The Causes and Effects of World War I

 

 What were the causes and effects of World War I? The answer 
to this seemingly simple question is not elementary. There was more to 
the onset of the war then the event of an Austrian prince being 
murdered in Serbia, as is what most people consider to be the cause of 
World War I. Furthermore, the effects of the war were not just 
concentrated to a post-war era lasting for a generation of Westerners. 
No, the effects of the war were widespread throughout the world and 
can be traced to generations after the war.
 It is not a rare occasion that when a person is asked what the 
causes of World War I were, that they answer with the simple comment 
of an Austrian Prince being shot in Serbia. However the assignation of 
the Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie , in Sarajevo was 
not the main cause of the Great War. Rather, it was the breaking 
point for Austria in its dealings with Serbia. The truth of the matter 
is that several factors played a role in the outbreak of the 
catastrophic war the engulfed the nations of Europe for over four 
years. World War I truly was the result of building aggressions among 
the countries of Europe which was backed by the rise of nationalism. 
To add to the disastrous pot, there was also imperial competition 
along with the fear of war prompting military alliances and an arms 
race. All of these increased the escalating tensions that lead to the 
outbreak of a world war. (Mckay, pg. 904)
 Two opposing alliances developed by the Bismarckian diplomacy 
after the Franco- Prussian War was one of the major causes of the war. 
In order to diplomatically isolate France, Bismarck formed the Three 
Emperor's League in 1872, which was an alliance between Germany, 
Russia, and Austria-Hungary. Then in 1882 , Bismarck took advantage of 
Italian resentment toward France and formed the Triple Alliance 
between Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungry. In 1890 Bismarck was 
dismissed from his office and France took the opportunity to gain an 
ally, therefore , in 1891 the Franco- Russian Entente was formed. Then 
in 1904 Britain and France put aside their conflicts and formed the 
Entente Cordiale. As a result , the Triple Entente , a coalition 
between Great Britain, France , and Russia, countered the Triple 
Alliance. Now Europe was divided up into two armed camps.(World Book 
Encyclopedia, WXYZ, pg. 367)
 Nationalism also played a major role in developing tensions in 
Europe; for it had been causing dissatisfaction since the Congress of 
Vienna in 1815. In that settlement the preservment of peace was chosen 
over nationalism, therefore, Germany and Italy were left as divided 
states, though they did unify in the future. The Franco- Prussian War 
in 1871 resulted in the France's loss of the province of Alasce- 
Lorraine to Germany, and the French looked forward to regaining their 
lands. Then there was Austria- Hungary which controlled many lands 
that their neighbors felt belonged to them. Serbia wanted Bosnia and 
Hercegovina, Italy wanted the Trentino and Trieste regions, and the 
Czechs and Solvaks wanted independence from Austria- Hungrey. There 
was also Russia which had problems within it's own boundaries; for 
Russia contained many different nationalities and many were also 
seeking independence in the name of nationalism. ( World Book 
Encyclopedia, WXYZ, pg. 366)
 Another major conflict that caused the outbreak of the Great 
War was what is known as the arms race. With the hostile divisions of 
the nations of Europe there came the expansion of armies and navies. 
Furthermore, the great powers came to copy Germany's military 
organization and efficiency, which called for universal registration 
for military duty, large reserves and detailed planning. Efforts were 
made for universal disarmament, but the " international rivalry caused 
the arms race to continue to feed on itself. " (Karpilovsky, World 
Wide Web)
 Imperial competition also played a major rule in the act of 
increasing the ever growing tensions among the divided countries of 
Europe. In Africa there were two crises in Morocco. The first time, in 
1905, Germany full heartedly supported Morocco's call for independence 
from France, and with the British defending the French war was only 
avoided because of an international conference which made Morocco a 
French protectorate. The second crisis occurred in 1911, and it was in 
protest to French supremacy in Morocco. The Germans finally gave the 
French a free hand in Morocco, but with a price. They demanded in 
exchange a portion if of the French Congo. Around this same era there 
was also a Bosnian crisis, which began with Austria- Hungary's 
takeover of the province of Bosnia in 1908. For this Serbia threatened 
war on Austria- Hungary with the pledged backing of Russia. As they 
began to mobilize, Austria- Hungary , with the alliance of Germany, 
threaten war on Russia. When Russia backed down, the soon to be war 
was postponed, but left was a greatly strained relationship between 
Serbia and Austria Hungary. (Karpilovsky, World Wide Web)
 On June 28, 1914 the battle lines were drawn with the 
assassinations in Sarajevo. It was believed that the crime was 
committed by a Serbian nationalist, and immediately following it 
Germany , with its full support pledged, pressed Austria- Hungary into 
declaring war on Serbia. At this same time, France was strengthening 
its backing of Russia. War might have been avoided if Serbia had 
excepted Austria- Hungary's harsh ultimatum, however they faithfully 
refused. Almost at once the war fell into place. Austria declared war 
on July 28, 1914. The next day Russia mobilized against Austria- 
Hungary, on August 1st Germany declared war on Russia, and two days 
later on France. When Germany disregarded Belgium's neutrality, 
Britain declared war on Germany. Finally war had begun, and unlike the 
predictions that had been made the resulting war was long, indecisive, 
and reeked havoc on the nations of Europe. (Karpilovsky, World Wide 
Web)
 The Great War officially ended in January of 1919 with a peace 
conference in Paris which represented twenty- seven triumphant 
nations. However almost immediately the great powers, United States, 
Great Britain, and France, were at odds with each other. President 
Wilson, the representative of the United States, was insist on first 
and foremost dealing with the creation of the League of Nations; 
while France and Britain on punishing Germany. In the long run France 
gave up on having a buffer zone between itself and Germany for a 
defensive alliance with the United States and Britain, and Wilson got 
the formation of the League of Nations. These developments were not 
the key items at the conference, rather it was the Treaty of 
Versailles. This treaty was made between the Allies and Germany, and 
it began to re-establish order. In the treaty, all of Germany's 
colonies were divided among the nations, thought it sustained minor 
losses of territory within Europe. Its standing army was reduced to 
100,00 men, and they could not have forts in the Rhineland. The clause 
that angered most people was the one that made Germany claim 
responsibility for the war, and imposed reparations .Thought Germany's 
new republican government found the treaty to be harsh, they signed it 
and their discontent set the stage for the Second World War. (McKay, 
pg. 926-927)
 Germany was not the only country to suffer because of the war; 
the world had been wiped clean of millions of people, and there was 
also extensive damage throughout Europe. However, these were not the 
only sufferings for the generation of the post- war era. The era 
followed with a great many economic difficulties throughout the world. 
The many industries that had been based on the war effort were no 
longer needed, thereby unemployment was on the rise, and the 
government had secured many debts to succeed in the war. With these 
aspects , and poor economic policies in many nations present it 
seemed that an economic crisis would occur sooner or later; which it 
did. In 1929 the American stock market came to a crashing halt, 
leaving many investors wiped out and the wealthy and confident without 
money. In the aftermath, banks began to fall because many loans feel 
through. With the financial crisis also came a decrease of production, 
and naturally this lead to widespread unemployment. This in turn lead 
to the fall of peoples spirits, and "homes and ways of life were 
disrupted in millions of personal tragedies." (Mckay, pg. 957-958)
 The era of the Great Depression was also the era of the rise 
of political dictatorship throughout Europe. These dictatorships 
involved a new form of tyranny and were most evident in Stalin Soviet 
Union and Nazi Germany.( Mckay, pg.967) With hardships rising, people 
became more willing to put up with leaders like Stalin and Hitler. It 
is believed by many that Hitler would never have came to power if it 
had not been for the German peoples' feelings of nationalism, and 
their discontent with the economy and the restrictions from the 
Treaty of Versailles. Hitler played on the people's emotions, and he 
officially won the game when he legally took over as the dictator of 
Germany. 
 The rise of Hitler is a very important effect of World War I 
because it lead to the Second World War. The leaders first tried to 
please Hitler by giving him what he asked in order to avoid war, 
however Hitler did not stop he kept on pushing for more. When Germany 
invaded Poland, war became inevitable. Britain and France declared war 
on Germany. The United States joined in on the war effort against 
Germany, Italy , and Japan after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. 
World War II was the last major effect of the First World War. (Mckay, 
pg.986-989)
 "The war solved no problem. Its effects, both immediate and 
indirect, were either negative or disastrous. Morally subversive, 
economically destructive, socially degrading. Confused in its causes, 
devious in its course, futile in its result, it is the outstanding 
example of European history of meaningless conflict." These words of 
C.V Wedgewood are the perfect description of the Great War. World War 
I had many complex causes, rather than one simple which is what is 
believed by many people. Furthermore, the effects were widespread 
throughout generations all over the world.