Evolution and Causes of the World War I
World War I was caused by complex reasons which had long been creating tensions. The actual war was caused by what can best be described as a ‘chain or cascade of events’ and the root causes of this war are the subject of much debate (America Government, 2011).
1815- Holy Alliance between Austria, Russia and Prussia was formed to maintain a delicate power balance in the region
1873-The League of the Three Emperors was formed through the engineering of German Chancellor, Bismarck. The league was formed by the monarchs of Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary.
1879-Austria-Hungary and Russia disagree over Balkan policy. The League of the Three Emperors falls apart. The Dual Alliance between Austria-Hungary and Germany is formed.
1881-The Triple Alliance was formed with the inclusion of Italy to Germany and Austria-Hungary.
1887- The Reinsurance Treaty between Germany and Russia. This treaty stated that both powers would remain neutral if war occurred with a third country. The treaty lapsed after three years.
1892-The Franco-Russian Military Convention between France and Russia was signed. It was aimed at dissipating the threat presented by the Triple Alliance.
1904-Entente Cordiale was signed by Britain and France to set basis for diplomatic relations.
1907- An agreement between Britain and Russia by signing of the Anglo-Russian Entente.
1907- The Triple Entente was an agreement between Britain, France and Russia).
1912-1913- A series of minor conflicts in the Balkans; countries involved were Italy, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Austria-Hungary. This was over additional territories in some regions of Asia and Africa took place. This gave certain nations more stake in the war when WWI began.
1914- Triple Entente between Britain, France and Russia. They agreed not to sign for peace separately.
1870-1914- There was a fierce arms race between Britain, Germany, Russia and France.
1914- In June, the Archduke of Austria-Hungary, Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo under direction of a Serbian nationalist group, Black Hand. This led to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia. This directly sparked the World War I as alliances and other factors came into play (Munck and Fagan, 2009).
1917- Germany engaged in unbridled attacks against all ships in waters around Europe regardless of nation. Several Americans were killed and Germany ignored America’s appeals to refrain from attacking its ships.
1917- America joined WWI in assistance of the France and Britain and in response to Germany’s attacks. President Wilson engaged in this war due to moral reasons. He said that engagement in this war was to protect mankind and its ability to be free, to ensure democracy instead of tyranny. He wanted to preserve all individual freedoms across all nations as he felt that Germany was blocking this through its restriction of commerce by attacking all ships. Industry production boomed to support the war. This led to new technologies to meet the increasing demands of ammunition and raw materials. There were more employment opportunities for women and African-Americans as able-bodied men had been dispatched to the war zones.
1920- The women’s suffrage movement gained constitutional approval for women to vote through the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment. Women had proved themselves through their contributions to the war.
1920-1929: This period was known as the ‘Roaring Twenties’. It was a time of great artistic innovations, cultural shifts and economic prosperity due to the industrial boom that began during the war.
Mid 1920s- The automobile became an affordable necessity thanks to the assembly line production method employed by Henry Ford. The arts also gained popularity, plays and literary works were highly appreciated. The radio was also invented which revolutionized entertainment and business as it became a mode of advertisement. The Jazz Age emerged due to popularity of jazz music. This led to a sexual revolution where women acquired sexual freedoms, adopted widely the use of contraceptives and even dressed differently. Women began to sport shorter hair and skirts in celebration of their freedoms (America Government, 2011).
1929-The Stock Market Crash which led to the Great Depression caused widespread unemployment and economic strife in America. The economic prosperity of the 1920s had caused investors to become overoptimistic in the stock market. Millions of Americans therefore invested most of their wealth in the stock market which unfortunately crashed.
1930s- Many banks failed in this period, over 9000 banks closed down. The deposits made by citizens were not insured so they lost all their savings.
1930- The Smoot-Hawley Tariff was created; it allowed for imports to be charged high import taxes in an attempt to protect local American companies. This reduced trade between America and other countries and also contributed to the economic depression experienced at the time.
1930s-By this time, the effects of the Great Depression were being felt by Americans; approximately 34 million citizens had no jobs or sources of income as an immediate effect of the depression. Many people became poor and it as estimated that over 60% of the population was living in poverty. A large number of people also became homeless and wandered around in search of work. American farmers were also devastated as they were making no profits on thier produce.
1933- The New Deal was a term coined by President Franklin Roosevelt as he took over power in 1933. The New Deal was meant to use government’s authority to help all groups, sectors and classes of Americans. This was evident in the setting up of programs like Social Security and banking regulations; the government abandoned the hands-off leadership style and became more involved in peoples welfare. The American citizens were more aware of the role of government in the solution of economic and social problems required political and national solutions.
The New Deal was of great help to farmers. Programs like the FCA (Farm Credit Association) and the REA (Rural Electrification Administration) to help farmers cushion effects of the depression. The New Deal was also very crucial in advancing the cause of equality among African Americans. Finally it was argued to have been the strongest defence of capitalism in that era. All these effects are still felt today and are much a part of America as we know it (Tishler and Schultz, 2011).
1930s- The Treaty of Versailles which was signed in 1919 to end the war was not favorable to Germans and they blamed the treaty for their problems. With the set up of the new German republican government the German people resented it for signing the treaty. The unemployed people then began to change and join the nationalist socialist (Nazi) and communist parties, therefore Adolf Hitler’s Nazi gained power.
Four dictators rose to power, these were Adolf Hitler of Germany, Benito Mussolini of Italy, Joseph Stalin of Russia and Francisco Franco of Spain.
1933- Adolf Hitler was made the Chancellor of Germany. Popular German sentiment resented the Treaty of Versailles and he realized that the rest of Europe was not eager to enforce it.
1934-Hitler began to build up Germany’s weapons secretly, increased the army’s size and began an air force. France and Britain did not act to avoid war.
1935- Abyssinia was invaded by Italy; the League of Nations was powerless to stop this.
1938- Germany marched into Austria forcing it to be united to Germany. Hitler lied that that would end his expansionist plans. After six months, Hitler demanded for Sudetenland in Czechoslavakia to be given to Germany. Sudetenland was given to Germany on the understanding that he would not invade Czechoslavakia.
1939- Hitler broke the Munich Agreement by invading the Czech Republic.
1941- The Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th. The USA made a declaration of war against the Japanese the following day; with Italy and Germany subsequently declaring war against USA. President Roosevelt was convinced that if Germany was not stopped, Hitler would try and conquer the US and thus interfere with individual freedoms and democracy of people (America Government, 2011).
1941- One of the main effects of WW2 was that unemployment ended. In fact, there were labor shortages. Women and blacks continued to join the workforce. Americans became more conservative and recycle materials like rubber, paper and metal from their households so as to suport the war.
1942- The war influenced American fashions as clothes were designed to use less fabric. Foodstuffs were rationed frustrating Americans who had money to spend but here were limited goods to purchase.
1945- At the end of the war, the US economy was highly stimulated and the economic depression ended; in fact, the US economy dominated the world’s economy. America was also the most powerful nation as it possessed the atomic bomb. The United Nations was established and significant nations around the world including the US were members.
Women continued to become more liberated as they were part of the workforce and Blacks who had been allowed to serve in the war also made a stride towards achieving racial equity.
America Government (2011).World War I, 1920s Prosperity, the Great Depression. Available at http://www.america.gov/st/educ-english/2008/June/20080610224125eaifas0.4326097.html
Fagan H. and Munck R. (2009). Globalization and Security. California: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Rusty Dennen. (2004). Author gives life to epic war stories. McClatchy – Tribune Business News
Schultz S. & Tishler W.(2011).World War II: The Impact at Home. Available at http://us.history.wisc.edu/hist102/lectures/lecture21.html