- explain the causes of the First and the Second World Wars
- describe the course of the First and the Second World Wars
- discuss the results of the First and the Second World Wars
- explain the reasons for the formation of the League of Nations
- describe the organisation of the League of Nations
- analyse the performance of the League of Nations.
World War I
World War One - Causes
The actual causes of the war were;
- The system of Alliances - An alliance is an agreement made between two or more countries to give each other help if it is needed. A number of alliances had been signed by countries between the years 1879 and 1914. For example, the Dual Alliance signed by Germany with Austria and Hungary in 1879 and later joined by Italy in 1882 to become the triple Alliance. This system led to the division of Europe into two antagonistic power blocs. It led to fear and suspicion between nations. It transformed local disputes into a general conflict. The Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy were directly opposed by the Entente powers of France and Russia and later included Great Britain to form the Triple Entente in 1907.
- Imperialism - Imperialism is when a country takes over new lands or countries and makes them subject to their rule. By 1900, the British Empire extended over five continents and France had control of large areas of Africa. With the rise of industrialism, countries needed new markets. The amount of lands 'owned' by Britain and France increased their rivalry with Germany who had entered the scramble to acquire colonies late and only had small areas of Africa.
- Economic rivalry - According to Marxism, the highest form of capitalism would ultimately lead to an inevitable war through economic rivalry. In the late 19th century, all European powers had industrialized or had started. Therefore, to match the needs of economy and industry, nations sought to expand their territory through imperialism in order to gain raw materials and markets. This then led to the clash of imperial interest between nations and ultimately led to conflict and war.
- Militarism - Militarism means that the army and military forces are given a high profile by the government. The growing European divide had led to an arms race between the main countries. The armies of both France and Germany had more than doubled between 1870 and 1914 and there was fierce competition between Britain and Germany for mastery of the seas. The British had introduced the 'Dreadnought', an effective battleship, in 1906. The Germans soon followed suit introducing their own battleships. The German, Von Schlieffen also drew up a plan of action that involved attacking France through Belgium if Russia made an attack on Germany.
- Nationalism - Nationalism means being a strong supporter of the rights and interests of one's country. The Congress of Vienna, held after Napoleon's exile to Elba, aimed to sort out problems in Europe. Delegates from Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia decided upon a new Europe that left both Germany and Italy as divided states. Strong nationalist elements led to the re-unification of Italy in 1861 and Germany in 1871. The settlement at the end of the Franco-Prussian war left France angry at the loss of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany and keen to regain their lost territory. Large areas of both Austria-Hungary and Serbia were home to differing nationalist groups, all of whom wanted freedom from the states in which they lived.
- Moroccan Crisis - In 1904 Morocco had been given to France by Britain, but the Moroccans wanted their independence. In 1905, Germany announced her support for Moroccan independence. War was narrowly avoided by a conference which allowed France to retain possession of Morocco. However, in 1911, the Germans were again protesting against French possession of Morocco. Britain supported France and Germany was persuaded to back down for part of French Congo.
The First Moroccan Crisis clearly indicated that Germany’s relation with France was at best fragile. In 1905 Morocco was one of the few African states not occupied by a European power. In May 1905 it was agreed that an international conference should be held on Morocco in Algeciras.
The Algeciras Conference of 1906
The main aim was to decide what was to be done with regards to Morocco. The two main protagonists at Algeciras were France and Germany. However, it soon became very clear to Germany that other European powers had sided with France – Britain, Spain and Italy. The Algeciras Conference ended on April 7th 1906.The Germans got very little out of the conference. The plan to create a triple alliance or even a quadruple alliance to isolate Great Britain failed. Arguably, by the end of the conference, Britain and France had even closer ties to one another. A German presence in North Africa had also failed to materialize. The French media portrayed Germany as an inferior nation, much to the concern of the more experienced politicians in Paris. The Algeciras Conference may have ‘resolved’ the crisis in Morocco but the outcome clearly defined Europe into certain camps. At this conference Germany publicly lost out.
The Agadir Crisis of 1911 (the Second Moroccan Crisis.)
The Agadir Crisis occurred in 1911 just four years after the First Moroccan Crisis. Germany’s attention was diverted after the 1905-06 crises by other issues, mainly building up her navy so that it rivaled the Royal Navy. As a result France spent five years having far more influence in Morocco than Germany. They backed the corrupt Sultan, Abdul Aziz, who was accused by some of his countrymen of selling out Morocco to the French. The half-brother of Aziz, Mulay Hafid, took a stand on behalf of the Moroccan people who proclaimed him Sultan in January 1908. Fez also came under attack. In April 1911 a decision was made in Germany to send troops to Fez to support the foreign contingent living there. The plan was to send German warships to Agadir and Mogador ostensibly to defend German citizens in Morocco. A gunboat, the ‘Panther’, was sent to Agadir on July 1st 1911.
What part did the Agadir Crisis play in the outbreak of World War One?
The episode proved that Germany was hell-bent on trying to dominate Europe as a whole. Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George were among those who believed this.
7) Bosnian Crisis
In 1908, Austria-Hungary took over the former Turkish province of Bosnia. This angered Serbians who felt the province should be theirs. Serbia threatened Austria-Hungary with war. Russia, allied to Serbia, mobilized its forces. Germany, allied to Austria-Hungary mobilized its forces and prepared to threaten Russia. War was avoided when Russia backed down. There was, however, war in the Balkans between 1911 and 1912 when the Balkan states drove Turkey out of the area. The states then fought each other over which area should belong to which state. Austria-Hungary then intervened and forced Serbia to give up some of its acquisitions. Tension between Serbia and Austria-Hungary was high.
8) The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
A secret society called Ujedinjenje Ili Smrt, ('Union or Death') or Black Hand was founded in Belgrade, an outgrowth of an older Serb nationalist group: Narodna Odbrana. When it was learned that the Heir-Apparent to the Austrian throne, Franz Ferdinand, was scheduled to visit Sarajevo in June of 1914, the Black Hand decided to assassinate him. Three young Bosnians were recruited, trained and equipped: Gavrilo Princip, Nedjelko Cabrinovic and Trifko Grabez. The murders of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie brought Austro-Serbian tensions to a head. As Vienna took a hard line against Serbia, the other powers in Europe took sides. The wheels of war gained speed. The Crisis of July turned into world war, just over thirty days after Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were shot.
System of Alliances.
By 1914, Europe had divided into two camps.
1) The Triple Alliance was Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary.
2) The Triple Entente was Britain, France and Russia.
1) The Triple Alliance
The alliance between Germany and Austria was natural. Both spoke the same language - German - and had a similar culture. Austria was in political trouble in the south-east of Europe - the Balkans. She needed the might of Germany to back her up if trouble got worse. Italy had joined these countries as she feared their power on her northern border.
Each member of the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria and Italy) promised to help the others if they were attacked by another country. By the close of the war the Central Powers had been extended to incorporate Bulgaria and Turkey
2) The Triple Entente
The Entente Powers comprised a military alliance - driven by a variety of inter-related treaties - of France, Great Britain and Russia.
The Entente alliance sprang from the military concerns of Germany's neighbours to east and west. Russia and France; accordingly in 1894 they signed an alliance based upon fears of growing German power. Britain subsequently forged alliances with both Russia and France once it became clear that Germany intended to construct a navy to match the Royal Navy in the late 1890s. Thus the Entente Alliance was not a formal alliance. The term was later replaced by the more general 'Allies' to include other nations including Italy and Japan.
THE COURSE OF THE WAR.
The Western Front was where most of the fighting between Germany and the Allies happened.
- The war in western front was fought in Belgium and France as per the Schlieffen plan. Count Alfred von Schlieffen, mastermind of the Schlieffen Plan, served as Germany's Chief of the Imperial General Staff from 1891 to 1905. It was Schlieffen's plan, long after he retired from army (1906) that was used for the August 1914 attack on France that was to trigger World War One. The Schlieffen Plan entailed an attack on France (while Russia mobilized her army) followed by an attack on Russia. The plan meant that Germany could place the bulk of her military might on one frontier and then move it to another.
- A devastating attack on France via neutral Belgium as soon as Russia had announced her intention to mobilise, which would take six weeks.
- A holding operation on the Russian/German border to be carried out if necessary and if required.
- Germany was to use 6 weeks to defeat France. a massive and successful surprise attack against France would be enough to put off Britain becoming involved in a continental war
- Germany would then use her modernised rail system to move troops quickly from the French operation to the Russian front. Russia would then be attacked and defeated.
- a) The actions of Russia determined when Germany would have to start her attack on France even if she was ready or not.
- b) It assumed that Russia would need six weeks to mobilise. But she mobilized faster than it was assumed.
- c) It assumed that Germany would defeat France in less than six weeks.
The German Army went into Belgium on the 4 August. On the same day, Great Britain started a war on Germany, because Britain was a friend of Belgium. When the Germans got to the Belgian city of Liège, they did finally push the Belgians out of the city, but it had taken longer than the German generals had planned.
On December 24-25, 1914, there was a temporary halt to the fighting on parts of the Western Front. This was the Christmas truce.
The initial force behind the Christmas Truce came from the Germans. Christmas was celebrated in full, with men visiting across the lines and gifts of food and tobacco being exchanged.
As Christmas ended, both sides reluctantly returned to war, the bonds forged at Christmas slowly eroded as units rotated out and the fighting became more ferocious. By 1915, the Western Front had become a stalemate as both sides engaged in trench warfare. The men on both sides took spades and dug lines of trenches went all the way from Switzerland to the North Sea, because they did not want to be killed. In front of the trenches, there was barbed wire that cut anyone who tried to climb over it, and mines that blew up anyone who tried to run across the "no man's land" that was in between the trenches. Gas was also an important weapon used.
The war in the west was static in the next three years and attempts by the military commanders on both sides to break the stalemate led to deaths of many soldiers. At the battle of the Somme in 1916 60,000 British men died in a single day. It was one of the bloodiest days in the history of the British army.
Seeking to shatter the Anglo-French lines, the German Chief of Staff, Erich von Falkenhayn, began planning a massive assault on the French city of Verdun. The Battle of Verdun lasted from February 21, 1916 until December 18, 1916 and was one of the longest and bloodiest battles of World War I. A brutal battle of attrition, Verdun cost the French an estimated 161,000 dead, 101,000 missing and 216,000 wounded. German losses were approximately 142,000 killed and 187,000 wounded.
Lakes in September 1914.
War in the seas
Importance of Britain’s supremacy at sea
a) The British naval forces assisted in blocking the central powers particularly the Germans from accessing food and raw materials from other parts of the world. This derailed their war plans.
b) Her naval supremacy enabled the allies to capture colonies of the central powers.
c) The sea blockade enabled the allies to maintain uninterrupted communication with other allied forces, as well as safeguard the british food and raw material supplies from other parts of the world.
The final phase of World War 1
The final phase of the war was a second Germany onslaught on France in 1918 where the Germans were decisively defeated in the hands of USA soldiers.
End of World War I.
Two events that led to the end of World War I were:
1) Russia’s withdrawal from the war after the Great Russian revolution.
2) The declaration of war by the United States of America against the central powers.
The First Russian Revolution
In 1917, there was a revolution in Russia. The Russian people didn't want to fight anymore, because the war had been putting burdens on them, and many of them were poor and hungry.
The Second Russian Revolution
Two factions fought to rule over Russia. The passive Mensheviks lost against radical Bolsheviks. The leader of the Bolsheviks was Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) which was Communist who followed the ideas of Karl Marx. The new government sued the Germans for peace, and signed a peace treaty called Brest-Litvosk with the Central Powers in March 1918 at the city of Brest Litovsk.
The Germans and Russians stopped fighting. This gave Germany lots of land in Eastern Europe and the Baltic Sea
USA entry into the war.
The German generals using submarines named U-boats (underwater boats) attacked American ships (Lusitania) that were carrying food and weapons to Great Britain. Some Americans were killed by the submarines.
Germany also wrote a secret telegram note to Mexico suggesting that the two countries work together to attack the United States (the Zimmerman Telegram- because the person who sent it was named Arthur Zimmerman-the german foreign minister).
Other reasons why USA entered the war on the side of the Allies were;
- America was concerned with safeguarding her trade with Britain. (US– Anglo relationship was strong). USA was fully aware that the a defeat of Allied powers would cost her financial and industrial institutions
- The USA and British intelligence were able to link some Germany sympathizers with the industrial sabotage in factories and trade unions in the USA.
- Cruelty of the Germans led to the growth of anti-Germany feelings in the United States. Many of the Allies sympathizers had relatives in either France or Britain.
The socialist politicians declared Germany a republic and met with the Supreme Commander of the allied forces on 7th November 1918, Ferdinand Foch, to negotiate for end of the war with very stiff terms to the Germans.
The stiff terms given to the Germans included;
- a) Germany to withdraw from all occupied territories, including overseas colonies.
- b) All German forces west of the Rhine to be withdrawn.
- c) All German warships to surrender to the Allies.
- d) Occupation of some parts of Germany by the Allies.
- e) All Allied prisoners of war to be released.
Reasons why the allies won World War I.
- a) Allied powers had many supporters drawn from 25 states some of which were Britain, France, Belgium, Russia, Italy, USA, Japan and Portugal. They had more manpower than the central powers.
- b) Germany failure to effectively control her expensive colonies and others turned against her.
- C) USA entry into war on the side of the allies accelerated the defeat of the central powers. The industrial might of USA and her economic wealth helped the Allies to force the central powers to their knees.
- d) The Allies had able and focused political leaders like Lloyd George-the British Premier and Georges Clemenceau, the French Premier.
- e) Germans/axis powers made serious technical mistakes like invasion of the neutral Belgium by Germany which turned the world opinion against the central powers.
- f) Superior naval power of the Allies. The superiority of the British Royal Navy enabled the Allies to enforce a naval Blockade that caused severe food shortages among the central powers.
- g) Germany fought the war on many fronts.
- h) Germany was badly led down by her colleagues like Italy who decamped and Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary who had to be assisted all the time. Turkey on her part easily accepted defeat.
- i) The Allies had financial and industrial resources in Europe and in their colonies which were used to great advantage during the war.
- j) The Allies had powerful weapons e.g. they used Tankers, Aircraft and Battleships.
- i) The allies were united under the Command of General Foch which disadvantaged the central powers. German also used young and inexperienced soldiers after 1918 due to heavy causalities.
- The central powers were surrounded by the Allies as they lay in the centre of Europe. They also lacked an extensive coastline and thus were easily blockaded.