-Led to Arms Race When a nation built up its military, its enemies saw it as a move toward war
Ex. Germany built up its navy to compete with Great Britain’s navy, causing tension between the two countries
Alliances: agreements between countries to help each other during wartime
Alliances pulled many countries into the war
The Allied Powers (The Allies; Triple Entente)
Great Britain, France, and Russia (until 1917)
The Central Powers (Triple Alliance)
Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire
Imperialism: building empires by expanding territory and gaining colonies
Competition for colonies led to intense rivalries among the European powers
The newly united countries of Germany and Italy were anxious to establish colonies to gain wealth & international influence, & competed with other nations to do so.
Ex. as Germany industrialized, it competed with France and Britain in the contest for colonies, which were a source of raw materials & a market for finished goods
Nationalism: strong feelings of pride and unity among a particular group of people
A ‘Nation’ refers to a group of people who share a common language,religion, history and traditions. Not all nations had states; many were included in empires. Ethnic & ideological differences led to conflict within these empires. Led nations to seek to create empires or break away from them
Nationalism also spurred competition among states in military strength& led European nations to establish a complex system of military alliances.
The various European powers start developing very nationalistic identities.
This is especially so for Italy and Germany, which had traditionally segmented into smaller states but finally united into centralized countries late in the 1800’s.
Germany was also rapidly industrializing under an autocratic, militaristic style of government.
The Spark that Begins WWI
Trouble in the Balkans (multi-ethnic region of Southeastern Europe)
Serbia wanted to take control of Bosnia
Austria-Hungary took over Bosnia
Archduke Franz Ferdinand (the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary) was assassinated by a Serbian terrorist
Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia
The resulting confrontation between Austria-Hungary & Serbia quickly involved much of Europe in conflict due to the alliance system. Austria moves to punish Serbia, Russia comes to the aid of Serbia, and then all those alliances engage as everybody declares war on everyone else in a tragic domino effect.
US INVOLVEMENT IN WWI
US is neutral at first
The U.S. declared neutrality at the outbreak of the war, however various factors challenged American neutrality & eventually led to the involvement of the U.S. in the Great War.
The traditional trading partnership with Great Britain & the blockade of German ports by the British navy severely limited American trade with Germany.
American businesses made loans to the Allies in order to continue trade.
Public opinion was impacted by America’s traditional connection to the British.
While the armistice of 11/11/18 ended the fighting, the Treaty officially ended the war.
President Wilson took a leadership role at the Versailles Conference.
He hoped to create a lasting peace based on the principles of his Fourteen Points which he hoped would eliminate many of the causes of the war, but did not understand the desires of the European leaders of France, Italy, & Great Britain.
The 14 Points
The points were divided into 3 groups:
-The first 5 points were issues that Wilson believed had to be addressed to prevent another war:
a. There should be no secret treaties among nations.
b. Freedom of the seas should be maintained for all.
Tariffs & other economic barriers among nations should be lowered or abolished in order to foster free trade.
Arms should be reduced “to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety, thus lessening the possibility of military responses” during diplomatic crises.
Colonial policies should consider the interests of the colonial peoples as well as the interests of the imperialist powers.
-The next eight points dealt with boundary changes.
Wilson based these provisions on the principle of self-determination “along historically established lines of nationality.” In other words, groups that claimed distinct ethnic identities were to form their own nation-states or decide for themselves to what nations they would belong.
The fourteenth point called for the creation of an international organization to address diplomatic crises like those that had sparked the war.
This League of Nations would provide a forum for nations to discuss & settle their grievances without having to resort to war.
The other allies were determined to protect their own national interests.
They imposed a war guilt clause (accept responsibility for war)&
reparations payments on Germany. Germany forced to give up its colonies and some
New national borders drawn at the conference based on self determination
of peoples could not accommodate all of the complexity of ethnic diversity within
These actions laid the basis for the next war. It was a punishing peace and the Germans were absolutely humiliated by it. The implicit purpose of the Treaty was to cripple Germany so badly that it could never again be a threat. This resentment continues and helps feed into the rise of the Nazis. The reparations demands also hamper the German economy and helps lead into the depression.
Back at home in the US
President Wilson was able to include the League of Nations in the Treaty of Versailles, however the U.S. Senate was hesitant to involve the U.S. in European affairs on a permanent basis. They were concerned that it would get US involved in future military action without the consent of the Senate.
Wilson was unwilling to compromise with the Senate & his physical incapacity as a result of a stroke made compromise impossible.
The Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles & did not become a member of the League of Nations.
The U.S. later made a separate peace with Germany & sent observers to