Reasons of World War 1, Begenning of World War 1, Trench Warfare, End of World war 1, Outcome of world war 1, world history notes for UPSC Examination
Reasons of World War 1
The beginning of the century witnessed the division of the world into major international forces based on distinct ideologies. Since their conflicts and rivalries could not be resolved through any peaceful mechanism, they resulted in the outbreak of the two world wars. The two wars were caused by a variety of factors. Some of the most important ones are discussed below.
Industrialization & Economic Rivalries
The opening years of the nineteenth century saw the industrial manufacturing techniques extended beyond England to more and more states, such as Belgium (1815-30), Sweden,
France, United States and Prussia (1840-60), Norway, Russia and Japan (1870-90). Rapid growth of the American and German economies began to displace England from this position of pre-eminence from the 1880s. The growth of Japan after the Meiji restoration (1868) and industrialization of Russia further altered the global economic environment.
A crisis seemed imminent as the expanding industrialization tended to globalise the economy. In fact, the world system of capitalism was still working in the form of competing “national economies”. The closing years of the nineteenth century did see the crystallization of this trend.
The latecomers in the field of industrialization (such as Prussia, Russia and Japan) were staking claims beyond the “national territories”. The Pan- German League, founded in 1893 and representing right-wing conservative forces wanted economic and territorial control over Central Europe. They claimed Belgium, the French iron ore district, the French channel coast to the Somme and a Mediterranean base at Toulon, along with Poland and the Baltic states. They also envisaged a Central European federation comprising Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland under the leadership of Germany together with German, French and Belgian colonies attached to it.
Hitler not only wanted a union (Anschluss) with Austria but also aimed to get sufficient living-space (Lebensraum) for the German ‘people’. The Italian right-wing similarly used class-concepts of ‘proletarian’ (have-nots) and ‘plutocratic’ (have) nations to redefine international relations and to claim colonies for a ‘proletarian’ Italy. In Japan, similarly, the right- wing militant nationalists (Black Dragon Society 1901), Empire Foundation Society (1926), and Japan Production Party (1931), demanded an “equitable distribution of world resources”. They even favoured military action to establish “A Co- prosperity Zone” in the East under the Japanese leadership.
Camp Formations and Arms Build Up
In 1879, Germany and Austria-Hungary agreed to go to war if either country was attacked by Russia. Italy joined the agreement in 1882, and it became known as the Triple Alliance.
In 1894, France and Russia agreed to mobilize troops if any nation in the Triple Alliance mobilized forces. They agreed to help each other if either were attacked by Germany. In 1904, alarmed by German naval buildup, Britain ended their “splendid isolation”. It not only settled the past differences over colonies but also signed the Entente Cordiale (friendly agreement) with France. Although the agreement contained no pledges of military support, the two countries began to discuss joint military plans. In 1907, Russia joined the Entente Cordiale, and it became known as the Triple Entente. These alliances left Europe divided into two hostile camps.
The First and Second Hague Conferences (1899 and 1907) failed to achieve anything concrete on the issue of armament reduction. The Court of Arbitration set up at Hague to deal with inter-state conflicts also proved futile. The armament race and military build-ups by the European powers, in anticipation of this war, continued at a frenzied pace.
In the end, on one side stood a united Germany, already the most powerful land power militarily and economically, allied with the large and outwardly confident empire of Austria- Hungary as also with Italy. On the other side stood France, bitter in enmity over its defeat and loss of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany in 1871, seeking security by allying with Russia in 1892 and forming an ‘entente cordiale’ with its traditional rival Great Britain in 1904.
Both sides amassed armaments, which were becoming more lethal as advancing technologies of explosives, metal design, petroleum fuel, and shipbuilding were applied to them. Military chiefs (notably Alfred Von Schlieffen of Germany) planned strategies that relied on swift mobilization, rapid offensive strike, and inevitable escalation, which compressed the time for political decision making and diplomatic control of crises. Newspapers stimulated feelings of danger, deprivation, and patriotism in public opinion, which came to think of war as possible, even desirable.
World War 1 Begins
Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on 28th July, 1914. Germany declared a war on Russian on 1st August and on France on 3rd August. Belgium was invaded by German forces on the same day and France was invaded on 4th August. German violation of Belgium neutrality gave the British a convenient excuse to enter the war on the side of France and Russia. British world-wide interests made the war a global conflict, drawing into it the dominions of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the greatest British colonial possession, India, and later the United States, because of close British links with it.
Austria-Hungry attacked Russia on 6th August and France and Britain declared war on Austria-Hungary on 12th August. Italy, diplomatically aligned with Austria and Germany since the Triple Alliance of 1882, declared its neutrality on 3rd August. In the following months it was avidly pursued by France and Britain. On 23rd May 1915, the Italian government succumbed to allied temptations and declared war on Austria-Hungary in pursuit of territorial expansion.
Expectations that war will be swift and short were belied. Soon, it got deadlocked into positional trench warfare along the Western Front; a massive seize of 600 miles from Switzerland to the North Sea. This continuous front marked the end of local, small, isolated and restricted warfare. Now millions of men faced each other across the sand-bagged, parapets of trenches, under which they lived like, and with rats and lice. The opposing systems of zigzag, timber-revitts, sand-bag reinforced trenches were fronted by tangles of barbed wire and scattered covered dugouts for providing shelter for troops.
The heavy artillery and machine gun fire used by the opposing armies made it almost impossible to achieve any breakthrough. In order to break the stalemate, each side tried to expand its war- production. This necessitated total mobilization of human and industrial resources. e.g. The battle of Verdun (February-July, 1916) in which the Germans attempted a breakthrough was a battle of 2 millions, with one million casualties. The British offensive on the Somme, designed to force the Germans to break off the Verdun offensive cost Britain 420,000 lives.
In this battle, British artillery was provided with 23,000 tons of projectiles whereas the French Artillery in the celebrated battle of Waterloo had used only 100 tons. Karl von Clausewitz, the philosopher of war had defined War as “an act of violence pushed to its utmost bounds”. The phrase ‘home front’ acquired wider usage during World War I. The supply line of opponent became the first natural target of military strategy. The economic warfare was symbolized by naval blockade and unrestricted submarine warfare during World War I.
The Allies attempted naval blockade on the Central Powers (Germany, Austria, Hungry) and their co-belligerents Turkey and Bulgaria. The blockade proved unsuccessful as the Central Powers continued to get their supplies through neutral countries. Germany launched attacks on Allied commercial shipping in October, 1914 through its submarines-the-U-boats. Such attacks intensified in 1915-1917. By mid-1915, average monthly sinking of Allied ships was 116,000 gross tones and touched 866,000 tonnes by April, 1917. However, the political disadvantages outweighed any logistical damage, since there was strong American reaction to these sinking.
By the end of the nineteenth century, black powder was supplanted by nitrocellulose based propellants popularly known as ‘gun-cotton’. Alfred Krupp (1851) built an all steel gun drilled out of a single block of cast metal. Breech-loading mechanism used in 1860s and 1870s helped in cutting spiral grooves into the bores of artillery pieces or solved the problem of rifling. Its advantages were immense. By imparting spin to the projectiles, rifling produced greater accuracy. Another technical device solved the recoiling problem by absorbing the shock of discharge and leaving the gun in approximately same position after firing as before. The trench warfare of World War I gave an impetus to the production of heavier guns in greater number with longer ranges and better fire-control. Shooting became based on map coordinates and carefully calculated ballistic parameters without a forward observer. Artillery communications also improved aided by field telephones and radios.
The World War I witnessed development of heavy machine-guns. The first successful automatic machine-gun was invented by Hiram Stevens Maxim. These were first used by the British army in 1895. After 1915, lighter machine- guns such as British Lewis guns, French Chauchat and US Browning automatic rifle (BAR) were used for greater mobility and portability. In 1918, a German named Louis Schmeisser first developed a sub machinegun.
Some new forces of mechanized warfare such as tanks, aircrafts (fighter and bombers), submarines, aircraft carriers were discovered during World War I but their destructive potential was realized only in the Second World War. First tanks- ‘Little Willie’ and ‘Big Willie’ were designed in Britain in 1915. French developed the Schneider. Submarines became a major factor in World War I. Germany employed U-Boats to destroy surface merchant ships by using a self- propelled underwater missile or torpedo. German Zeppelins were early military aircraft used during World War I. Their use did not prove very effective.
Germany used chlorine along a six kilometers front at Ypres on 22 April 1915 against French and Algerian Territorial Army. Later phosgene and mustard gas were also used during the World War I. However, introduction of better gas masks, protective clothing reduced the effects of chemical warfare.
End of War
The ‘Great War’, as it was known before the Second World War made this the First, carried on for more than four years, with neither side on any front willing to accept defeat or negotiate peace. The Russian Revolution of 1917 brought a cease-fire on the eastern front in December with Russia losing substantial territory and monies to Germany in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The US declared war on Germany only on April 6, 1917 but the entry of American troops, aero plans and fresh supplies in 1918 nullified German gains on both fronts. An armistice was declared on November 11, 1918 and a peace conference opened in Paris on 18 January 1919.
In the World War I, the total number of people killed and dead for other war-related reasons was well over 8 million. It was also an age of mass flight. The aftermath of World War I saw a large number of homeless and stateless people, including the two millions who fled from the Russian Revolution and accompanying civil strife. 13 million Greeks were repatriated to Greece mainly from Turkey. In all, the period 1914-22 created roughly 4-5 million refugees. A new document, a certificate delivered by national authorities on the recommendations of League of Nations High Commissioners for Refugees in 1920s, the so-called ‘Nansen passport’ was accepted as a travel document by over 50 countries.
Post War Developments
US President Woodrow Wilson was a dominating figure of the peace conference so that his moralistic ‘fourteen points’ were incorporated into the resulting treaties, which transformed the map of Europe on the principle of ‘self- determination of nations’, and established a League of Nations to uphold the peace on the principle of ‘collective security’.
Germany was punished territorially and financially. Alsace-Lorraine was restored to France. The port of Danzig was made a free city and a Polish Corridor ran through the eastern provinces of Germany. Rearmament of any kind was forbidden, as was fortification of the Rhineland or union with Austria. Colonial possessions were detached and unspecified amounts demanded in reparations.
The Habsburg Dynasty was dismissed and its Austria-Hungary Empire dismantled. Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland became independent. Austria ceded South Tyrol, Istria, the Dalmatian, coast and some Adriatic Islands to Italy, and its southern Slav provinces of Slovenia, Croatia, Dalmatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina to Yugoslavia. Other territorial transfers took from Bulgaria and added to Romania. The Ottoman Empire too was abolished with the Treaty of Sevres, 1920; Turkey became a republic, its Arab provinces were placed under British / French mandate.
Outcome of the War
Territorial changes failed to solve the basic problems of insecurity in Europe, dividing the continent into ‘satisfied’ but weakened powers such as Britain, and dissatisfied or revisionist states, including Germany and Russia. The economic consequences of the peace compounded the high cost of the war to cause inflation and unemployment, undermine currencies, and disrupt trading patterns, leading to the Great Depression of the 1930s. At the core of a complex process lay the problem of allied war debts to the US. A weak League of Nations could take no effective action against Japan in 1931, Italy in 1935, or Nazi Germany in successive violations of the Treaty. All this ultimately led to World War 2. Versailles conference was dominated by three major actors: President Woodrow Wilson of the United States, Georges Clemenceau of France and Lloyd George of Britain. The real debate was between Wilson’s liberal vision over the post-war settlement and Clemenceau’s nationalist insistence on extracting harsh terms from Germany.
Wilson’s vision was a broader one. His Fourteen Points stressed the ideals of self-determination, sovereignty and justice. Wilson’s idea was to provide for a new programme stability for the modern state system. While Wilson’s was a liberal programme speaking of a new world order, world government (the League of Nations), Lenin’s was a radical cry to overturn the old state system through a world revolution.
The harshness with which the victors treated Germany, and the unwillingness to give freedom to the colonies gave considerable weight to Lenin and the Bolshevik’s assertion that World War I was essentially a war among imperial powers to re-divide the world among themselves.