Descent into the Abyss: World War I and the Crisis of the European Global Order
The Great War: Another name for World War I, used by Europeans until the advent of World
Kaiser Wilhelm II: German emperor in World War I; his aggressive foreign policy is often
blamed for starting the war.
Triple Alliance: Military and political alliance formed before World War I to counter moves by
potential rivals England, France, and Russia; consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy.
Triple Entente: Military and political alliance formed before World War I by England, France,
and Russia; created to challenge moves made by the Triple Alliance.
The Great Powers: The industrialized, colonizing nations of Europe before World War I;
includes England, France, Germany, Russia, and Italy; their rivalries led to the war.
Allied Forces: Name used by countries fighting the Central Powers; major members were
Britain, France, Russia, and Italy; later in the war, the United States and Japan joined their cause.
Central Powers: Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire were the chief powers at
war with the Allies.
Jingoism: Warlike nationalist sentiment spread to and among the middle and working classes in
Europe before the war.
Dreadnought: Class of modern battleship launched by Britain before the war; triggered naval
rivalry, especially with Germany.
Gavriel Princip: Serbian nationalist, assassin of Archduke Ferdinand.
Archduke Ferdinand: Heir to Austro-Hungarian throne; his assassination precipitated the
events that developed into World War I.
Sarajevo: Capital of the Bosnian province in Austria-Hungary; site of Ferdinand’s assassination.
Blank check: Promise of support from Germany to Austria-Hungary after Ferdinand’s
assassination; Austria-Hungary sought reprisals against Serbia; one of many events that cascaded
into global war.
White dominions: Britain’s territories consisting of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand who
sent soldiers into World War I.
Western Front: War zone that ran from Belgium to Switzerland during World War I; featured
trench warfare and massive casualties among the combatants, including Britain, France, Russia,
and Belgium; later included the United States.
Marne River: Site near Paris, France, where Germany’s early offensive was halted and thrown
back; set the stage for four years of trench warfare on the Western Front.
Eastern Front: War zone that ran from the Baltic to the Balkans where Germany, Russia,
Austria-Hungary, and the Balkan nations fought.
Tsar Nicholas II: Last emperor of Russia whose poor military and political decisions led to his
downfall and Russia’s loss in the war; he and Kaiser Wilhelm II made many moves that led to
the start of the war.
Propaganda: Government-sponsored media coverage of the war designed to disseminate onesided
versions of “friendly” and enemy conduct; used to gin up support for the war among its
Bolsheviks: Socialists in Russia who promoted overthrow of the tsar and the establishment of a
socialist state; means “majority” in Russian.
New women: Term used to describe career-oriented women in western Europe and the United
States in the 1920s; they sought increased social and political rights.
Jutland: Site of the war’s major sea battle between Germany and Britain off Denmark’s coast;
German sea prowess was limited after this encounter.
Gallipoli: Australian soldiers in support of the British were decimated by Turkish and German
soldiers at this battle near the Dardanelles.
German East Africa: Fighting occurred in Africa between British-led Indian and South African
troops on one side, and German-trained east African troops on the other; today’s Tanzania.
Treaty of Versailles: Wide-ranging postwar conference that promoted much of Wilson’s
idealistic plan for peace but at the same time blamed and punished Germany for starting the war;
included creation of a League of Nations, an international organization designed to prevent
Woodrow Wilson: American president who initially claimed neutrality in the war but later
joined the Allied cause; his Fourteen Points and American fighting forces hastened an Allied
victory; one of the Big Four at Versailles.
Georges Clemenceau: French premier at Versailles peace conference who insisted on punishing
Germany after the war; one of the Big Four.
David Lloyd George: British prime minister at Versailles who attempted to mediate between
Wilson’s “peace without victory” stand and Clemenceau’s, but with only partial success.
Armistice: All sides agreed to lay down their weapons without declaring victory; promoted by
Woodrow Wilson to end the fighting; concept later rejected by France and Britain.
Stab in the back: Myth promoted in Germany after the war that, on the brink of victory,
socialists and Jewish politicians conspired to surrender to the Allies; used by Nazis as part of
their drive to power in the 1920s.
Self-determination: Wilson called for national independence from colonial rule before
Versailles; this encouraged colonial subjects in Asia and Africa until they discovered Wilson
intended his rhetoric only for Europe.
Ho Chi Minh: Young nationalist from Vietnam seeking self-determination for his country at
Versailles; was ignored, like many representatives from Asian and African colonies who were
Indian Congress Party: Nationalist group in India that called for independence from Britain;
led by Western-educated Indian elites; led India in the early postcolonial era.
B. G. Tilak: Nationalist leader who promoted a reactionary sort of Hinduism to gain
independence for India; influence faded after Britain exiled him.
Morely-Minto reforms: In 1909, British colonial authorities expanded political opportunities
for educated Indians.
Mohandas Gandhi: Successful leader of the Indian nationalist movement who combined
religious, social, and political know-how into a massive nonviolent campaign.
Satyagraha: “Truth force,” a term used by Gandhi to describe peaceful boycotts, strikes,
noncooperation, and mass demonstrations to promote Indian independence.
Lord Cromer: British High Commissioner of Egypt at the end of the 19th and early 20th
centuries; implemented many, but apparently not enough, social and economic reforms.
Effendi: Prosperous Egyptian families who made up the middle class; leaders of the Egyptian
nationalist movement came largely from this group.
Dinshawai: Egyptian village where British violence came to represent the heavy-handed nature
of colonial rule and united nationalists in their cause.
Mandates: The Treaty of Versailles established British or French control over territories
formerly held by Germany and the Ottoman Empire; especially important in regard to Arab areas
after the war.
Ataturk (a.k.a. Mustafa Kemal): Postwar leader of Turkey who launched sweeping reforms,
including women’s suffrage and a Latin-based alphabet.
Hussein, Sherif of Morocco: Convinced Arab leaders to support the French and British during
the war because of their pledges of Arab independence.
Zionists: Supporters of Jewish nationalism, especially a creation of a Jewish state in Palestine.
Lord Balfour: British foreign secretary who pledged in a declaration the establishment of a
Jewish homeland in Palestine, which encouraged Jewish nationalists and angered Arabs.
Pogroms: Violent assaults against Jewish communities, especially in Russia and Romania in the
latter half of the 19th century.
Theodor Herzl: Prominent journalist who led the cause of Zionism in the late 19th century.
Alfred Dreyfus: French officer and Jew who was falsely accused of spying for Germany in the
late 19th century; his mistreatment spurred Herzl and other Zionists to increase their call for a
World Zionist Organization: Formed by Herzl and other prominent European Jewish leaders to
promote Jewish migration to Palestine in advance of the creation of a Zionist state in Palestine.
Sa’d Zaghlul: Energetic leader of the nationalist-leaning Wafd Party in Egypt.
Liberal Constitutionalist Party; Labor Party: Rivals to Egypt’s Wafd Party; once in control of
their own government, these three parties did little to help the peasantry.
Gamal Abdel Nasser: Led a military coup in Egypt in 1952; ruled until 1970; established
himself as a major Arab force in the Middle East.
Lord Lugard: Influential British colonial administrator who predicted the rise of African
Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. DuBois: Americans who promoted African nationalism and unity.
Pan-Africanism: Movement begun in the 1920s to promote African nationalism and unity; did
much to arouse anticolonial sentiment.
Negritude: Literary movement in France that argued precolonial African societies were superior
in many ways to European colonial societies in Africa; writers included L.S. Senghor, Leon
Damas, and Aime Cesaire.
National Congress of British West Africa: Regionalized version of the pan-African movement.
Armenian genocide: Assault carried out by mainly Turkish military forces against Armenian
population in Anatolia in 1915; over a million Armenians perished and thousands fled to Russia
and the Middle East.
Adolf Hitler: Nazi leader of fascist Germany from 1933 to his suicide in 1945; created a
strongly centralized state in Germany; eliminated all rivals; launched Germany on aggressive
foreign policy leading to World War II; responsible for attempted genocide of European Jews.
League of Nations: International diplomatic and peace organization created with the Treaty of
Versailles that ended World War I; one of the chief goals of President Woodrow Wilson of the
United States in the peace negotiations; the United States was never a member.
Montagu-Chelmsford reforms: Increased the powers of Indian legislators at the all-India level
and placed much of the provincial administration of India under local ministries controlled by
legislative bodies with substantial numbers of elected Indians; passed in 1919.
Rowlatt Act: Placed restrictions on key Indian civil rights such as freedom of the press; acted to
offset the concessions granted under Montagu-Chelmsford reforms of 1919.
Hussein: Sherif of Mecca from 1908 to 1917; used British promise of independence to convince
Arabs to support Britain against the Turks in World War I; angered by Britain’s failure to keep
promise; died 1931.
Leon Pinsker: (1821 – 1891) European Zionist who believed that Jewish assimilation into
Christian European nations was impossible; argued for return to Middle Eastern Holy Land.
Wafd party: Egyptian nationalist party that emerged after an Egyptian delegation was refused a
hearing at the Versailles treaty negotiations following World War I; led by Sa’d Zaghlul;
negotiations eventually led to limited Egyptian independence beginning in 1922.
Leópold Sédar Senghor: (1906 – 2001) One of the post-World War I writers of the negritude
literary movement that urged pride in African values; president of Senegal from 1960 to 1980.
CLASS DISCUSSION SUGGESTIONS
Describe the causes of World War I.
A combination of imperialism, arms races, industrial might, and nationalism pushed the Great
Powers of Europe into a regional conflict that quickly exploded into a global war of
unprecedented devastation. Adding in diplomatic tensions, colonial rivalries, and arms races
among the Great Powers of Europe all led to the creation of two opposing groups, each dedicated
to out-maneuvering the other.
Describe the effect of World War I on European colonies.
The four years of war caused a disruption in how the European nations administered their
colonies. This disruption encouraged nationalist movements that actually began before World
War I. In return for assistance in the war, both the British and French made promises of
increased self-determination to local elites but reneged on them after the war.
Trace how the Treaty of Versailles led to the rise of totalitarianism in Italy and Germany.
The Treaty of Versailles left its signers dissatisfied. The English and French pushed an
agreement that punished the Germans. Germany was forced to pay restitution and admit
culpability for starting the war. Territories that Italy had hoped to gain as a result of aiding the
Allies were largely ignored and the Italians were pushed out of the negotiations. Ultimately, the
Treaty of Versailles failed to bring a lasting peace, for it angered the people of a defeated and
Identify the weapons and technology that led to massive casualties in the war.
Of the estimated 20 million combatants, one-half were either killed or injured. This is because
both sides developed weapons that led to mass casualties. Both participated in trench warfare.
Although the conditions of life in the trenches brought about many casualties, this fighting style
certainly aided in the casualty count. Other weapons included submarines, air warfare, mustard
gas, landmines, automatic rifles, tanks, and long-range artillery pieces.
Summarize how the entry of the United States changed the war, both militarily and
The United States introduced hundreds of thousands of men into battle late in the war. The Allies
would have eventually won the war as the Germans had little with which to counter. However,
the American troops sped up that defeat. Politically, the United States was brought out of its own
isolationism and viewed and granted victor’s status.
Appraise the unique techniques used by Gandhi in protesting British colonialism.
First, British authorities consistently underestimated the abilities and broad appeal of Mohandas
Gandhi. He appealed to both the masses and the Western-educated nationalist politicians in India. His emphasis on nonviolent but persistent protest weakened British control of India.