The text rightly calls World War I the defining event of the twentieth century. The June 28, 1914, assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, by a Serbian terrorist, was the final spark. National rivalries were compounded by ethnic groups who had yet to secure their own “nation.” Social and class conflict led politicians to engage in foreign adventures to distract the masses. Conscript armies were ready. Perennial conflict in the Balkans threatened a wider war, given the tight-knit alliance systems. Austria, after receiving a “blank check” by Germany, declared war against Serbia on July 28. Germany declared war on Russia after the latter’s military mobilization. Germany’s Schlieffen Plan was to attack France through neutral Belgium. By August 4, the Great War had begun. Initially there was great enthusiasm. War gave excitement to ordinary lives, and most assumed that it would soon be over. The Germans drove the Russians back in the east, but in the west a stalemate developed, with trenches extending from the Swiss border to the English Channel, defended by barbed wire and machine guns. Attacking troops had to cross “no man’s land”: 21,000 British died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Artillery, poison gas, seasonal mud, and ever-present rats and decaying corpses added to the carnage.

The Ottoman Empire joined Germany, and Italy adhered to the Entente. After German submarine attacks, the United States entered the war in 1917. Conscription ensured a steady supply of soldiers. Governments took the economic lead, especially in producing munitions, and wage and price controls were instituted. Propaganda was employed to keep up morale, and newspapers were censored. Many women entered the labor force, and after the war were given the vote in the United States and Britain. Fortunes were made by some, but inflation hurt many.

Russia was unprepared for war, lacking a large industrial base or adequate leadership, and public support waned because of military losses. When bread rationing was introduced in March 1917, women demonstrated in the streets of St. Petersburg/Petrograd. The Duma established a Provisional Government and Nicholas abdicated on March 15. But socialist soviets, or workers’ councils, challenged the new government’s legitimacy. A faction of the Marxist Social Democrats was the revolutionary Bolsheviks of V.I. Lenin, who returned to Petrograd in April, where he campaigned for “Peace, Land, and Bread” and “All Power to the Soviets.” The war was increasingly unpopular, and in November the Bolsheviks seized power. Lenin established a dictatorship and signed a costly peace with Germany. Civil war broke out between the Bolshevik Reds and the Whites, who were unable to agree politically and militarily. Able military leaders, interior lines of defense, and “revolutionary terror” led the Bolsheviks to victory by 1921.

After Russia’s withdrawal from the war, Germany launched a massive attack in the west. However, the war had taken its toll in Germany, and in the fall, after American troops entered the conflict, the German government collapsed. On November 11, 1918, an armistice was signed. Riots occurred in Germany, but an attempted Bolshevik revolution failed. The peace delegates gathered at Paris in January 1919. Some, like America’s Woodrow Wilson, had idealistic hopes, including an association of nations to preserve the peace. Others wanted to punish Germany. The most important of five separate treaties was the Treaty of Versailles; Article 231 required Germany to accept guilt for causing the war and pay reparations. Its army was reduced to 100,000, and it lost territory to France and Poland. The Austrian and Ottoman empires were casualties of the war and the subsequent treaties. The United States refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and did not join the League of Nations, the institution that was to guarantee permanent peace.

  1. Explain the context in which global conflict developed in the 20th century.
    1. Total war and political instability in the first half of the 20th century gave way to a polarized state order during the Cold War and eventually to efforts at transnational union.
      1. World War I, caused by a complex interaction of long- and short-term factors, resulted in immense losses and disruptions for both victors and vanquished.
      2. The conflicting goals of the peace negotiators in Paris pitted diplomatic idealism against the desire to punish Germany, producing a settlement that satisfied few.
  2. Explain the causes and effects of World War I.
    1. World War I, caused by a complex interaction of long- and short-term factors, resulted in immense losses and disruptions for both victors and vanquished.
      1. A variety of factors including nationalism, military plans, the alliance system, and imperial competition turned a regional dispute in the Balkans into World War I.
  3. Explain how new technology altered the conduct of World War I.
    1. New technologies confounded traditional military strategies and led to trench warfare and massive troop losses.
      • Illustrative Examples of New technologies: Machine gun, Barbed wire, Submarine, Airplane, Poison gas, Tank
  4. Explain how the developments of World War I changed political and diplomatic interactions between and among nations.
    1. The effects of military stalemate, national mobilization, and total war led to protest and insurrection in the belligerent nations and eventually to revolutions that changed the international balance of power.
    2. The war in Europe quickly spread to non-European theaters, transforming the war into a global conflict.
      • Illustrative Examples of Non-European theaters of conflict: Armenian Genocide, Arab revolt against the Turks, Japanese aggression in the Pacific and on the Chinese mainland
    3. The relationship of Europe to the world shifted significantly with the globalization of the conflict, the emergence of the United States as a world power, and the overthrow of European empires.
      • Illustrative Examples of Collapse of European empires: Mandate system, Creation of modern Turkey, Dissolution of Austro-Hungarian Empire
  5. Explain the causes and effects of the Russian Revolution.
    1. The Russian Revolution created a regime based on Marxist Leninist theory.
      1. In Russia, World War I exacerbated long-term problems of political stagnation, social inequality, incomplete industrialization, and food and land distribution, all while creating support for revolutionary change.
      2. Military and worker insurrections, aided by the revived Soviets, undermined the Provisional Government and set the stage for Lenin’s long-planned Bolshevik Revolution and establishment of a communist state.
        • Illustrative Examples of Discontent and revolution: Mutinies in armies, Easter Rebellion in Ireland, Russian Revolution
      3. The Bolshevik takeover prompted a protracted civil war between communist forces and their opponents, who were aided by foreign powers.
        • Illustrative Examples of Revolutionary change in Russia: February/March Revolution, Petrograd Soviet
      4. In order to improve economic performance, Lenin compromised communist principles and employed some free-market principles under the New Economic Policy.
  6. Explain how and why the settlement of World War I failed to effectively resolve the political, economic, and diplomatic challenges of the early 20th century.
    1. The conflicting goals of the peace negotiators in Paris pitted diplomatic idealism against the desire to punish Germany, producing a settlement that satis ed few.
      1. Wilsonian idealism clashed with postwar realities in both the victorious and the defeated states. Democratic successor states emerged from former empires and eventually succumbed to signi cant political, economic, and diplomatic crises.
        • Illustrative Examples of Democratic successor states: Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia
      2. The League of Nations, created to prevent future wars, was weakened from the outset by the nonparticipation of major powers, including the U.S., Germany, and the Soviet Union.
      3. The Versailles settlement, particularly its provisions on the assignment of guilt and reparations for the war, hindered the German Weimar Republic’s ability to establish a stable and legitimate political and economic system.
      4. The League of Nations distributed former German and Ottoman possessions to France and Great Britain through the mandate system, thereby altering the imperial balance of power and creating a strategic interest in the Middle East and its oil.
        • Illustrative Examples of Mandate territories: Lebanon and Syria, Iraq, Palestine

Reading 1: Pages 760-765

The Road to World War I:
     Internal Dissent
     The Outbreak of War: The Summer of 1914

Reading 2: Pages 765-770

The War
     1914-1915: Illusions and Stalemate:
     1916-1917: The Great Slaughter

Reading 3: Pages 770-775

The War:
     The Widening of the War
     A New Kind of Warfare

Reading 4: Pages 775-781

The War:
     The Home Front: The Impact of Total War

Reading 5: Pages 781-787

War and Revolution:
     The Russian Revolution

Reading 6: Pages 787-793

War and Revolution:
     The Last Year of the War
     Revolutionary Upheavals in Germany and Austria-Hungary
The Peace Settlement:
     Peace Aims
     The Treaty of Versailles
     The Other Peace Treaties