First World War

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First World War transforms European society

First World War transforms European society


The War to End All WarsWorld War I started in August 1914 and ended in November 1918. The war began as a scuffle between two alliances of European countries: the Allied and the Central Powers. The conflict eventually involved 32 countries, 28 of which supported the Allies (Smith). It is considered to be one of the most violent and destructive wars in European history. World War I was the first total war. The countries involved mobilized their entire populations and economic resources to ensure victory on the battleground. The war radically changed the way Europe is shaped geographically, economically and structurally. The financial losses, topped with the battleground casualties and physical destruction, greatly weakened the European powers. World War I inevitably was a war without parallel. All previous wars were outshined by its never-before-seen scale of destruction, which had a tremendous effect on soldiers, civilians, and governments around the worlds. Its causes are subject to argument, but could be narrowed down to nationalism, imperialism, and militarism.


Historians argue that World War I did not only have one cause, but many. However, it is generally accepted that the main causes of the war were nationalism, imperialism, and militarism. Shortly after the beginning of the twentieth century, nations around Europe believed that in order to be great, one must have a powerful military. Simply having a powerful standing army (powerful as in backed up by equivalent machinery and adequate technology) in a nation creates tension and a tacit sense of hostility between the nation and its enemies. Eventually as European nations started building up powerful armies, alliances started to form between nations. The first powerful alliance to form at that time was the Triple Alliance, which consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. Opposing the Triple Alliance was the Triple Entente, which was an alliance between Great Britain, France and Russia. Over time, each alliance became bigger and stronger as it garnered more supporters. After the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria joined the Triple Alliance, they became known as the Central Powers.(Beck,2006)

The Triple Entente managed to win the support of more nations: Italy, Japan, Britain, France and Russia. The knotty web of contending alliances is believed to be the underlying catalyst that lead to the eruption of war. After the two alliances had been formed and sides were taken, tension was widespread all around Europe. Europe was a powder keg waiting for a spark. The term powder keg? is also often used to describe the crisis in the Balkan Peninsula. It was home to a myriad of groups of different nationalities and ethnicities and had a long history of nationalist uprisings and ethnic clashes (Beck 843). A number of Balkan groups struggled to free themselves from Ottoman rule at that time. Most groups in the Balkan region had strong nationalistic beliefs. Each group desired to extend its borders. The spark that effectively started the war was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir ...
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