First World War (1914-1918 C.E.)




First World War (1914-1918 C.E.):

The First World War began in 1914 C.E. The main cause of it was the competition amongst the European countries, which nourished imperialistic ambitions.

Causes of the First World War:

The latter half of the nineteenth century was marked by several industrial inventions. Machines came into use for various production processes. European countries were now equipped to increase production because of mechanisation. They needed more raw material to match the quantitative increase in production and more markets to sell their surplus products as well. Imperialistic European nations began to search for newer lands to meet these needs. This would often create warlike situations among them. Keeping this in view, more powerful nations in Europe, felt the need to continuously increase their military power and armoury.

The countries like England, France, Russia, Portugal, Holland, Belgium, etc. had already expanded their empires in Africa and Asia. In the pre-world war Europe, England, Germany, Austria- Hungary, Russia, France, and Italy were the nations of primary importance. Among them, rival groups were formed. Because of the rivalry, every nation began to enhance its military and naval strength; there was a competition to produce more and more destructive weapons. This ultimately resulted in a political situation akin to war.

Immediate Cause of the First World War:

The Austrian Prince, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife were assassinated in Serbia by a Serbian maniac. On Sunday, 28 June 1914, at about 10:45 am, Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The perpetrator was 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip, a member of Young Bosnia and one of a group of assassins organized and armed by the Black Hand. Earlier in the day, the couple had been attacked by Nedeljko Čabrinović, who had thrown a grenade at their car. However, the bomb detonated behind them, injuring the occupants in the following car. On arriving at the Governor's residence, Franz angrily shouted, "So this is how you welcome your guests – with bombs!"

After a short rest at the Governor's residence, the royal couple insisted on seeing all those who had been injured by the bomb at the local hospital. However, no one told the drivers that the itinerary had been changed. When the error was discovered, the drivers had to turn around. As the cars backed down the street and onto a side street, the line of cars stalled. At this same time, Princip was sitting at a cafe across the street. He instantly seized his opportunity and walked across the street and shot the royal couple. He first shot Sophie in the abdomen and then shot Franz Ferdinand in the neck. Franz leaned over his crying wife. He was still alive when witnesses arrived to render aid. His dying words to Sophie were, "Don't die, darling, live for our children." Princip's weapon was the pocket-sized FN Model 1910 pistol chambered for the .380 ACP cartridge provided him by Serbian Army Colonel and Black Hand member Dragutin Dimitrijević. The archduke's aides attempted to undo his coat but realized they needed scissors to cut it open: the outer lapel had been sewn to the inner front of the jacket for a smoother fit to improve the Archduke's appearance to the public. Whether or not as a result of this obstacle, the Archduke's wound could not be attended to in time to save him, and he died within minutes. Sophie also died en route to the hospital.

In Austria, people believed that this whole act was maneuvered by the Serbian Kingdom. Hence, Austria called a war against Serbia. Russia came in to help Serbia. Two distinct groups of European nations were formed, one group supporting Austria and another supporting Serbia. Austria and Hungary were trying to suppress Serbia and Germany was on their side. Belgium had a neutral policy. Even then, Germany attacked Belgium and established its supremacy there. England stood up with Belgium and called a war against Germany. Now Germany, Austria, Turkey, Bulgaria (known as ‘central powers’) were on one side and England, France, Russia (known as ‘allied nations’) were on the other. Later, Italy joined the allied powers. In the last stage of the war, America joined in with the allied nations. The Allies described the wartime military alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire as the 'Central Powers'. The name referred to the geographical location of the two original members of the alliance, Germany, and Austria-Hungary, in central Europe. The Ottoman Empire joined the alliance in November 1914 and the last member of the quartet, the Kingdom of Bulgaria, entered the war on the side of the Central Powers in October 1915.

As well as providing the alliance with its name, the geographical position of the German and Austro-Hungarian empires also gave the Central Powers at least one very important strategic advantage over the Allies they were fighting. It was much easier for the Germans and Austro-Hungarians to move troops, equipment, and supplies from one battlefront to another because they could do much of this on their domestic railway networks.

For example, the Germans could move 10 infantry divisions from the Eastern Front to the Western Front via a relatively straightforward journey across Germany. It was no more difficult for the Austro-Hungarians to move five infantry divisions from the Eastern Front to the Italian Front, or to the Salonika Front in the Balkans.

Compare this situation with the difficulties faced by the Allies in moving men, equipment, and supplies from one battlefront to another. This usually involved long circuitous routes across or around multiple countries, each with different rail networks and logistical procedures. It was also likely to require transport by sea, which posed its own set of risks, notably from German and Austrian submarines. So while it could take two or three weeks to transport a British Army unit and its equipment from the United Kingdom to the Salonika Front, the Austro-Hungarians, and the Germans if need be, could move reinforcements there in less than a week.

The military term for this strategic advantage of the Central Powers is 'operating on interior lines'. It was used to the most dramatic effect in early 1918 when the rapid transfer of large numbers of German divisions from the Eastern Front to the Western Front enabled the great German spring offensive in the west.

A naval war was fought in 1916 between Germany and England at Jutland in the North Sea and the German navy was defeated. It resulted in a peace treaty in 1918, known as ‘The Treaty of Versailles’. This peace treaty put an end to the First World War Foundation of ‘League of Nations’.

All the nations who were involved in the First World War seriously felt the need to create some solution to avoid any situation that could lead to another world war. Woodrow Wilson, the American President was a peace-loving and idealistic leader. He emphasised on the need of having an organisation of the leading nations, finding peaceful solutions for conflicts between nations, and establishing peace in the world. An organisation is known as the ‘League of Nations’ was established with this objective. Germany, Austria, and other defeated nations were not allowed to become members of the league. The concept of the ‘League of Nations’ was deliberated by America and yet it did not become a member of the league. As a result, England and France retained their dominance in the league.

The League of Nations was the first worldwide intergovernmental organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. It was founded on 10 January 1920 following the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War and ceased operations on 20 April 1946.

The organisation's primary goals, as stated in its Covenant, included preventing wars through collective security and disarmament and settling international disputes through negotiation and arbitration. Other issues in this and related treaties included labour conditions, just treatment of native inhabitants, human and drug trafficking, the arms trade, global health, prisoners of war, and protection of minorities in Europe. The Covenant of the League of Nations was signed on 28 June 1919 as Part I of the Treaty of Versailles, and it became effective together with the rest of the Treaty on 10 January 1920. The first meeting of the Council of the League took place on 16 January 1920, and the first meeting of the Assembly of the League took place on 15 November 1920. In 1919 U.S. president Woodrow Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role as the leading architect of the League.

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