World War One was said to be a war that would end all future wars. However, with World War 2 following afterwards, obviously man was mistaken. In fact, many historians believe that the seeds for World War 3 have already been sown as well. With a spark anywhere in the Middle East, Chinese-Taiwan sea border or the Korean peninsula, World War 3 could be a very realistic possibility. World Wars are best defined as conflicts that span over 2 continents. Historians believe that a war can be classified as a World War if it meets the first requirement, and has the involvement of 20 or more countries. The use of alliances, conscription and massive resource allocation towards war are some of the other conditions needed.
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World War 1 was one such war. The war was fought mainly on the European, Asian, and African continents. The conflict that left 15 million people killed in the aftermath all began with a single spark; the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, on 28th June, 1914. With the Austro-Hungarian Empire deeply aggrieved by the circumstance, their leaders put difficult treaty conditions on the Serbian state.
Though the Serbian State accepted most, rejecting some minor clauses, the Austro-Hungarian Empire attacked (Gilbert, 2004). With the tangle of diplomatic treaties already in place across Europe, nations who were least involved in the initial start became leaders of war campaigns. Nations dragged into the war included; Great Britain, USA, Italy, Germany, Russia, France, Japan, Austro-Hungary and Serbia.
Though there were many causes identified which resulted in the First World War, the main were as follows:
The formations of alliances: The system of secret alliances had long been established since the end of the Franco-Prussian War. Sides had been chosen, alliances formed and stockpiling of weapons was already underway even before the assassination of the Prince of Austro-Hungarian Empire took place. These alliances were the entanglements that resulted in the involvement of so many countries into war. Because the continent had been split so vividly across two sides, each having their own agreements related to defense, aggression and mutual co-operation, it was inevitable all of Europe would be at war because of two countries (Gilbert, 2004). Many countries tried avoiding the war by keeping a neutral stance but could not in the long term due to their alliance obligations.
Colonization: During that era in time, nations were busy acquiring colonies. European countries were massively competing against each other in trying to acquire the most resources possible. Areas such as Africa and China often became a source of discontent when territorial boundaries could not be sustained or controlled (Gilbert, 2004). This was also a reason for the present hostilities during that time.
Militarism: with the pressure on national economies to support larger armies and new technology related to war equipment, the armies of various nations were given more and more power. Because of this, civilian administration began to decline and more authority rested with military officers. Already trigger happy, these nations had developed national plans relating to security and mobilization issues well before the war had started, as if anticipating it in advance. To ensure their country’s dominance, espionage was often used to unfold other nation’s plans. This created great animosity amongst major military players in the region which unfolded in the battlefield of world war one (Gilbert, 2004).
Nationalism: Politicians, military leadership and people alike started enforcing upon the public a sense of nationalism. This strong feeling generated a patriotic tune amongst the masses for their country stirring hatred amongst ethnic groups, countries and often their own minorities. War speeches touched upon these aspects and further brain washed the innocent public. More and more recruits poured in to protect the “mother land” and in doing so automatic conscription took place. (Gilbert, 2004)
The war claimed an end to four great empires of the European continent; German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman. The Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires do not exist anymore and have been divided into several smaller states. The war created massive devastation across Europe and other continents. The war that lasted, from 1914-1918, realized a terrible end to many nations. Germany, Austria-Hungary, France lost 15.1%, 17.1% and 10.5% of their active male populations because of the war, respectively (Keegan, 2000).
Germany was forced to claim responsibility for the war and made to sign the Treat of Versailles. At the same time, all her colonies were snatched and she was made to make enormous war reparations, along with territory, to the victors (Keegan, 2000).
Russia lost many of its western territories while the Austro-Hungarian Empire was broken along ethnic lines. The Ottoman Empire’s territories were seized and awarded amongst victor nations
In the end, out of the 70 million recruited soldiers that were mobilized in Europe, 15 million died (Gilbert, 2004). Civilian causalities have yet to be assessed accurately but are sure to match the figures above.
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