortages, and high prices in Europe, affecting the lives of civil population.

By 1918, Germany captured major territories in western Russia. German naval blockades were also badly hurting Russia. As a result, Russia surrendered the captured areas to Germany by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. While, on the other side, the Ottoman empire joined hands with Germany.

4.1 Role of the USA

The USA played only a spectator role in the beginning. It provided loans, food and arms to Britain, France and Russia. However, it jumped the war efforts in 1917.

This was mainly because of the Zimmerman plan of Germany which provided assistance to Mexico to attack the USA. Thus, the German intervention became the cause for the USA’s participation and thereby, after 1917, USA supported 50,000 troops in the war on Western front.

The French, USA and Italian troops fought on the western side and entered Germany. Consequently, the German King fled and took shelter in Norway.

5. Towards the End

The world war1 came to an end in 1918 when the German government signed an armistice and the Paris Peace Conference was called in to discuss the fate of the post-war Europe. The defeated powers – Germany, Austro-Hungary and Ottoman empire signed the Treaty of Versailles, Treaty of St. Germane and Treaty of Sevres. While, Britain, France, the USA and Italy – the big four emerged as victorious.

6. The Consequences of the 1st World War

6.1 Territorial Consequences

France took back control of the Alsace Lorraine (al-zasluh-rein). Germany was prohibited from maintaining troops in the Rhineland region. Treaty of Versailles created an independent Poland, and a Polish corridor was carved out to grant dedicated access to the sea to Poland. It ended up dividing Germany into West Germany and East Prussia, disrupting territorial integrity.

Belgium became independent. Togo and Cameroon were divided and shared between Britain and France. In southwest Africa, German colonies were given to Britain, Belgium, South Africa, and Portugal. The colonies in the Pacific were handed to Japan. The ruling dynasties Rahmonov (Russia), Hohenzollern (Germany), Habsburg (Austria-Hungary) were destroyed after the end of war.

By the Treaty of Saint Germain, the Austro-Hungarian empire was divided into two – Austria and Hungary. Any further unification of Germany with Austria was checked.

Complete disarmament of the Ottoman Empire was done. Palestine and Mesopotamia (Iraq) were given to Britain. Syria and other Turkish states were taken by France. Turkey was made into a small state and later turned into a republic under Mustapha Kemal Pasha.

A League of Nations was created to bind its members not to resort to war. To improve social and labour conditions International Labour Organization (ILO) was set up.

derivative work: Flute flute (talk)Map_Europe_1923-fr.svg: Historicair – Map_Europe_1923-fr.svg, CC BY-SA 2.5,

6.2 Economic Consequences

The treaty held Germany solely responsible for the outbreak of war and huge war indemnity (approximately 6600 million pounds – $400bn in present value) was imposed on Germany. Despite the unjust terms of the treaty, Germany had to sign it under the threat of invasion.

Moreover, during the course of the war, the European economy was shattered and gave rise to huge unemployment, price rise and shortages.

6.3 Social Consequences

The public opinion, during those times, shifted against the warmongering states and this emphasized the futility of war as a destructive enterprise.

Furthermore, the young male population was engaged in the battlefield, restrictions on labour force participation of women were lifted. The women also demanded political (voting) rights and initiated the Suffragette movements. Thus, in1918, women were granted voting rights in Britain and eventually in other countries.

However, in spite of all the deadly consequences, the imperialistic powers continued to expand their territories.  The Soviet Union emerged as an apprehensive danger after the war. Moreover, this war didn’t stand as a war to end all the wars and ultimately lead to another world war in a span of just 20 years.

7. Summary

The world war was fought between the Central Powers comprising of Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire; and the Allied Powers which includes Britain, France, Japan and Romania etc. The war was the result of the expansionist claims of the nations such as that of Germany under Bismarck. It furthermore, rather than single event in the history, involves a series of events from Moroccan crisis to the Balkan wars, which in the end resulted into the territorial division of the countries, huge war expenses and most importantly, the rise in the role of women in the society especially in the production process.

  • According to UPSC Syllabus
  • Includes Previous Year Questions
  • PYQ Analysis
  • Plenty of Maps, Images for Illustration
  • Also useful for State PSC Examinations
  • A must-have book for all UPSC Aspirants

8. Multiple Choice Question

1] The First World War started in which year?
a) 1920-1924
b) 1901-1907
c) 1914-1918
d) 1939-1940

Show Answer

Ans: c) 1914-1918

2] Which factors contributed to the First World War?
a) Rise of several states such as Germany, Austria-Hungary
b) Formation of Alliances
c) German and Slav movement
d) All of the above

Show Answer

Ans: d) All of the above

3] The Entente Cordiale formed in 1904 consists of whom?
a) Germany and Italy
b) USA and Canada
c) France and Britain
d) Russia and Britain

Show Answer

Ans: c) France and Britain

4] What do you mean by Schlieffen Plan?
a) Strategy for two fronts War
b) Strategy to end the First World War
c) To maintain balance of power among the states
d) For the territorial division of the states

Show Answer

Ans: a) Strategy for two fronts War

5] Which of the following things were introduced at societal level after the end of the First World War?
a) Increased participation of women in the society
b) Suffrage rights
c) War was recognised as a deadly affair
d) All of the above

Show Answer

Ans: d) All of the above

6] What do you mean by Zimmerman plan?
a) Plan to attack on Austria
b) Contain the effects of the war
c) To provide assistance in military attacks
d) None of the above

Show Answer

Ans: c) To provide assistance in military attacks

7] The treaty of Sevres was signed with whom?
a) Germany
b) Ottoman empire
c) Italy
d) Japan

Show Answer

Ans: b) Ottoman empire

8] Togo and Cameroon were divided between whom?
a) Belgium and France
b) France and Germany
c) Germany and Russia
d) Britain and Germany

Show Answer

Ans: a) Belgium and France

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