The m. A. I. N. Causes of wwi

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Militarism: fascination with military power and the glory of war

-Led to Arms Race When a nation built up its military, its enemies saw it as a move toward war

      • Ex. Germany built up its navy to compete with Great Britain’s navy, causing tension between the two countries

Alliances: agreements between countries to help each other during wartime

    • Alliances pulled many countries into the war

    • The Allied Powers (The Allies; Triple Entente)

Great Britain, France, and Russia (until 1917)

    • The Central Powers (Triple Alliance)

Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire
Imperialism: building empires by expanding territory and gaining colonies

Competition for colonies led to intense rivalries among the European powers

  • The newly united countries of Germany and Italy were anxious to establish colonies to gain wealth & international influence, & competed with other nations to do so.

  • Ex. as Germany industrialized, it competed with France and Britain in the contest for colonies, which were a source of raw materials & a market for finished goods

Nationalism: strong feelings of pride and unity among a particular group of people

    • A ‘Nation’ refers to a group of people who share a common language,religion, history and traditions. Not all nations had states; many were included in empires. Ethnic & ideological differences led to conflict within these empires. Led nations to seek to create empires or break away from them

  • Nationalism also spurred competition among states in military strength& led European nations to establish a complex system of military alliances.

  • The various European powers start developing very nationalistic identities.

    • This is especially so for Italy and Germany, which had traditionally segmented into smaller states but finally united into centralized countries late in the 1800’s.

    • Germany was also rapidly industrializing under an autocratic, militaristic style of government.

  1. The Spark that Begins WWI

      1. Trouble in the Balkans (multi-ethnic region of Southeastern Europe)

        1. Serbia wanted to take control of Bosnia

        2. Austria-Hungary took over Bosnia

        3. Archduke Franz Ferdinand (the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary) was assassinated by a Serbian terrorist

        4. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia

        5. The resulting confrontation between Austria-Hungary & Serbia quickly involved much of Europe in conflict due to the alliance system. Austria moves to punish Serbia, Russia comes to the aid of Serbia, and then all those alliances engage as everybody declares war on everyone else in a tragic domino effect.


      1. US is neutral at first

The U.S. declared neutrality at the outbreak of the war, however various factors challenged American neutrality & eventually led to the involvement of the U.S. in the Great War.

        1. The traditional trading partnership with Great Britain & the blockade of German ports by the British navy severely limited American trade with Germany.

        2. American businesses made loans to the Allies in order to continue trade.

        3. Public opinion was impacted by America’s traditional connection to the British.

      1. Submarine warfare and the Lusitania

        1. The German use of the submarine affected public opinion against Germany

& alienated President Wilson, who was incensed by the loss of innocent lives.

        1. The 1915 German U-boat’s sinking of the British passenger ship,

the Lusitania, brought about sharp protests from President Wilson but

did not bring the United States into the European war.

        1. Instead, Germany pledged to restrict their use of the submarine.

        2. Wilson campaigned for re-election in 1916 on the slogan that

“he kept us out of war.”

      1. Zimmerman note

The interception and publication by the British of Germany’s Zimmerman note

to Mexico negatively impacted American public opinion. The note proposed

an alliance between Mexico and Germany said that, in the event that US

became involved in the war, Germany would help Mexico recover “lost territory”

in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

      1. Changes in Russia

In early 1917, revolution in Russia replaced the monarchy with a republic & President Wilson could now consider allying the U.S. with a ‘democratic’ Russia.

      1. US enters the war

        1. The decision of Germany to resume unrestricted submarine warfare in the

spring of 1917 & Wilson’s desire to broker a just peace prompted Wilson to

ask the Congress to declare war on Germany in April of 1917.

        1. President Wilson announced his intention to “make the world safe for

democracy” and later issued his Fourteen Points.

  1. The War Effort

      1. Selective Service Act

To meet the government’s need for more fighting power, Congress passed

the Selective Service Act in May 1917. It required men to register with the government in order to be randomly selected for military service. Almost 3 million were called up.

      1. US helps end the war

        1. The American Expeditionary Force affected the course of the war by deflecting the last push of the Germans on the western front in France.

        2. Armistice of November 11, 1918: ended fighting between the Allies & Central Powers.

        3. World War I was the bloodiest war in history up to that time: Deaths numbered about 22 million.

      2. The War at Home

        1. The mobilization of the home front for the war

effort stimulated ethnic & ideological conflicts

within the U.S. For example, propaganda characterized Germans as “Huns”

& resulted in discrimination against Americans & immigrants of German descent.

        1. The passage of the Sedition Act restricted the rights of Americans to voice their ideological objections to the war effort & contributed to the post-war Red Scare.

        2. In summary, propaganda created a united war effort at the expense of individual liberties.

  1. The Treaty of Versailles

      1. President Wilson heads to Versailles Conferences

        1. While the armistice of 11/11/18 ended the fighting, the Treaty officially ended the war.

        2. President Wilson took a leadership role at the Versailles Conference.

        3. He hoped to create a lasting peace based on the principles of his Fourteen Points which he hoped would eliminate many of the causes of the war, but did not understand the desires of the European leaders of France, Italy, & Great Britain.

      2. The 14 Points

        1. The points were divided into 3 groups:

-The first 5 points were issues that Wilson believed had to be addressed to prevent another war:

a. There should be no secret treaties among nations.

b. Freedom of the seas should be maintained for all.

  1. Tariffs & other economic barriers among nations should be lowered or abolished in order to foster free trade.

  2. Arms should be reduced “to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety, thus lessening the possibility of military responses” during diplomatic crises.

  3. Colonial policies should consider the interests of the colonial peoples as well as the interests of the imperialist powers.

-The next eight points dealt with boundary changes.

Wilson based these provisions on the principle of self-determination “along historically established lines of nationality.” In other words, groups that claimed distinct ethnic identities were to form their own nation-states or decide for themselves to what nations they would belong.

  • The fourteenth point called for the creation of an international organization to address diplomatic crises like those that had sparked the war.

    • This League of Nations would provide a forum for nations to discuss & settle their grievances without having to resort to war.

      1. The Allies want to punish Germany

        1. The other allies were determined to protect their own national interests.

        2. They imposed a war guilt clause (accept responsibility for war)&

reparations payments on Germany. Germany forced to give up its colonies and some

European territory.

        1. New national borders drawn at the conference based on self determination

of peoples could not accommodate all of the complexity of ethnic diversity within


        1. These actions laid the basis for the next war. It was a punishing peace and the Germans were absolutely humiliated by it. The implicit purpose of the Treaty was to cripple Germany so badly that it could never again be a threat. This resentment continues and helps feed into the rise of the Nazis. The reparations demands also hamper the German economy and helps lead into the depression.

      1. Back at home in the US

        1. President Wilson was able to include the League of Nations in the Treaty of Versailles, however the U.S. Senate was hesitant to involve the U.S. in European affairs on a permanent basis. They were concerned that it would get US involved in future military action without the consent of the Senate.

        2. Wilson was unwilling to compromise with the Senate & his physical incapacity as a result of a stroke made compromise impossible.

        3. The Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles & did not become a member of the League of Nations.

        4. The U.S. later made a separate peace with Germany & sent observers to

meetings of the League of Nations.

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