World War I

1.0 Introduction

The twentieth century ushered in a veritable ‘era of conflicts’ in different parts of the world. During 1894-95, the Sino-Japanese War took place, resulting in the victory of Japan over China. The Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) soon followed in the Far East leading to the complete defeat of Russia. In 1905, the Russian Revolution transformed the ancient Tzarist autocracy into a Constitutional Monarchy. The "young Turks" under the leadership of Mustapha Kemal Ataturk Pasha, the father of modern Turkey, carried out a revolution in the Ottoman Empire in 1908-1909. In 1911, Italy seized the Ottoman provinces of Tripoli and Cyrenaica. This led to the two Balkan Wars which involved Austria-Hungary, Russia, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, the Ottoman Empire as well the Balkan countries like Serbia, Bulgaria, Rumania, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Great national and international rivalry was provoked by these Balkan wars which formed one of the important underlying causes of World War I (1914-1918).

1.1 Novel Features of World War I

World War I, which started in the year 1914, possessed novel features in several respects. It was one of its kind in the history of mankind.

World War I occurred on a worldwide scale. Many wars had taken place before 1914. However they did not affect people all over the world collectively. World War I was the first war to be fought on a worldly scale. It had repercussions on almost every country in the world.

It was also the first international war to make use of modern technology for the purpose of destruction and defense. This war saw the use of a large variety of guns, cannons, tanks, bombs, aeroplanes, warships and submarines, causing great destruction to life and property throughout the world.

The First World War could also be called a total war, since it was the first international war to be fought on the land and above the land, on the sea and under the sea, with the use of tanks, aeroplanes and submarines.

1.2 Causes of World War I

Various factors contributed to the outbreak of World War I:

1. The main cause of World War I was the ever-rising tide of militarism in Europe. There was a terrible race for armaments after 1870, throughout Europe. Though these armaments were meant for national defense, they created universal suspicion, fear and hatred among nations.

"Further, in every country there were influential military officers who believed that war was inevitable." They persuaded their governments towards mobilization of the armed forces. This increased military and naval rivalries among nations.

Finally most militarists believed in "preventive" war, that is declaring war upon the enemy, while he was weak and crushing him, before he could become strong. Thus Germany wanted to wage war against Russia, before the latter could reorganize its armed forces. Similarly, England desired to crush the growing German navy, before it could become a greater menace to England.

Thus, by 1914, all European countries were completely armed and ready meet each other in combat.

2. Aggressive nationalism was partly responsible for World War I. The love of one’s country demanded the hatred of another country. Thus the love of France demanded the hatred of Germany, while the love of Germany demanded the hatred of England and vice versa. The chief principle for every patriot was "my country right or wrong." This aggressive nationalism created a favorable atmosphere for war.

3. There were national rivalries between Germany and Britain, between Japan and America and also between Germany and Russia. This led to World War I. The German Kaiser William II declared that Germany was determined to become a world power and this would arouse rivalry with Britain. Owing to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, France lost Alsace and Lorraine to Prussia. It had to recover these provinces. There was also a crisis in the Balkans, leading to the two Balkan wars of 1912 and 1913, because of the rivalry between Germany and Russia.

4. There was great colonial imperialism owing to the need for raw materials, overseas markets for surplus manufacturers and for colonies for investing surplus capital. This led to colonial conflicts and national rivalries.

5. There was a poisoning of public opinion by the press in all the countries. Newspapers would take up some point of dispute and exaggerate it. They made attacks and counter-attacks, engendering a regular