Europe in 1914

  • In 1914, Europe was the force to reckon with. European countries were having vast colonies in different parts of the world and thus decisions of the European powers used to decide the fortunes of the millions of people around the globe. European countries were strong both economically and militarily. Major European powers of the time were Britain, Germany, France, Austria-Hungary, Italy and Russia. Britain and Germany were leading the rest in this pack. Political systems of these powers were also varied widely.
  • Britain and France were democracies. Germany had an elected lower house of the parliament, but real powers were exercised by the Chancellor and the Kaiser (King). Austria-Hungary and Russia were autocracies. Italy was a monarchy with an elected parliament (but right to vote was based on property qualification).
Europe before WWI
Europe before WWI
Europe after WWI
Europe after WWI

Causes of World War I

  • World War I was the first of its kind war. Before it, the world had never seen war of such proportion and scale. Destruction caused by this war was far greater than any preceding conflict. It was a war fought by many countries in different continents and it continued for four years. It resulted in large scale deaths and changed the fortunes of many countries.
  • That’s why it raised the question, ‘What caused the war of these proportions?’ Below are listed some of the reasons which have been suggested for the escalation of the war.

Alliance System

  • Otto Von Bismarck was the Chancellor of unified Germany from 1871-90. After the unification in 1871, Germany had emerged as the most powerful nation in continental Europe. Bismarck wanted to maintain the status quo and prevented formation of any anti-German alliance so that Germany remains supreme in the continental Europe. To achieve these objectives Bismarck adopted a system of peacetime military alliances. Dual alliance was signed in 1879 with Austria-Hungary and in 1882 Italy joined this system making it Triple alliance. With the Russia, Reinsurance treaty was signed in 1887.
  • These alliances achieved the immediate foreign policy objectives of Bismarck. However, in the long term these alliance systems proved extremely harmful for the peace of Europe. These treaties were never published in totality and there was always secrecy about their nature and content. After the exit of Bismarck from the office of the Chancellor, the counter alliances were also formed which split the Europe into two hostile armed camps.
  • In 1894, Franco-Russian alliance was formed. In 1904, Britain and France signed ‘Entente Cordiale’ and in 1907 Britain and Russia came together and signed an alliance. Suspicions kept mounting between these opposing camps and, according to many, these alliances were the main reason for spread of war and turning war into a total war.

Colonial Rivalry

  • European countries had a vast colonial empire, they were used as monopolized markets and source of raw materials for the colonial masters. By 1900 the British Empire extended over five continents and France had control of large areas of Africa. With the rise of industrialized countries needed new markets. The amount of lands ‘owned’ by Britain and France increased the rivalry with Germany who had entered the scramble to acquire colonies late and only had small areas of Africa.
  • After the German unification of 1871, Germany had emerged as the most powerful country, economically and militarily, in continental Europe. However, the colonial empire of Germany was neither extensive nor economically very rewarding in comparison with many of the European countries.
  • Till the time Bismarck was the German Chancellor, Bismarck did not allow German ambition to vitiate European peace in this matter. After his ouster from the office of the chancellor German ambitions were not kept in check by their leaders.
  • The aggressive policies of Kaiser Wilhelm II (1888 – 1918) to acquire colonies in Africa created bad blood between some countries and their populations, which led many to believe that it created a hostile environment which contributed towards the outbreak of World War I.

Naval Race

  • Britain was the world’s greatest sea power during those days. With an ambition to have a vast colonial empire, Germany started building a vast and powerful navy. At first this German naval expansion did not bother Britain because they had an enormous lead. However, the introduction of ‘Dreadnought’ type of battleship in 1906 changed the whole scenario. It made all other battleships obsolete. It intensified the naval rivalry since both countries had to start on equal terms. For many of the British, this naval expansion of Germany was the sign that Germany intended to make war against Britain.

Economic Rivalry

  • It has been argued by many that economic rivalry was the main reason that Germany went to war with Britain. Colonial rivalry was considered as a by product of this economy rivalry by proponents of this theory. As per them to achieve the economy mastery of the world, it was necessary to destroy the British economic supremacy by war. This was the reason the German businessmen and the capitalists also supported war with Britain.

Situation in Balkan

  • Weakening of Ottoman Empire had made the situation in Balkan problematic. It had given rise to the aspirations and ambitions of different empires and nationalities (Habsburg Empire, Russian Empire, Serbs, Croats, Slavs etc.). Serbian nationalism was presenting the most serious challenge in keeping the Balkan peninsula peaceful. Serbian nationalists had resented the 1878 Treaty of Berlin. Annexation of Bosnia, an area desired by Serbia, by Austria in 1908 made the situation more volatile and complicated .
  • The Serbian ambition of creating a large South Slav Kingdom was posing existential threat to the Habsburg Empire, which was an amalgamation of many different nationalities. If the Serbs and Croats were allowed to leave the fold, it was expected that many other nationalities within the Habsburg Empire would demand their independence as well. Russian support for Serbia had made Serbia more aggressive.
  • Balkan wars of 1912 and 1913 had made Serbia stronger and more determined to challenge Austrian occupation of Bosnia. It had made Austrians equally determined to end Serbian ambitions through military means. Assassination of Austrian Archduke in 1914 did provide an opportunity to end Serbian aspirations and Austria was determined to use it for its benefit .

German Backing for Austria

  • For Germany situation on the Eastern front demanded that they support Austria-Hungary. Austria-Hungary was the only strong ally of Germany in 1914. In case Serbia and Russia defeated Austria-Hungary it would have left Germany without any strong partner in Europe. Germany could not allow this to happen. In this situation, the best possible solution was to maintain status quo for the time being.
  • It was known that Serbia would not declare war on Austria without the support of Russia and Austria would not declare war without the German support. That’s why German declaration of unconditional support, in 1914, for Austria in event of war with Serbia was also considered by many as an important cause for the start of the war.

Role of Press

  • The newspapers and press propagated aggressive nationalist propaganda in their respective countries. It intensified rivalry among nations and nationalities. It made it difficult for the leaders to take liberal line and they were forced to be rigid in any negotiations which further intensified international rivalries and hostilities.
Causes of World War I

Causes of War: A Critical Analysis

  • Although many historians believe that alliance system is to blame for the outbreak of World War I but in fact there was nothing binding about these alliances. During the Russo-Japanese war French did not help Russia. Germany restrained Austria during the second Balkan war. Italy, a partner of the triple alliance, entered the war against Germany and Austria. All these prove that alliance systems alone cannot be held responsible for the outbreak of the World War I.
  • Colonial rivalries alone, also could not explain the outbreak of the war. Although there had certainly been disputes, they had always been settled without war. Naval race also soon lost its steam. By early 1913 the Germans had actually reduced naval spending in order to concentrate more on strengthening the army .
  • Critics of the economic rivalry theory point out that Germany was on the path to achieve economic supremacy. In this scenario the last thing German industrialists would have wanted was war.
  • A massive conflict like World War I can never be the result of any specific factor or few factors alone. It was a product of the prevailing politico economic and sociocultural complexities. Once the conflict started it became difficult for the European powers to remain neutral. Conflict continued for the four long years and left a trail of devastations behind.
Allies of World War I

Events Leading to Outbreak of the War

  • There were many causes of friction between nations of Europe as discussed above, there were naval rivalry, peace time military alliance system, economic rivalry, colonial ambitions, situations in Balkan etc. They culminated in a series of events which led to the outbreak of the war in 1914.

Moroccan Crisis (1905-06)

  • As has been discussed above, Germany was the most powerful nation in continental Europe. But her colonial empire was not extensive and economically rewarding compared with most of the European nations. Germans resented this and when Kaiser Wilhelm II became emperor, the Germans started perusing colonies aggressively.
  • In an attempt to expand their empire and to test Anglo-French ‘Entente Cordiale’ (1904), the Germans announced they would assist the Sultan of Morocco to maintain his country’s independence.
  • France was also interested in Morocco. To discuss the issue an international conference was held in Algeciras in southern Spain (Jan 1906). The Germans believed that most of the countries would not contest her claims, but to her amazement Britain, Russia, Italy and Spain supported the French demand to control the Morocco bank and police. It was a serious diplomatic defeat for Germany and it also highlighted the strength of recently signed Anglo French ‘Entente Cordiale’.

British Agreement with Russia

  • There was a history of series of hostilities between Britain and Russia during the preceding century. Britain was a proud democracy and they held autocratic Russian government in contempt.
  • The Russians were also seen as a major threat to the Eastern empire of Britain (India). But the weakness of Russian empire led the way for both the countries to come together. They settled their differences in Persia, Afghanistan and Tibet. They signed an agreement of cooperation in 1907. It was regarded as a hostile move by Germany and German resentment against Britain increased further.

Bosnia Crisis

  • Bosnia was a province of Turkey. In 1878 the Congress of Berlin gave the permission for Austria to administer the province, but officially Bosnia to remain a part of Turkey. In 1908 Austria annexed Bosnia. At that time, the Turkish government was determined to assert their control over the province of Bosnia. The Austrian action was a deliberate move and against Serbian aspirations to take control of Bosnia. Serbian aspirations were not devoid of merit, since there were three million Serbs in Bosnia.
  • The Serbs appealed for help from their ally and fellow Slavs, the Russians. The Russians called for a European Conference but no conference took place and Austria kept Bosnia, since Britain and France were unwilling to involve in the Balkan conflict. It was a triumph for the Austrian-German alliance, but had unfortunate consequences. Serbia became extremely hostile to Austria. Russia did not support militarily because they recently lost a war with Japan and was not prepared for another war. But humiliation to desert the cause of fellow Slavs, Serbia, determined Russia to support Serbia in any future conflict. Russia embarked on a massive military buildup and modernization of army in case Serbia asked for help again.

Agadir Crisis (1911)

  • A rebellion broke out against the Sultan of Morocco in capital city Fez. On the pretext of helping Sultan French troops occupied Fez. The Germans sent a gunboat, the Panther, to the Moroccan port of Agadir, to pressurize the French into giving Germany compensation. The British were concerned about safety of their trade routes in case the Germans acquired Agadir. British supported French and Germans withdrew their gunboat.
  • The Germans agreed to recognize the French protectorate over Morocco. In return, they got two strips of territory in the French Congo. It again proved efficacy of ‘Entente Cordiale’ and gave a further push to anti British sentiments in Germany. It is also known as the second Moroccan crisis.

First Balkan War (1912)

  • Turkey was known as the sick man of Europe and Balkan countries wanted to take advantage of this situation. They wanted to expand their territories at the expense of Turkey. This situation resulted in the Balkan wars.
  • In the first Balkan war; Serbia, Greece, Montenegro and Bulgaria launched a series of attacks on the Turkey. To avoid the spreading of the conflict, the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, arranged a peace conference in London, with the German government.
  • The resulting settlement divided up the former Turkish lands among the victor Balkan powers. However to prevent Serbia becoming more powerful Albania was made an independent state. Serbia wanted Albania, to get an outlet to the sea, but Austria prevented this with support from Germany and Britain.

Second Balkan War (1913)

  • Like Serbia, Bulgaria was also unhappy with their gains from the first Balkan war. They had been hoping to get Macedonia but most of it was given to Serbia. Bulgaria attacked Serbia to get what it desired, but the plan could not be successful.
  • Greece, Romania and Turkey supported Serbia. Bulgaria lost the war and by the Treaty of Bucharest (1913), they forfeited most of their gains from the first Balkan war.
  • Balkan wars had serious consequences for the Europe and the world. Serbia gained from the war and emerged as a stronger nation. It strengthened her resolve to use war as a means to achieve her national objectives. It also made Austrians determined to put the breaks on Serbians ambitions of creating Grand Serbia.

Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (1914)

  • On 28 June, 1914 Austrian Prince Franz Ferdinand was assassinated along with his wife Sophie in Bosnian capital Sarajevo, by a Bosnian terrorist Gavrilo Princip. The Archduke, nephew and heir to the Emperor was on an official visit to Sarajevo. The annexation of Bosnia had intensified anti Austrian feelings in Serbia and Bosnia. This assassination was reflection of those feelings.
  • The Austrians blamed the Serbia and sent a harsh ultimatum. Serbia accepted most of the demands, but the Austrian government was determined to use this incident to put an end to Serbian menace. With a promise of German support, Austria declared war on Serbia on 28th July, 1914. Russia ordered general mobilization on 29th July, 1914. On 31st July,1914 Germany demanded that this general mobilization should be cancelled. When Russia did not comply, Germany declared war on Russia on 1 August,1914 and against France on 3rd August,1914. Britain entered the war on 4th August, 1914. Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia on 6th August,1914.

Inevitability of World War I

  • It is a question worth looking into. Before the outbreak of the war, Europe had witnessed many conflicts and clashes in the twentieth century. However, major powers never took the matters to the battlefield as witnessed during Moroccan crisis, Agadir crisis and Bosnian crisis. Even during the Balkan wars major powers did not participate and issue remained localized to eastern Europe. Germany even restrained Austria when latter wanted to participate in the second Balkan war. So how come situation altered so dramatically within a short period?
  • Genesis of World War I cannot be understood from adopting an event based approach. It was not the outcome of a single event. Assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was just a trigger. We have seen that activities of Serbia were posing existential threat to the Habsburg empire. The murder of the heir to the throne was interpreted as the direct challenge to the might of the Habsburg empire by Austria-Hungary. But when Serbia accepted most of the demands of the Austria it was thought that war could be averted. But Austria was determined to use this opportunity to her advantage and wage a preventive war against Serbia. Austria probably hoped that war would remain localized like the Balkan wars.
  • But this explains the outbreak of the war but not why it became the World War. Austrians thought that if they do not react strongly it would be detrimental for the future of the empire. Also, unconditional German backing might have led them to believe that the Russians would not come to rescue of Serbia. But Russia felt that it could not allow destruction of Serbia without tarnishing the prestige of Russia as a leader of Serb Slavs.
  • Once Russia ordered general mobilization of troops, situation went from bad to worse. Now it became a compulsion for Germany to support Austria against Russia because the victory of the Russo-Serb alliance against Habsburg empire would have weakened German position in Europe. When Germany declared war against the Russia other powers could not remain neutral because a German victory against Russia would have made Germany too powerful to deal with. Thus we can say that World War I was not inevitable, but the compulsions and decisions taken by leaders converted a localized conflict into a world War.

Beginning of the War

  • Austria declared war on Serbia on 28th July, 1914. Russia ordered general mobilization on 29th July,1914. On 31st July, 1914 Germany demanded that this general mobilization should be cancelled. When Russia did not comply, Germany declared war on Russia on 1st August, 1914 and against France on 3rd August, 1914. Britain entered the war on 4th August,1914. Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia on 6 August,1914.
  • Turkey entered the war on November 1914 and joined the Central Powers. Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary in May, 1915. The Italians were promised Trentino, the south Tyrol, Istria, Trieste, part of Dalmatia, Adalia, some islands in the Aegean Sea and a protectorate over Albania by the Allies (A secret treaty was signed in London). In October, 1915 Bulgaria joined the Central Powers. Romania joined the Allies/Entente Powers in August 1916.
  • Most significant event of the war was the entry of the USA in April 1917. It was caused partly by German U-boat campaign and by the discovery of the German conspiracy with Mexico. Germany was trying to persuade Mexico to declare war on USA. The entry of USA tilted the war in favour of the Allies.
  • They supplied Allies’ men and materials which they were in dire need of. Most important was the psychological boost it gave to the Allies and the corresponding blow it gave to German morale. Importance of entry of the USA for the Allies can be understood better if we take into account the fact that the Russia withdrew from the war in December 1917.

Protraction of the War

  • When the war started most of the people expected it to be a short war. But with the time, scope of war kept on increasing. Soon all major powers of Europe entered the war. Theatre of war was also extended beyond Europe. Colonies also participated in the war efforts of their colonial masters by providing men and materials. The main reasons which made the war last so long are following:
    • The two sides were evenly balanced before the entry of the USA.
    • Theatre of the war was extensive, including many countries, thus defeat in single or some battles could not decide the fate of the war.
    • The main countries involved in the war had very strongly held war aims which were antagonistic in nature. Thus, it was almost impossible to reach an acceptable negotiated solution.
    • The nature of warfare (Trench warfare) also made it difficult to get the quick decisive victory. Only when tanks were used on a large scale in an effective manner, stalemate on the western front can be overcome.
    • Mass support for the war was maintained through the use of mass propaganda. Newspapers, printed materials, films and advertisements were used to encourage and motivate general public and military forces.
Protraction of the War

Reasons for Loss of Central Powers

  • Germany, the most powerful country among the Central powers, was fighting the war on two fronts. It affected her war efforts .
  • Allied sea power was decisive. Making it difficult for Central Powers to receive supplies through ports, creating severe food shortages. It also affected exports of the Central Powers.
  • The German submarine campaign failed to achieve complete blockade of the Allies. Unrestricted submarine warfare had an important consequence as it brought the USA into the war.
  • The entry of the USA helped the Allies in their war efforts. It brought vast resources of the USA to the allies, and in a long drawn out war, it was always strength of resources which decides the fate of the war. Entry of the USA also made up for the withdrawal of the Russia from the war .
  • Germany was badly let down by her allies. Germany did not get any considerable support from her allies and it was always on them to rescue their allies. In the end it proved too much for the German army to fight on multiple fronts.

Total War

  • The concept of total war was put forward by German General Ludendroff in 1935 in his book titled ‘Total War’. He analyzed the character of the conflict seen and concluded that this war was different from other wars fought in human history. The concept of total war was later amplified and was linked to the nuclear age in 1949 by the American General Curtis Lemay. The total war is characterized by:
    • Participation of the total national resources. No distinction was maintained between the resources allocated for military and civilian purposes. The military needs take precedence over civilian requirements during a total war.
    • Not only the military forces, but the whole nation participates in a total war. Political leaders participate by forming alliances and counter alliances. Industrialists participates by producing war goods. The labourers participate by providing their labour unconditionally. Women participate by providing their services in hospitals, factories, shops and at homes (Left behind by male family members for war). The cultural groups play their role by motivating soldiers and civilians alike. Even older population participate by looking after household activities.
    • Most of the nations of the world participate, either directly or indirectly, in a total war.
    • A total war is fought on several fronts simultaneously in different parts of the world. Quite unlike a traditional war, which is limited to one or a few places.
    • Latest weapons and technologies are used in a total war. Tanks, submarines and airplanes were used in World War I for the first time.
    • Use of weapons of mass destruction. These weapons are used to inflict maximum damage on enemies. Chemical weapons were used in the World War I.
    • No distinction is maintained between combatants and noncombatants in a total war. Civilian targets are deliberately selected to force the enemies into submission by breaking their resolve. During both the world wars civilian targets and cities were deliberately selected.
    • A total war is also characterized as a war of attrition. In these wars both the parties suffer from the complete degeneration of their fighting capacities.
    • A total war is always a long drawn out conflict. The outcome is not decided by one or few battles.
    • A total war ends with complete defeat of one party.
    • A total war is also characterized by the total impact. Not only the military forces, but civilian population also bears the suffering of the war. All aspects of life, be it economic, polity or social, get seriously affected by the total war.
    • Total war is also characterized by the development of new military infrastructures and institutions. Allied Supreme War Council was set up during the World War I.

Impact of War

Political Impact

  • Fall of Four Great Empires: German empire, Austrian- Hungary empire , Russian empire and Ottoman Empire.
  • Emergence of New Nationalities in the form of Poland , Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Serbia emerged as a powerful nation. Fragmentation of Ottoman empire resulted in the emergence of modern Turkey.
  • Spread of Democracy: Democratic governments came up in Germany, Austria, Hungary and other new states.
  • Nationalism was intensified during the war and also as a result of the war, especially for the losing powers like Germany which paved way for future waves of Nazism and Fascism.
  • The new balance of power emerged in the world as a result of World War I. The German might was shattered for time being. France and Britain were left as major powers in the Europe. USA also emerged as a world power.
  • Discontent over the failure of the peace process to satisfy the aspirations of many countries resulted in the emergence of the totalitarian regime in countries like Italy, Germany and Japan.
  • Communism and socialism got an impetus due to the result of the devastation caused by World War I. Led to Russian and Turkish Revolutions. Formation of League of Nations.

Economic Impact

  • World War I had a Devastating Effect on the European Economy: Total economic impact of the war was estimated at 400 billion dollars.
  • Economic Supremacy of Europe was Greatly Reduced: Before World War I, Europe was the manufacturing continent of the world, but her capabilities were greatly reduced and USA emerged as the manufacturing powerhouse.
  • Change in Direction of International Trade: Europe became an importer of goods from Asia and America during the post war period.
  • The American economy was greatly benefited from the World War I because USA supplied the military as well as civilian goods to Europe during and after the war. It helped in emergence of America as the great economic power.
  • Growth of Industries in the Colonies: The outlook of European colonial masters changed significantly towards the colonies after 1919, regarding industrialization of colonies. Some industries were encouraged with a view that in future wars they will serve their colonial master’s needs. Colonies were considered relatively safe from attacks of enemies.
  • European Debt Crisis: The European nations had taken huge loans from the American government during the war period. When after the war, time for repayment came, it pushed Europe into a debt a crisis.
  • Hyperinflation in Europe: This was the result of the destruction of the industries and change in the pattern of production during the war period.
  • Emergence of Labourers as an important economic class due to short supply of the work force. The trade unions had started emerging and gradually these unions were accorded recognition by the governments in Europe after World War I.

Socio-Cultural Impact

  • Extreme Devastation of Men and Material in Europe: Huge death numbers and civilian casualties (More than 8.5 million soldiers had died and more than 21 million wounded) affected social institutions like family, marriage and put them under severe stress. Most of the dead were young men which led to gender and demographic imbalances.
  • Anti-War attitude emerged in Europe after the first World War. The strategy of using war as an instrument of national policy had begun to be questioned. Moves of democratic regimes to redevelop the military infrastructure was opposed strongly in countries like Britain and France.
  • A sense of disillusionment and pessimism had begun to be reflected in cultural fields. Music, literature and paintings etc. were used by people to emphasize on peace and opposed the war in the Europe.
  • Liberation of women and increased female participation in labour force. Women Liberation was greatly assisted by the circumstances caused by the War. During the prewar period, the social outlook was strongly against the participation of women in the public activities. However, the compulsions of the war had forced the European societies to accept the participation of women in economic and other public activities. The women worked in large numbers in the hospitals, schools and factories during the war period. This new found spirit of liberation had continued to get momentum even after the end of the war.
  • In 1918, the female suffrage was granted by the Britain and in 1920 same was extended by the USA.
  • The need of the reconstruction of the socio-cultural life had enhanced the significance of the education in the Europe. The governments took initiatives in the spread of education.
  • In 1925, the free and compulsory primary education was declared national policy by France and in 1933 the French government declared the secondary education also free and compulsory.

Peace Settlement

Treaty of Versailles

  • The Paris Peace Conference was convened in January 1919 at Versailles just outside Paris. The conference was called to establish the terms of the peace after World War I. Though nearly thirty nations participated, the representatives of the United Kingdom, France, the United States, and Italy became known as the “Big Four.”
  • The “Big Four” dominated the proceedings that led to the formulation of the Treaty of Versailles, a treaty that ended World War I.
  • The Treaty of Versailles articulated the compromises reached at the conference. It included the planned formation of the League of Nations, which would serve both as an international forum and an international collective security arrangement. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was a strong advocate of the League as he believed it would prevent future wars.

War Aims

  • As explained earlier, except for Serbia and Austria, almost all of the countries participated in war without having clear war aims. As time progressed, different countries expressed different war aims as per their priorities and nationalist aspirations. War aims were also expressed to motivate people and troops and to give them some clear objectives.
  • British Prime Minister mentioned, in Jan 1918, British war aims. They included defence of democracy and returning to France Alsace-Lorraine, which were taken by Germany in 1871.
  • The war aims of the USA were stated by American President Woodrow Wilson in his famous fourteen points (Jan 1918). (Two more points were added by the Wilson later when Germans were retreating from Belgium and France).

Fourteen Points of Woodrow Wilson

  1. Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view (End to secret alliances which had created an atmosphere of fear in the Europe).
  2. Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants.
  3. The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.
  4. Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.
  5. A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined.
  6. The evacuation of all Russian territories and such a settlement of all questions affecting Russia as will secure the best and freest cooperation of the other nations of the world in obtaining for her an unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for the independent determination of her own political development and national policy and assure her of a sincere welcome into the society of free nations under institutions of her own choosing; and, more than a welcome, assistance also of every kind that she may need and may herself desire. The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will, of their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy.
  7. Belgium, the whole world will agree, must be evacuated and restored, without any attempt to limit the sovereignty which she enjoys in common with all other free nations. No other single act will serve as this will serve to restore confidence among the nations in the laws which they have themselves set and determined for the government of their relations with one another. Without this healing act the whole structure and validity of international law is forever impaired.
  8. All French territories should be freed and the invaded portions should be restored, and the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years, should be corrected, in order that peace may once more be made secure in the interest of all.
  9. A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality.
  10. The people of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity to autonomous development.
  11. Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro should be evacuated; occupied territories restored; Serbia accorded free and secure access to the sea; and the relations of the several Balkan states to one another determined by friendly counsel along historically established lines of allegiance and nationality; and international guarantees of the political and economic independence and territorial integrity of the several Balkan states should be entered into.
  12. The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.
  13. An independent Polish state should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea, and whose political and economic independence and territorial integrity should be guaranteed by international covenant.
  14. A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.

  • These points achieved publicity when the Germans later claimed that they had expected the peace terms to be based on these fourteen points of the Wilson and hence they were cheated by the Allied powers. However, it is important to note that when Germans themselves had an opportunity they treated Russia very harshly in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
  • There were disagreements among the victor powers about the nature of peace agreements. France wanted a harsh peace. It wanted to destroy Germany so that in future it could not pose a threat to the French frontiers.
  • Britain was in the favour of a less severe peace treaty. It wanted Germany to recover quickly so that it can be a market for the British goods. Britain also wanted Germany to pay the reparations which can only be possible if the German economy recovers quickly. Although Britain wanted to destroy the German navy so that it could not pose a threat to the British navy in the future. USA wanted a lenient peace.

Different Peace Settlements

Treaty of Versailles with Germany (1919)

  • World War I officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919. Negotiated among the Allied powers with little participation by Germany, its 15 parts and 440 articles reassigned German boundaries and assigned liability for reparations.
  • The treaty, negotiated between January and June 1919 in Paris, was written by the Allies with almost no participation by the Germans. The negotiations revealed a split between the French, who wanted to dismember Germany to make it impossible for it to renew war with France, and the British and Americans, who did not want to create pretexts for a new war.
  • Territories taken away from Germany in Europe:
    • Alsace-Lorraine to France.
    • Eupen, Moresnet and Malmedy to Belgium.
    • North Schleswig to Denmark (after a plebiscite).
    • West Prussia and Posen to Poland. Poland also got the best portion of Silesia, containing regions very rich in mineral wealth.
    • Danzig port was internationalized i.e. it was to be a free city administered by the League of Nations.
    • City of Memel was given to Lithuania.
    • Saar (Coal rich region) was to be administered by the League of Nations for fifteen years and for such times France was given the right to use coal mines of the area. After fifteen years a plebiscite was to be held and people have to decide whether they want to unite with France or Germany.
    • Germany to give up the gains made via the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were set up as independent states.
    • Germany was forbidden to unite with Austria.
    • African colonies of Germany were taken away by victor European powers.
  • Germany was allowed to maintain only maximum of 100,000 troops and no conscription was allowed. Germany was also prohibited from having tanks, armoured cars, military aircraft or submarines and allowed to maintain only six battleships (Remaining navy was captured by Britain).
  • Rhineland was to be permanently demilitarized.
  • The War Guilt clause put the blame for the outbreak of the war solely on Germany and its allies.
  • Huge war indemnity of 6600 million pounds was imposed on Germany. The actual amount was not decided at Versailles. It was announced later in 1921. (J.M. Keynes, an economic adviser to the British delegation at the conference, urged the Allies to take 2000 million pounds. Like many others he thought that 6600 million pounds is too high an amount and Germany would not able to afford it. Their prediction became reality when soon Germany began to default on her annual installment).
Treaty of Versailles

Implementation of the Treaty

  • The Treaty of Versailles was bitterly criticized by the Germans, who complained that it had been “dictated” to them, that it violated the spirit of the Fourteen Points, and that it demanded intolerable sacrifices that would wreck their economy.
  • For five years the French and the Belgians tried to enforce the treaty quite rigorously, leading in 1922 to their occupation of the Ruhr.
  • In 1924, however, Anglo-American financial pressure compelled France to scale down its goals and end the occupation, and the French, assented to modifying important provisions of the treaty in a series of new agreements.
  • Germany in 1924 and 1929 agreed to pay reparations under the Dawes Plan and the Young Plan, but the depression led to the cancellation of reparations in 1932. The Allies evacuated the Rhineland in 1930.
  • Germany violated many disarmament provisions during the 1920s, and Hitler denounced the treaty altogether in 1935. From March 1937 through March 1939, Hitler overturned the territorial provisions of the treaty with respect to Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Memel, with at least the tacit consent of the western powers. On September 1, 1939, he attacked Poland to alter that frontier, as well.
  • The British and American governments after 1945 sought to avoid many of the problems that had been raised by the Treaty of Versailles, especially regarding reparations, and the division of Germany and the Cold War enabled them generously to rebuild the western zones and to integrate them into a western alliance without renewing fears of German aggression. Meanwhile, they deferred certain fundamental issues for so long that no formal peace treaty was ever written to end World War II.
  • Many historians claim that the combination of a harsh treaty and subsequent lax enforcement of its provisions paved the way for the upsurge of German militarism in the 1930s. The huge German reparations and the war guilt clause fostered deep resentment of the settlement in Germany, and when Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland in 1936 (a violation of the treaty), the Allies did nothing to stop him, thus encouraging future German aggression.

Impact of Treaty of Versailles

Physical Impact

  • The Treaty of Versailles radically altered the Geography of Europe. The Treaty had clauses that resulted in areas of land being taken from Germany. The following maps illustrate the scale of these losses:
    • From these maps it is clear that Germany suffered large territorial losses. The provinces of Alsace and Lorraine returned to France; parts of Schleswig were ceded to Denmark; to the east, new countries were created to roughly match the ethnic balance of the area and finally, The Polish Corridor ’ was created which gave the Poles a broad strip of land that connected it to the sea – and consequently separated Eastern Prussia from the rest of Germany.
    • All of Germany’s overseas colonies were annexed by the Allies , either to become colonies or areas that were managed until independence could be maintained autonomously. In total, Germany lost over one million square miles of land (28,000 of which had previously formed part of European Germany) and 6 million subjects.
WW1 changed the map of Europe

Financial Impact

  • The Treaty of Versailles blamed Germany for the First World War. As a result of this, Germany was also held accountable for the cost of the war and the Treaty dictated that compensation would have to be paid to the Allies.
  • These payments, called reparations, would be paid monthly and would total some £6 ,600 million (This figure was agreed by the Allies in 1921).
  • Remember that the economic might of Germany had been stretched to the limits during the war, and she would have to reconstruct her own economy at the same time as paying Reparations. In addition, Germany had lost some of her most precious sources of raw materials as her colonies, and some of the areas ceded to other countries, were rich sources of income. These factors would make it harder for the German economy to cope.
  • Further to this it is important to note the casualties suffered during the war. Germany lost some 1.7 million men during the war, and a further 4.2 million are listed as being wounded.

Political Impact

  • The Treaty triggered a number of political reactions. Firstly, the government of the day resigned, having refused to sign it. The incoming government had no choice but to sign the Treaty but was accused by some, General Ludendorff for example, of stabbing the Germany people in the back.
  • This theory grew in popularity as the economy suffered and many, former soldiers in particular, believed that the politicians had lost the war rather than the army. (For some it was hard to accept that they could have lost the war whilst troops were still stationed in France, having not lost the ground that they had taken in 1914.)
  • This, amongst other things, led to a growth in the number of people who distrusted the Weimar Republic and were unwilling to support it. This manifests itself in uprisings such as the Kapp Putsch and the Munich Putsch, though there are other factors which led to these uprisings.
  • The Treaty also called for the trial of the former Kaiser. This never happened as the Dutch government refused to hand him over, but this effectively stopped any chance of a restoration of the monarchy in Germany.
  • In Western Europe the Treaty signaled the beginning of a period of isolation for Germany. She became an outcast in international politics and was feared and distrusted by the Allies. This had a significant impact on the role that Germany would , and potentially could, play in European and World affairs in the early post war climate.
  • However, whilst it is evident that Germany became politically isolated in the West, some historians would point out that their isolation has been exaggerated by Westerners (by Fuller). The Treaty of Rapallo for example shows that there was scope for Germany to develop relations in the east, in this case with the Soviet Union, and, they would point out, the newly formed nations were in need of economic partners – with Germany being a likely dominant partner in that sphere.

Other Impact

  • Conflict over control of the “Polish Corridor”, land taken from Germany to give Poland access to the Baltic Sea, was an immediate cause of the German invasion of Poland in 1939. Central powers trying to defy or revise policies of the Treaty of Versailles became a destabilizing factor in international politics. Italy was promised territories by the Triple Entente, but the agreement was nullified. This angered Italy and caused them to switch sides in World War II.
  • The once German-controlled territory, Shandong, in China was place under Japanese control instead of being returned to China. This led to the May 4th movement where China took this territory back.
  • The Ottoman Empire had territories taken away after the war. Most of its territories in Eastern Europe were taken away, and the Empire soon disbanded.
  • Woodrow Wilson proposed the idea of self-determination, where nations previously under German or Ottoman control could decide their own political status. The Treaty of Versailles was not signed by the United States Government. Instead the US Senate made a separate treaty with Germany in 1921. The US refused to ratify the first treaty.

Other Treaties

Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye

  • Officially signed on September 10, 1919 by the victorious Allies of World War I on the one hand and by the Republic of German-Austria on the other and came into force on July 16, 1920.
  • The treaty officially registered the breakup of the Habsburg Empire, recognizing the independence of Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, and the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (Yugoslavia) and ceding eastern Galicia, Trento, southern Tirol , Trieste, and Istria.
  • The tready reduced Austria to a small state of 8 million people and allocated former non-German speaking territories to the new states of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.
  • The union of Austria with Germany was expressly forbidden without the consent of the Council of the League of Nations because the allied powers wanted Germany to remain weak.
  • The Austrian Army was reduced to 30000 men and broke up Austro-Hungarian navy, distributing it among the Allied powers.
  • The Austria created by the treaty was financially and militarily weak and therefore a chronic force of instability in Europe between the two World Wars.

Impact of the Treaty

  • Austria Lost
    • Bohemia and Moravia, the industrial provinces of Austria, were given to Czechoslovakia.
    • Dalmatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, parts of erstwhile Habsburg Empire, were given to Serbia.
    • Galicia was given to Romania.
    • Bukovina was given to Romania.
    • Trentino, Istria, Trieste and South Tyrol were given to Italy.

Treaty of Trianon

  • Officially signed on June 4th 1920 between most of the Allies of World War I and the Kingdom of Hungary.
  • Hungary had been compelled to cede 72% of the territory held by her for thousand years. Of 20 million inhabitants of Hungary, 13.4 million i.e. 64 % of the original population were torn away.
  • The Hungarian Army was not to exceed 35000 men.
  • Hungary was deprived of 62.2 % of its railroad network , 73.8% of its public roads 64.6% of its canals, 83% of its iron ore mines.
  • Citizens of former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy differing in race and language from the majority of the population of the territory, shall within six months ( join a state), if the majority of the population of the State has the same race and language as the person exercising the right to opt.
  • Hungary lost over 2/3 of its territory to Yugoslavia, Romania and Czechslovakia.

Impact of the Treaty

Hungary Lost
• Slovakia and Ruthenia were given to Czechoslovakia.
• Croatia and Slovenia were given to Yugoslavia.
• Transylvania and the Banat of Temesvar were given to Romania.

Treaty of Neuilly

  • The treaty of Neuilly was the peace treaty signed by defeated Bulgaria and the World War I victors in November 27,1919.
  • Bulgaria was forced to reduce its army to 20,000 men, cede lands to Yugoslavia and Greece that involved the transfer of 300,000 people.
  • Bulgarian army was limited to 20, 000 men.
  • Bulgaria was commanded to pay reparations exceeding $400 million, and recognize the existence of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.
  • This treaty was not effective because Bulgaria did not follow the treaty until 75 % was remitted from it.
  • By this treaty, the coastal Bulgaria (Western Thrace) was given to Greece. (Aegean coastline)
  • Some territories were given to Yugoslavia and Romania.

More than one million Bulgarians were left under foreign governments as a result of the treaty.

Treaty of Sevres

Ottoman Empire

  • The Ottoman Empire had for a long time before World War I been considered what the Tsar Nicholas I of Russia described as “the sick man of Europe.”
  • And as the Ottoman Empire lost political influence, many of the countries under its rule rebelled for independence, and by the 20th Century, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia had all gained independence.
  • However, despite having lost much of its power, the Ottoman Empire was still located in a valuable geographical position. The Bosphorus and the Dardanelles were of great interest to Russia, since it would allow easier naval communication with the rest of the world, allowing imports and exports to quickly pass through Russia. The attempt to gain control over the Balkans was the main reason why Russia joined World War I.
The Treaty
  • The Treaty of Sevres was the first peace treaty signed by the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I on the 10th of August 1920. Its main aims included the allied control over the straights of Dardanelles, the independence of Saudi Arabia, Turkish loss of control over Sudan and Libya, Greek control over Eastern Thrace and Turkish Aegean islands, and League of Nations mandate with political control by France and Britain over Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Syria.
  • The Treaty of Sevres was nearly as harsh as that made for Germany, with the intention of liquidating the Ottoman Empire, and abolishing Turkish sovereignty. In Asia, continent which held most of its empire, Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Transjordan were given over as British mandates, as Syria and Lebanon were, on the other hand, passed on as French mandates.
  • Other than this, Smyrna and its bordering nations underwent Greek mandate until a plebiscite determined its final fate. Turkey however, maintained Anatolia.
  • Armenia and Kurdistan gained independence, and became separate republics. In Europe, Italy gained the Dodecanese and Rhodes, previously contested in the Italo-Turkish war in 1911, and the Thrace and Aegean Islands were given to Greek control. Turkey remained with power over Constantinople and its surrounding area, including the Strait of Dardanelles, which was both neutralized and internationalized, allowing any ship to freely pass.
  • The Ottoman Empire lost much of its power and influence, mainly over the Middle East with the creation of new countries, and internalization of the Strait of Dardanelles and the Strait of Bosphorus.
  • Other than this, Mustafa Kemal Pasha gained more supporters as he disagreed with the treaty, and led the Turkish War of Independence, abolishing the Sultanate.
  • Due to the international recognition of the new government on November 1st of 1922, a new treaty was to be made. The Ottoman Empire lost the control over its economy as it was given to the Entente , however only France, Italy and Germany had any power over the Turkish economy. This included control over their national bank , imports and exports, national budget, financial regulations, the tax system, and even requests for loans and debt repayments.
  • Also, there was no commerce whatsoever with the Germany and its allies as it was strictly forbidden. The current Turkish government, led by the Sultanate agreed with the Treaty of Sevres, though not many people did. And with the motivation of a better treaty, Mustafa Kemal led a rebellion and the Turkish War of Independence, which overthrew and abolished the Sultanate. He emerged the leader of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, which demanded a new treaty. The Treaty of Lausanne.

Treaty of Lausanne

  • After the Treaty of Sevres was signed and ratified. However, after Mustafa Kemal Pasha led the Turkish War of Independence and ended the Sultanate on November 1 st of 1922, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey was recognized as the new government by the Treaty of Lausanne. The Treaty of Lausanne, signed July 24 1923, allowed the new Turkish government to be the only defeated country to be presented in the formulation of the Treaty.
  • The terms of the Treaty of Sevres were cancelled, as the new Turkish government didn’t approve. The main aims of the new treaty included the expulsion of the Greeks, and the control of Constantinople given back to Turkey.
  • As it was the only defeated country to negotiate its treaty, Turkey recovered Thrace and many Aegean Islands, alongside land from the Syrian border, the Smyrna district , and nationalized the Straits of Dardanelles and Bosphorus, though kept it demilitarized. Turkey also regained full control over all of their territory, and international Zones of Influences were withdrawn. Other than this, the limitation on their military was cancelled, and no reparations were paid by Turkey. However, Turkey surrendered all former territories beyond their new drawn borders. A separate treaty was also signed with Greece.
  • One of the greatest accomplishments of the Treaty of Lausanne was that it wasn’t signed in France, and was the only peace treaty of World War I that allowed the defeated country to represent itself, and argue during the formulation of the treaty, which was finally signed on July 24th of 1923.
  • However, it was only on August 6th of 1924 that the Treaty was put into practice. Turkey, amongst its territory, reclaimed some political power as they were once again in complete control of the Strait of Dardanelles and the Strait of Bosphorus, which remained an important passageway of trade for the rebuilding countries after the destruction of World War I.
  • This also improved their economy, which they regained control over, as there were large markets with merchandise and merchants from around the world. Never the less, German commerce was still strictly forbidden.

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