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First World War (1914—1918)

First World War (1914—1918)

Alliances in Europe

  • The Great war which broke out in August 1914 was the culmination of the developments of a generation or more. It has already been noticed how-the sudden and overwhelming victory of Germany in the Franco-Prussian War had made her at one stroke the leading power in Europe. With France crushed and isolated, and Great Britain holding herself aloof from the Continent, the direction of European affairs passed to Germany and her masterful Chancellor, Bismarck. The balance of power was upset and Germany became the pivot of European politics. After 1871 Bismarck’s policy was no longer one of “blood and iron”. It was essentially defensive. It was directed towards the protection of his handiwork, the German Empire. Bismarck feared that France might wage a war of vengeance against Germany and so henceforth it became his chief business to build up a comprehensive system of alliances so as to keep France completely isolated. His crowning diplomatic achievement was the formation of the famous Triple Alliance, composed of Germany, Austria and Italy. He thus erected a solid phalanx across Central Europe, and as Germany was the dominating member of the coalition, her hegemony in Europe was assured.
  • France, rendered powerless since the France-Prussian War, looked upon this formidable alliance with grave anxiety. Hence she also was on the lookout for an ally. Her opportunity came when a coolness sprang up between Russia and Germany at the Congress of Berlin over the settlement of the Eastern Question. She took advantage of this situation and proceeding cautiously, was successful in forming an alliance with Russia in 1891. Thus was formed the Dual Alliance which ended the period of the isolation of France and served as a counterweight to the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria and Italy. These two great defensive European alliances were formed with the object of maintaining the status quo on the Continent but they did not concern themselves with the extra-European ambition of the Powers. Thus the Dual Alliance confronted the Triple Alliance and the condition of Europe may be described as one of “armed peace.” The Continental Powers of Europe, though at peace with one another, kept a jealous watch upon their neighbours and so an atmosphere of fear and suspicion pervaded Europe. There was a dreadful anticipation of coming catastrophe against which all the Powers busied themselves with making feverish military preparations. This was the outcome of the division of Europe into two rival groups.

German Ambition

  • As a long as Bismarck controlled the affairs of Germany, that country was on the whole a force making for peace in Europe. For Germany was, in Bismarck’s phrase, a “satiated power”, and was interested in maintaining the status quo based upon her supremacy in But after Bismarck’s fail in 1890 Germany’s ambition began to soar higher. As the result of the imperialistic outlook of the age the greatness of a nation was considered to depend not on its standing in Europe but upon the value and extent of its non-European possessions. In other words, the intense and aggressive nationalism of the period demanded that it was not sufficient for a nation to be a great European Power. It must be a world-power. Judged by this new standard of greatness Germany found herself dwarfed by her rivals. England, France and Russia had each built up a huge colonial empire. By 1900 the world had been partitioned among the candidates for world-power, and Germany had been left with the smallest share of extra-European possessions. “Filled with pride in her own achievement, believing herself to be beyond rivalry the greatest nation in the world—greatest in the arts of peace and greatest in the arts of war—Germany could not bring herself to accept the very subordinate place which Fortune had assigned to her in the imperial sphere.” She felt that unless she acquired a world-empire worthy of her position in Europe, she would sink into the second or third rank among nations. Hence she demanded her “place in the sun”, and was determined to carve out for herself a world-empire commensurate with her position. So from the beginning of the twentieth century she tried in every direction for possible outlets and means of expansion and everywhere she found the way barred against her. Thus Germany became the chief source of unrest and her vaulting ambitions and vision of world-empire may be looked upon as the ultimate cause of the World War. The strongest and proudest of the European nations cannot be expected to be left behind in the race for imperial expansion and Germany refused to accept the partition of the world which the Powers had already effected as final.

Change in the position of England

  • Ever since the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars Britain had on the whole kept aloof from continental entanglements. She had indeed occasionally interfered in European affairs when her interests demanded such a course, but she had contracted no alliance of a permanent character. Thus Disraeli took a prominent part in the Balkan crisis of 1873-78 but it was more on imperial than on European considerations—the old threat of Russia in the Near East which had earlier drawn Britain into the Crimean War. Essentially, Britain’s policy remained one of “splendid isolation”.
  • But it was imperial issues in Africa and Asia that made Britain’s isolation dangerous, and inclined her to modify her policy. With Russia expanding into Central Asia and knocking at the gates of Afghanistan, there occurred a severe crisis in 1885 which almost threatened war. More acute still was Britain s rivalry with France in Africa. The British occupation of Egypt had irritated France and the Fashoda incident had in 1898 brought the two rivals on the verge of war. It was on account of the existence of these outstanding causes of friction with France and Russia, that Britain was on the whole favourably disposed towards the Triple Alliance. She sought to cultivate good relations with Germany and in 1898 Joseph Chamberlain proposed an alliance between Britain, Germany and America. But the German Emperor rejected the proposal. That the Kaiser was not friendly to Britain was first revealed when in 1896 he sent a telegram of congratulation to President Kruger of the Transvaal when the later had repulsed the Jameson raid,—an unauthorised armed incursion into the Transvaal undertaken by a British named Dr. Jameson. This act was deeply resented in England as unwarrantable impertinence. The Anglo-German relations were further embittered during the Boer War (1899-1902) when the public opinion in Germany was vociferously hostile to Britain and sympathetic to the Boers. These incidents threw into high relief the dangers of England’s isolated position and she proceeded to change her policy.
  • The need for this change was unmistakable. The strenuous activity of Germany in the creation of a powerful navy and the declared resolve of the Kaiser that Germany’s future lay upon the sea, filled England with a sense of alarm. No challenge was so certain to arouse the anger of Britain as a challenge to her sea power. It was this pressure of German naval rivalry that drew Britain closer to the side of the Dual Alliance. The development of the Baghdad railway under German auspices and the prospective establishment of a German naval base in the Persian Gulf at the terminus of the railway, tended to produce the same result. With such an active and successful rival in the field whose naval competition threatened her imperial interests, Great Britain thought it necessary to safeguard her position by removing the causes of friction which had alienated her from some of the Powers. Aided by the tact of her sovereign, Edward VII, first turned to France and settled her long standing misunderstanding with that country. In 1904 she made an agreement or Entente with-France by which all differences between the two Powers were made up. This was followed in 1907 by a similar agreement with Russia. Thus France, Russia and England formed a separate diplomatic group known as the Triple Entente. It should be noted that this Entente was in no sense an alliance, and England was not pledged to support either France or Russia in times of war. It simply formed a diplomatic group that was expected to work in harmony in regard to certain measures and problems. Its chief significance lay in the fact that both Britain and Russia drifted away from Germany and had a common distrust of German policy. Now it was Germany’s turn to feel that she was being isolated and encircled by a ring of enemies.

Germany’s Apprehensions

  • The Triple Entente caused intense disquietude to Germany. She looked upon it as an agreement between the three great Powers, who had divided the greater part of the world among themselves, to prevent the realisation of her legitimate aspirations in the imperial sphere. Besides, she suspected that England would support Franco-Russian policy and feared the effect of this support upon France in Alsace-Lorraine and upon Russia in the Balkans. Henceforth she began to level against England the charge of “encirclement” of a deliberate policy of surrounding Germany with a combine of hostile nations—France, Russia and Great Britain. Japan was also included in the group because England had concluded an alliance with her in 1902. Italy for reasons of her own was getting lukewarm in her friendship with Germany and Austria and so was suspected of being enticed away from the Triple Alliance. Thus it appeared plain to Germany that England was responsible for this hostile coalition against her, and the great world-powers stood in the way of her advance in every direction.’ The moral was drawn that war was the only way out. Every stage in Germany’s advance had been won by war, and so a fresh appeal to the sword must be made before it was too late. Thus the fear of encirclement and consequent obstacles in the way of Germany’s free development constituted the most persistent defence of the Kaiser, and of Germany’s, apologists, for the Great War.

International Crises (1905—1914)

  • The formation of the Triple Entente was looked upon by Germany not only as a great obstacle to her ambitions but an event which would greatly undermine her international influence. Hence from 1907 to 1914 she laboured to break up the Entente, to strengthen the position of Austria, her only faithful ally in the Balkans and to win over Turkey to her side. She also insisted upon her right to participate in world-politics on a basis of equality with the other great Powers. It was this new German policy which produced periodic crisis in the relations between the Triple Entente and the Central Powers—crises indicative of an impending war of huge dimensions. These crises had reference to two main groups of difficulties. One arose from the situation in Morocco, and primarily concerned France; the other sprang from the situation in the Balkans, and especially involved Austria and Russia. In both, the difficulty arose directly or indirectly from the restless ambition of Germany to find a bigger “place in the sun”

Moroccan Crises:

  • The affairs of Morocco, an independent Mohammedan country, but extremely lawless and brigand-ridden, produced the first of a series of international crises which preceded the outbreak of the Great War. The crisis arose out of the Anglo-French Entente of 1904. By that agreement Great Britain recognised the prior political right of France in Morocco and agreed that France should have a free hand there, subject to the recognition of Spanish claims to the northern coastal area. Fortified by this treaty France began to pursue a policy of economic penetration and draw up a scheme of reforms for Morocco. Germany was not consulted on the Moroccan question and she felt very much annoyed at being treated as if she were a power of no importance. Besides, she feared that her interest in Morocco, however slight, would be endangered by the establishment of a French protectorate there. Hence the German Government challenged France’s special position in Morocco, which was recognised by the Anglo-French agreement of 1904. Taking advantage of the embarrassment of France’s ally, Russia, then weakened by her defeat in the Russo-Japanese War, the Kaiser in 1905 landed at Tangier in Morocco. He proclaimed that he was the protector of the Mohammedans and that he would champion the integrity of Morocco and the sovereignty of the Sultan. He asserted that no European Power had special rights in Morocco and all Powers were to have the same footing and to enjoy the same privileges. This dramatic stroke was meant as a warning to France and a challenge to the Entente Cordiale. The Kaiser demanded a conference of Powers and at once a crisis developed between France and Germany. Delcasse, the French Foreign Minister, was for resisting Germany’s demands even at the cost of war, but as his Government did not support him he resigned. At length in 1906 an international conference of Powers was held at Algeciras in Spain to settle the Moroccan question. Thus did Germany win a diplomatic victory; but in so far as the real issue at stake was concerned it was a drawn battle. It was agreed that the territorial integrity of Morocco should be maintained and that the policy of the “open door” was to be adopted, in other words, all countries should have equal trading rights in Morocco. France and Spain were accorded a limited right of policing Morocco, and certain internal reforms were devised ol an administrative and financial nature.
  • The result of the Algeciras conference was really a victory for France. Her predominant interests in Morocco were recognised and her position became more regular as it now rested on an international basis. The intervention of Germany had not desired effect of destroying the Entente Cordiale. On the contrary it strengthened the Anglo-French friendship. It is believed in England that Germany was attempting to bully France by the threat of force, and public opinion rallied to the support of the threatened country. At the conference, with the exception of Austria-Hungary, all the Powers including Germany’s own ally, Italy, supported France and so the net result was that the position of the latter was greatly strengthened. Germany had met with a rebuff.
  • One result of the German intervention in Morocco was the rejection of the French scheme of reform. The unruly elements were encouraged to believe that they had the protection of Germany. So lawlessness steadily increased and outrages against European foreigners became more frequent. France had to intervene to restore order bul Germany resented the presence of French troops in Morocco. Hence Franco-German frictions between France and Germany continued. Accordingly in 1909 a Franco-German convention was signed, which was meant to preclude future misunderstanding between these Powers. By it France recognised German claims to economic equality, while Germany in return accepted the special political interests of France in Morocco.
  • The Franco-German agreement of 1909 with regard to Morocco proved disappointing Germany looked with growing jealousy at the attempt of France to tighten her hold upor Morocco and was determined to prevent French annexation of that province or in the alternative, to secure suitable compensation. In 1911 there was a rising of the unruly tribes round Fez, the capital of Morocco, and France interfered with armed troops tc restore order. Thereupon the German Government sent a gunboat, the Panther, to the Moroccan port of Agadir, ostensibly to defend German interest but really to test the strength of the Entente. This move was meant as a warning to France that she alone was not the arbiter of the fate of Morocco and Germany has as much right to intervene there as France. A highly critical situation arose and military preparations were hurried forward both in Germany and France. The British Government replied to this Germar challenge to the Entente by sending a cruiser to watch the Panther and thereby showed that England would support France. Germany, not willing to force the question to the point of war, came to a compromise. She agreed to establishment of a French protectorate over Morocco, and France in her turn agreed to maintain the open door ir Morocco and to cede to Germany a place of the French Congo.
  • The Agadir incident strengthened the Triple Entente and thereby served to consolidate the friendship of France and Great Britain. It also served to increase the French fear and hatred of the Germans. The French regarded the cession of a portion of the Congo region as a blackmail extorted from them by the Germans and so felt greatly mortified. On the other side, the Germans believed that their legitimate interests in Morocco had been sacrificed and their position as a world-power compromised by the joint machinations of England and France. The Agadir incident was thus a forecast of the crisis of 1914.

Balkan Crises – Near Eastern Question

  • The two crises in Morocco between France and Germany were paralleled by two in the Balkans between Austria-Hungary and Russia. The Morocco crises were, however, averted; but the recrudescence of the Near Eastern ferment brought with it so many complex factors and conflicting interests that any satisfactory solution of the problem became impossible. The result was that on two occasions, crisis in the Balkans brought Europe within measurable distance of war, and the third crisis precipitated the worldwide conflict. The first crisis in the Balkans occurred in 1908 when Austria taking advantage of the “Young Turk” revolution, formally annexed the Serb-speaking provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This was a direct violation of the Treaty of Berlin which had authorised Austria only to “occupy and administer” those provinces. But Austria counting upon the certainty of German support, was bent upon pursuing a forward policy in the Balkans in the teeth of all resistance. Her conduct aroused a storm of indignation in Serbia who cherished hopes of including the Bosnian Slavs in a Greater Serbia. Britain protested against the unwarranted breach of the Treaty of Berlin and Russia threatened to take steps against Austrian aggression. A crisis seemed imminent. But Germany turned the scale by declaring that she would stand by Austria’s action and give her full military support. Russia still suffering from the effects of the Japanese war, was forced to swallow her wrath and the little state of Serbia had to acquiesce in the high-handed conduct of Austria. The Central Powers had thus won a diplomatic triumph, but was won at the cost of increased bitterness between Austria on the one hand and Serbia and Russia on the other. The Bosnian Crisis formed a link in the chain of events that led to the Great War.
  • The crisis of 1908 passed without a war but it let loose all the forces which made Serbia the storm-centre in Europe. The annexation of Serb populations of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria aroused a passion of nationalist resentment in Serbia who had come to look upon herself as the champion and liberator of South Slavs both in Turkish and Austrian dominions. This Serbian movement was looked upon with great concern by both Austria and Germany. Austria had millions of Slav subjects under her rule and she feared that their loyalty would be undermined by Serbia’s appeal to Pan Slavic nationalism. Hence in the interests of the integrity of her empire Austria was determined to crush Serbia. Germany also wanted that Serbia should be weak and docile otherwise the project of the Berlin-Baghdad railway would fall through, since Serbia controlled the main railways. Henceforth it became the prime object of Austrian policy to crush or weaken Serbia and behind Austria was Germany in “shining armour,” strong and ready to defy Europe. It was this anti-Serbian attitude of Austria that produced the second crisis in the Near East. During the Balkan war of 1912-13 Austria did her best to thwart the ambitions of Serbia and assumed a most uncompromising attitude. On threat of war, in which she was backed by Germany, she forced Serbia to evacuate various Adriatic towns which the Serbs had conquered from the Turks. It was she who was mainly instrumental in erecting Albania as an autonomous state under a German prince with the object of preventing Serbia from obtaining any outlet to the sea. She even projected an attack upon Serbia but was held in check by the refusal of Italy, a member of the Triple Alliance, to cooperate. Austria’s attitude was resented by Great Britain and Russia and the latter even mobilised her troops to support the claims of Serbia. Austria was also spoiling for a war, but was restrained by Germany who thought that the time was not ripe as yet. Thus was the crisis averted. But the Austro-Serbian feud was greatly intensified and within fifteen months another crisis occurred when Archduke Francis Ferdinand, nephew of the Austrian Emperor, was murdered by a Bosnian serb at Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia. The crisis precipitated the great conflagration of 1914.

Cause of the first World War

  • The Great war of 1914 was the culmination of the developments that had been going on for more than a generation. Its causes are to be sought in the conjunction and intermingling of various forces and tendencies which had been at work for a long time among the nations of Europe. The basic origins of the conflict may be briefly state as follows:
  • First among the fundamental causes of the war was the force of nationalism, one of the heritages of the French Revolution. The resounding triumph of nationalism in Italy and Germany invested it with new vigour and made it a potent force in politics. It inflamed the racial pride of the people, stimulated them to exalt their country above all others, and made them arrogant in their attitude to their neighbours. That was why Lord Acton had branded nationalism as an absurd and criminal principle. It was the excess of nationalism that embittered the rivalries of states like Germany and Great Britain and encouraged them to naval and military squabble over their interests in Asia, Africa and the Balkans. It was the outraged nationalism of the French people that kept alive their spirit of enmity of Germany. The cry of Italia Irredenta (unredeemed Italy) was the Italian-speaking districts of Trieste and the Trentino. Lastly, the unsatisfied national aspirations of the Balkan people made the Balkan Peninsula a veritable tinder-box which before long set all Europe ablaze. As a matter of fact excess of nationalism was at the back of most of the occurrence that led towards the war.
  • The second underlying cause of the war was the vogue of militarism and the system of military alliances. It owed its origin to the diplomacy of Bismarck who realised that France could not easily forget the humiliation inflicted upon her by the loss of Alsace-Lorraine. Hence, to safeguard Germany against a possible French attack, he initiated a system or military alliance. This, in its turn, provoked counter-alliances, and in the result Europe was divided into two hostile armed camps. The Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria and Italy confronted the Dual Alliance of France and Russia, supported by the Triple Entente of England, France and Russia. The worst feature of the alliance system was that the treaties were secret. Hence the alliances designed to preserve peace actually aroused fears and suspicions.
  • The alignment of Powers into mutually suspicious groups-was fraught with grave menace to international peace. In the recurring crises that occurred from 1906 to 1914 the rival groups confronted each other and took sides. Each of the groups had met with diplomatic rebuffs causing loss of prestige. Thus Germany had been outplayed in the two Moroccan crises by France and Great Britain and this was regarded as the defeat of the Triple Alliance. But in the Bosnian crisis of 1908 the Austro-German combination won a victory over the Triple Entente and humiliated Russia. Such alternate diplomatic rebuffs and victories caused increased bitterness, intensified the rivalry of the two system of alliances and thereby set the stage for war.
  • The third underlying cause of the war was the competitive militarism of the time. The rising nationalist sentiments, the increasing tension among the Powers and the existence of the two rival systems of alliances, produced a deep sense of insecurity in the minds of the Powers. The two groups faced each other with the utmost vigilance and suspicion and vied with one another in making military preparations against possible attack. Germany greatly increased the size of her standing army and France lengthened the term of compulsory service from two years to three. Russia adopted a new programme of army expansion. Great Britain added considerably to her already large naval expenditure. This competitive race in armament produced fear and hostility among all nations. Anglo-German naval rivalry was one of the contributory causes of the war.
  • Economic rivalry and imperialism provided another contributory cause of the war. World history during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was characterised by a struggle for markets, for sources of raw materials and fields for investment of surplus capital and for settlement. This struggle was at the bottom of most of the international crises that occurred during two decades before the outbreak of the war. In industrial and commercial competition Germany was gradually gaining ground and this aroused great apprehension in Great Britain or she feared that Germany would outdistance her in the race for world commerce and trade. As a matter of fact British suffered from a veritable “Made in Germany” complex which boded ill for the peace of Europe. This economic competition led to frictions between the two nations and made the people of one look upon the people of the other as rivals and enemies. In lesser degree there were similar economic rivalries among other nations.
  • Imperialism was a constant source of friction among the Powers. As the result of the imperialistic outlook of the age, the greatness of the nation was considered to depend not merely on its standing in Europe, but upon the value and extent of its non-European possessions. Judged by this new standard Germany found herself dwarfed by her rivals. England, France and Russia each of them had built up a huge colonial empire and had practically parcelled out among themselves the non-European possessions—a share quite disproportionate to her real status. Hence Germany sought a “place in the sun” and was determined to carve out for herself a world empire commensurate with her position. She tried to find out possible outlets for expansion in every direction but everywhere found the way closed against her. Her rivals, England France and Russia had most lucrative portion of the world. As a matter of fact her unsatisfied imperialist ambition was the chief source of international frictions and crises that presaged the outbreak of the Great War.
  • The immediate occasion of the war was the bitter enmity between Austria and Serbia in the Balkans. Austria by annexing Bosnia and Herzegovina, provinces akin to Serbia in blood and language, had created a second Alsace-Lorraine in the Balkans. The hot Serbian blood boiled to think that Serbia had been robbed of its birthright and of a legitimate field of expansion. Hence a lively agitation was set afoot by the Serbians with the object of securing the union of these provinces with their own country. But Austria was determined to prevent the expansion of Serbia. She feared that Serbia with her territory enlarged and prestige heightened, might attract to herself millions of Croato-Serbs under Austrian rule. Hence it became the policy of Austria to bottle up Serbia as far as possible. It was at her demand that Serbia was deprived of some of the fruits of her victory in the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, and it was at her instance that the artificial state of Albania was erected to prevent Serbia from getting any outlet to sea. But in spite of Austrian opposition Serbia managed to enlarge her territory and to heighten her prestige. Her impassioned patriotism led her to intensify the Pan- Slavic agitation. Austria in her turn was concerting measures to isolate Serbia and crush her. It was at this posture of events when there was plenty of bad blood on both sides that Archduke Francis, nephew of the Austrian Emperor, and heir-presumptive to the throne, was murdered at Sarajevo by a Bosnian student. This started the Great War.

Beginning of the War

  • It has been already noticed that the incident which precipitated the war was the murder of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand at Sarajevo capital of Bosnia, by a Bosnian student who was a member of the secret terrorist society known as the Black Hand. This incident caused a wave of indignation to sweep over Austria and the people there denounced the Serbians as a “nation of assassins.” The Austrian Government ascribed the crime to anti-Austrian propaganda carried on by the Serbians with the connivance and support of high Serbian officials and accused the Serbian Government of complicity in the piot. After consulting Germany and being fortified by a “blank cheque” from her, Austria just a month after the Sarajevo incident, delivered a drastic ultimatum to Serbia and demanded its unqualified acceptance within forty-eight hours. England. France and Russia tried to induce Austria to extend time limit, but in vain. Serbia in reply yielded to the greater part of Austria’s demands but refused some of them on the ground that to comply with them would involve a violations of her sovereignty. She also offered, in case Austria was not satisfied with her answer, to refer the question to the Hague Tribunal or to a conference of the Great Powers. Austria was not satisfied with this answer and began to prepare for war.
  • Austria’s action draw Russia into the field for Russia, a Slavonic power, was deeply interested in the fate of the Slav states in the Balkans. So she could not stand by and see the small Slav Kingdom of Serbia crushed. She emphatically declared that the Balkan question was one of European concern, as all settlements relating to the Balkan Peninsula had been arrived at by a conference of European Powers; Austria, supported by Germany, stiffened her attitude and declared that the question at issue concerned herself and Serbia and that no other nation had any right to interfere. Most of Europe, including Germany considered the reply of Serbia quite reasonable, and Kaiser William expressed the view that “every reason for war” had been removed and took steps to ease the situation. But Russia would not accept Austria’s views, and when her warnings proved unavailing she mobilised her troops against Austria. The action of Russia brought Germany into the field as she was bound to Austria by the Triple Alliance. The German declaration of war against Russia meant war with France as well because of the Dual Alliance.
  • Till now England had remained aloof. She had tried her best to maintain peace. But Germany’s action soon made England’s neutrality impossible. In order to strike a swift and decisive blow at France the Germans demanded a free passage through the Belgian territory, and when the Belgians refused this unjust demand, the German troops marched into Belgium. This was a flagrant violation of Belgian neutrality which had been guaranteed by the leading European Powers including Prussia. Hence England, true to her treaty obligations, was compelled to declare war upon Germany to vindicate the principles of international justice. There was another reason why England joined the war. For centuries past it had been the cardinal principle of England’s foreign policy to maintain the integrity of the low Countries (Holland and Belgium) so as to prevent the coasts opposite her shores from being used as a base for hostile attacks. The German occupation of Belgium would have been a menace to the safety of England.
  • Italy, although a member of the Triple Alliance announced her neutrality on the ground that her allies were not engaged in a defensive war.
  • The war stands distinguished from other wars by its unexampled magnitude and procedure. It was a worldwide war to which almost all the civilised nations of world were parties and its battles were fought in all the quarters of the globe. The armies in consequence were huge beyond all precedent. Secondly, the war was unusually destructive of human life. This was to a great extent due to the aid which science rendered to the warfare. The use of submarines, poison gases, liquid fire, dirigible balloons, called Zeppelins, tanks, armoured motorcars etc., was a novel feature of this war and accounted for the heavy casualties that followed. But though in these respects this war stood quite apart, it was akin to most of the great European wars of the past in being a war fought for the Balance of Power. Since 1871, Prussia held all Europe in awe. Her ascendancy and aggressive militarism proved a standing menace to the peace of Europe and that was why so many Powers made common cause against her.

The German Offensive, 1914

  • The war began with the German invasion of Belgium. The Belgians offered a gallant resistance at Liege and Namur but were overwhelmed. The Germans under Von Kluck advanced towards the Franco-Belgian frontier driving back the French from Charleroi and outflanking the British army at Mons. Rapid retreat from Mons saved the British and the French army from utter destruction. The whole Allied left and centre swung back, pivoting on Verdun, till it was behind the River Marne. Meantime the French offensive in Alsace and Lorraine had failed. The Germans now pressed on towards Paris and got beyond the Marne. The position was extremely critical for the Allies, but the situation was saved by General Foch. Rapid march had disordered the German forces and a big gap was created between their first and second armies. General Foch quickly seized the opportunity and aided by the British, compelled the Germans to retreat from the Marne to the northern side of river Aisne. The Battle of the Marne was a turning-point of the war. It foiled the German plan of crushing France quickly and thereby gave time to the Allies for a better concerted action.
  • The Germans now entrenched themselves on the Aisne and foiled all attempts of the French to dislodge them. Then each side began to move northwards, trying to outflank the other, but neither succeeding. Both sides stabilised their lines and then began the long four years of stubborn trench warfare on a front that extended from Switzerland to the North Sea. In the meantime the Germans had taken Antwerp and overran the whole of Belgium. They delivered fierce assaults on the English at Ypres but were each time beaten back. The tenacity of the British forces at Ypres against overwhelming odds had earned undying fame for them. The French also repulsed the German attacks at Arras.

The Eastern Front

  • The Russians mobilised much earlier than the Germans had expected and invaded East Prussia. But they were terribly beaten by Hindenburg at Tannanbarg and driven out of German territory. Against the Austrians they were more successful. They overran Galicia and occupied the Carpathian passes from which they threatened the plains of Hungary. But the Germans under Mackensen came to Austria’s rescue, beat back the Russians from Galicia and captured Warsaw. They then established a line from north to south well inside the Russian territory.
  • Italy, though bound to Germany by the Triple Alliance, joined the Allies in 1915. Her object was to recover from Austria some of the provinces which formerly belonged to her.

Operation in the Dardanelles

  • German intrigues had succeeded in inducing Turkey to join the war against the Allies. By holding the Dardanelles Turkey prevented communication between the Allies and Russia and thus prevented the latter from obtaining arms and munitions. Hence an attempt was made by an Anglo-French squadron to force the Dardanelles. But it failed miserably. Then the Allies effected a landing at a heavy cost in the peninsula of Gallipoli but the attempt ended as disastrously as before and the Allied forces had to be withdrawn. “The British failure at Gallipoli was perhaps the greatest disappointment of the war.”

Overthrow of Serbia

  • Serbia had gallantly resisted the Austrians during the first year of the war. But in 1915 she was attacked on the south by the Bulgarians and on the north by the combined Austro-German armies. The Serbian army was completely overwhelmed and all Serbia was occupied. First World War (1914—1918)
  • Thus the year 1915 closed badly for the Allies. The Russians had been beaten back with enormous loss, the Gallipoli expedition failed miserably, Serbia had been crushed while no ground was gained on Western Front nor were British operations in Mesopotamia successful. A British army under Townshed surrendered to the Turks at Kut-el-Amara to the great damage of the British prestige in the East. Later on, General Maude recovered British prestige by taking Baghdad and driving the Turks from the country.

Events in 1916

  • The year 1916 was marked by two operations on a very large scale on the Western Front. The Germans attempted a great offensive at Verdun, the gateway of France. The losses on both sides were enormous but the French maintained their position with unconquerable heroism. The second operation was the Anglo-French offensive on the Somme, conducted on a huge scale. The fighting was severe and the casualties were enormous. A few towns and villages were recovered but the German line remained unbroken. But the offensive relieved the pressure on Verdun and enabled the French to recover the ground they had lost. The Russians were more successful in the East and drove back the Austrians, but their further progress was checked by German reinforcements. The Italians also took the offensive along the Isonzo and obtained Gorizia. First World War (1914—1918)
  • In 1916 Romania, encouraged by the Russian success, declared war on Austria and invaded Transylvania. The Germans sent an army to help Austria and the combined Austro-German troops defeated the Romanians and occupied their capital Bucharest. First World War (1914—1918)

The War of Sea

  • From the outset the British navy seized the command of the sea. German commerce was wiped out and a blockade was established. In the North Sea in 1915 only two minor operations took place, viz., off the Dogger Bank and in the Bight of Heligoland, in both of which the Germans lost heavily. But in 1916 came the Battle of Jutland – the only first class naval engagement during the Whole war. The losses on both sides were heavy— more so on the British side. Hence tactically the battle was a drawn one, though strategically the advantage was with the British, for the German fleet never ventured into the North Sea again. First World War (1914—1918)
  • In other quarters German cruisers like Emden and Dresden did much damage to the Allied commerce by sinking a good many merchant ships. They were, however, run down and sunk. A small German squadron gained a naval victory off the coast of Chile but was shortly after, utterly defeated near the Falkland Islands.
  • The British supremacy on the sea was of invaluable help to the Allies. Besides protecting the shores of Great Britain from German raids, the British navy transported and conveyed soldiers, munitions and supplies of all sorts to the many fields of war. Secondly, it protected British and Allied commerce upon which the very existence of Great Britain depended. England might have been starved into surrender if her navy had failed.

Events in 1917

  • Early in this year the Germans behind the Somme made a successful retreat to a new position of enormous strength, called Hindenburg line. They systematically devastated the country through which they passed and thus prevented the further advance of the Allies. A great French offensive came hopelessly to grief. In the battle of Arras the British took the Vimyridge. Trench warfare continued along the whole line but no appreciable gain was made by either parties.
  • But the year 1917 was marked by two important events which profoundly affected the fortunes of the war. These were (a) Russian Revolution and (b) the entry of the United States into the war on the side of the Allies. As the result of a revolution in Russia the Czar was expelled from the throne and power soon passed into the hands of extremists known as Bolsheviks. Anarchy followed and the army was disorganised and demoralised. Before long there was no organized front in Russia and the Bolsheviks in 1918 concluded to Germany the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. By it Russia withdrew from the war and surrendered to Germany all her western provinces, including Poland and the Baltic Provinces. This peace enabled Germany to transfer a large body of troops to the western front rendering the position of the Allies very critical. But the entry of the United States saved the situation, for it placed at the disposal of the Allies enormous resources in men and money. It should be noted that America joined the war as a protest against the unrestricted submarine campaign carried on by Germany in violation of all international law and the dictates of humanity. First World War (1914—1918)

The Situation in 1918

  • Russia having made peace, the Germans launched a series of offensives on the Western Front. First, they pushed towards Amiens, sweeping away the British forces under Gough. But offensive was checked and Amiens saved. Next they directed their attacks against Ypres with some successes in the beginning but were afterwards held up. These two offensive cost the British alone nearly 400,000 in killed and wounded. The Germans then pushed south-west towards Rheims forcing back the French from the Aisne to the Marne. They advanced within forty miles of Paris which came under fire from their long-range guns. Thus the Germans attained brilliant tactical success but no decisive result.
  • In April 1918, Marshal Foch was appointed commander-in-chief of the Allied forces. This gave the Allies the priceless advantage of unity of command and brilliant general ship. With unity of command came a change of tactics. The Allies began their offensive simultaneously at many points and on wider front, giving no time to the enemy to rally. General Foch beat back the Germans from the Marne, the British drove them back from Amiens and General Haig stormed the Hindenburg line. The Allies had also achieved decisive successes elsewhere. The defeat of the Turks in Syria, the surrender of the Bulgarians and the collapse of Austria followed in quick succession. The Germans were steadily pushed back, and at last worn out and exhausted, made overtures of peace. First World War (1914—1918)
  • In the meantime President Wilson of America had already made a statement of the War aims of the Allies in his address to the Congress in January 1918. In his famous “fourteen points” he had outlined the basis of a peace settlement and given expression to his ideal of establishing a lasting peace among the war-scarred nations of the world. The following are the most important points of his programme:
    • Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at. In other words, there was to be no more secret diplomacy
    • Freedom of the seas
    • Removal of economic barriers to international trade
    • Reduction of armaments
    • Impartial adjustment of all colonial claims on the basis of the interests of the subject populations  First World War (1914—1918)
    • National self-determination
  • establishment of a League of Nations for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity of great and small states alike. The remaining other points dealt with the rectification of boundaries and creation of new states on the principle of nationality and demanded that Germany must evacuate all territories which she had forcibly occupied. First World War (1914—1918)
  • On the basis of the fourteen points, subject to certain reservation, the Allies agreed to consider the German appeal for peace. Germany signified her consent to the demand of the allies and signed an armistice on November 11, 1918. While the terms of the armistice were being discussed, a mutiny broke out in the German navy, which was a signal for a general revolution. The Kaiser fled to Holland and a republic was set up in Germany. It was this republican government that signed the armistice. By its terms it was agreed that the Germans surrender their navy and a large proportion of their guns and war material and should evacuate the invaded countries by withdrawing to the right bank of the Rhine. Thus the first World War and the attendant horrible blood-letting of four years came to an end. First World War (1914—1918)

The Peace Conference Of Paris, 1919

  • A conference of the representatives of the Allied Powers met at Paris in 1919 to arrange the terms of peace. Of the leading Allied Powers Great Britain was represented by Lloyd George, France by Clemenceau, the United States by President Wilson and Italy by Orlando. It was these “Big Four” that for several months made the principal decisions. Soon after Orlando left Paris in a huff on account of his differences with Wilson and so the business of peace-making and post-war settlements were mostly carried on by the Big Three.
  • These three leading delegates were all outstanding men, yet very different in character. Clemenceau, nicknamed “Tiger””, was the oldest and ablest diplomat at the conference. He was a stern realist in politics and he never lost sight of the goals he had set before himself. These were to secure the safety of France and to punish Germany as severely as possible.
  • Wilson was a high-minded idealist and a bit doctrinaire. He was bent upon founding a new world order and so laid the greatest stress upon establishing a League of Nations.
  • Lloyd George, a man of boundless energy, was adroit and resourceful and tried to hold the balance between these two. He was, however, greatly hampered by his election pledges to make Germany pay for the war. Thus the atmosphere of the conference was far from being conducive to claim an unbiased deliberation. First World War (1914—1918)
  • Wilson had set his heart upon incorporating the covenant of the League of Nations as an integral part of the Peace Treaty. He carried his point in spite of the opposition of Clemenceau and Lloyd George. But to secure the acceptance of his pet project he had to surrender or compromise many of the other thirteen points of his programme.
  • Connected with the Leagues was the establishment of the “mandatory” system which was designed to secure better government of the German colonies and of those Turkish provinces which were at the disposal of the Allied Powers. This system was also largely due to Wilson. The President firmly resisted the French demand for the whole left bank of the Rhine and held out stubbornly against the Italian demand for the Adriatic port of Fiume. Eventually Italy got the port. First World War (1914—1918)

Peace Treaties

  • The agony of the First World War was brought to a close by the Treaty of Versailles and four other treaties concluded at several places near Paris. In each of the four major treaties was included a “covenant” for the establishment of a League of Nations and of a permanent Court of International justice. First World War (1914—1918)

Treaty of Versailles, 1919

  • The terms of peace with Germany were contained in the Treaty of Versailles. It was a dictated peace as the German delegates were not allowed to discuss the Treaty in private with the Allies but were only called in to receive and later to sign the document. By the territorial arrangements of the Treaty, Germany surrendered Alsace-Lorraine to France and agreed to give her the right to exploit the coal-fields of the Saar Valley for a period of fifteen years as compensation for the destruction of her coalfields in the north. At the end of this period a plebiscite was to decide the ultimate fate of the region. To Belgium Germany ceded the areas of Eupen and Malmedy after a show of plebiscite conducted by the Belgian authorities. In the north, Germany lost northern Schleswig which Denmark regained by a plebiscite. On her western frontier Germany lost a portion of West Prussia to form a Polish corridor to the Baltic. The city of Memel went to Lithuania, and Prussian Poland was annexed to the newly created state of Poland. The port of Danzig was internationalised and made a free city under the control of the League of Nations. Poland also got the best portion of Silesia, containing regions very rich in mineral wealth. First World War (1914—1918)
  • In addition to territorial losses in Europe Germany had to part with her overseas domain. She had to renounce all rights to her African colonies and to all holdings and privileges in China. These were transferred to some of the Allied Powers not as absolute owners but as “mandatories” of the League of Nations.
  • The Treaty of Versailles sought to destroy German militarism by reducing the military strength of Germany to a minimum. Germany promised to reduce her army to 100,000 men, to abolish conscription, to restrict the production of war materials and to stop their importation and exportation. The German fleet, which had been interned at the armistice, was to be surrendered to Great Britain. Germany was permitted to maintain only a small navy without submarines. The fortifications of Heligoland were to be dismantled and the Kiel Canal was to be thrown open to all nations. A belt of territory, thirty miles wide and to the east of the Rhine, was to be demilitarized. First World War (1914—1918)
  • Germany had to accept “war guilt” that is, to acknowledge responsibility for causing the World War, Hence a huge indemnity was imposed upon her by way of financial reparation for all damage done to the civilian population of the Allies and their property. The Allied armies were to occupy the left bank of the Rhine until the terms of the treaty were carried out.
  • The terms of the Treaty of Versailles were extremely severe and humiliating to Germany. In Europe she lost all the territories which she had acquired since the time of Frederick the Great. Her overseas empire was gone. The “war guilt” was fastened upon her and she had to consent to the trial of the Kaiser by an international court for offences against international morality. The reparation clauses practically mortgaged her properties to the In a word, Germany was punished, disarmed and humiliated. It was the severity of the treaty which eventually led to its repudiation by Hitler. First World War (1914—1918)

Treaty of St. Germain with Austria, 1919

  • The Treaty of St. Germain registered the dismemberment of the old empire of Austria-Hungary. It split up the empire into several new states according to the principle of nationality. Thus the Austrian provinces of Bohemia and Moravia were formed into a new state called Czech-Slovakia. To Serbia was given the adjacent Slav provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Serbia was thus enlarged under the name of Yugoslavia. Austria ceded to Italy the South Tyrol, the Trentine, and the coastal strip round the north of the Adriatic, including Trieste and Istria. Poland received Austrian Galicia. Hungary was separated from Austria. In short Austria was reduced to a small state inhabited by German-speaking people but was forbidden to enter into political union with Germany. Here was a glaring infraction of the principle of self-determination. First World War (1914—1918)

Treaty of Trianon, 1920

  • Hungary was, by the Treaty of Trianon, deprived of her non-Magyar subjects as completely as Austria had been stripped of non-Germans. To Romania she ceded Transylvania and to Czech-Slovakia she gave Slovakia. To Yugoslavia went Croatia. Like Austria she lost all access to the sea.
  • Treaty of Neuilly with Bulgaria . First World War (1914—1918)


  • By this treaty (1919) Bulgaria lost western Thrace to Greece, part of Macedonia to Yugoslavia and Dobruja to Romania. First World War (1914—1918)

Treaty Of Sevres With Turkey, 1920

  • The Allied Powers were very harsh in their treatment of Turkey and brought her almost to the point of extinction. By the Treaty of Sevres Turkey had to renounce all her rights in her former African possessions as well as in Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia and Arabia. She thus lost all her dominions outside Turkey proper. Greece was allowed to occupy a part of eastern Thrace as well as Smyrna and the adjacent territory on the coast of Asia Minor. Armenia was to be made a separate independent state. First World War (1914—1918)
  • The straits of Dardanelles and Bosporus were to form a neutral internationalised zone. Turkey was subjected to crushing debts and organised foreign control. Nothing remained of the once mighty Ottoman Empire except Constantinople and the mountainous Anatolia. First World War (1914—1918)
  • The Nationalist Party of Turkey, headed by Mustapha Kemal, refused to ratify the treaty although it was signed by the Sultan. Kemal headed a revolt, drove out the Greeks from Asia Minor and compelled the Powers to conclude a new treaty known as the Treat of Lausanne which was much more favourable to Turkey. First World War (1914—1918)

Mandatory System

  • Outside Europe the territories of Germany and Turkey were disposed of by the system of Mandates. By it the ceded territories were handed over to some of the Allied Powers not as owners but as governors in trust under the League of Nations. The taking over any of these mandated areas was bound to conduct the government in their interest of the governed and to submit an annual report to the League Council. First World War (1914—1918)
  • Under these Mandates Great Britain received Palestine, Mesopotamia, German East Africa and a part of Togoland and Cameroons. To France were assigned Syria and a part of the German colonies in Africa. German South-West Africa went to the Union of South Africa. Kiaochow and Germany’s holdings in Shangtung in China were assigned to Japan. The islands of the Pacific which Germany had acquired, were distributed among Japan, Australia and New Zealand. First World War (1914—1918)

Summary—New Europe

  • The fiery furnace of the First World War had consumed old Europe and released new forces. Europe had to be shaped anew. Four hereditary imperial dynasties had been swept away and their empires had ceased to exist—those of Germany, Austria, Hungary, Russia and Turkey. In most countries monarchy gave way to a republican form of government. The old diplomacy based on the concept of the “balance of power” was discredited and men began to think of a conceit of Powers and a League of Nations. Along with the extension of the republican form of government there appeared a distrust of democracy owing to the inability of the new governments to cope with the post-war problems. This gave rise to dictatorships in some of the countries. As a consequence new politico-economic experiments were inaugurated— Bolshevism, Fascism and Nazism. In the new order labour assumed an increased importance, women widely enfranchised and scientific advances were made in the field of medicine, in aviation, and in the creation of efficient machines of destruction. First World War (1914—1918)

Criticism of the Settlement

  • In Europe the territorial re-arrangement was made on the basis of the principles of nationality and self-determination, i.e., peoples having a distinct culture, language and historical tradition were allowed to form separate independent states. It was in this principle that the Austrian empire, composed as it was of various nationalities, was dismembered and new states like Czech-Slovakia and Yugoslavia were created. The revival of Poland and the territorial enlargement of Italy were triumphs of the principle of nationality. But this principle could not be consistently acted upon and it was found impossible to avoid leaving Germans under Slavs as in Bohemia, and of Slavs under Italians as in Dalmatia. This was due to the fact that there were nationalities so badly situated or so intermingled with one another that it was practically impossible to draw satisfactory line of demarcation. The result was that in the “succession” states set up by the Powers there was acute minority problem, that is, the problem of safeguarding the interests of the people of one nationality whom it proved impossible to avoid placing under the rule of another. Outside Europe the system of mandates was distinctly opposed to self determination. But the system was devised to prevent territories inhabited by backward peoples from being completely appropriated by someone or other of the victors as spoils of war. First World War (1914—1918)
  • At the Peace Conference two ideas were struggling for mastery. On the one side were the idealistic principles of reconstruction sponsored by President Wilson of America; on the other were the selfish war-aims of the Allies who sought territorial and economic profit as well as security against a recurrence of danger from the defeated enemy. In noble words eloquently expressed. President Wilson had declared: “The world must be made safe for democracy.” He brought forward a list of fourteen proposals, known as the Fourteen Points, which, in his opinion, would make for a just and lasting peace founded upon an impartial respect for the wishes of the people and a “universal dominion of right.” So long as Germany remained undefeated the noble idealism of the American President was more or less echoed by the Allies. But with the collapse of Germany the under-current of selfish ambition which ran in the minds of the Allied Powers, became a mighty torrent and swept aside all considerations of impartial distribution of justice. The drastic and severe terms imposed by the Peace Treaties upon the defeated parties clearly show what was uppermost in the minds of victors, viz., horror of the recent past, fear of the near future, and vindictiveness. The empire of Germany in Europe was shrunken; her colonies were all taken away and she was impoverished and disarmed. Austria was reduced to a size smaller than that of Portugal. Turkey was brought to the point of extinction. The mentality underlying all these readjustments is best expressed in the adage, “To the victors belong the spoils.” Although the principle of nationality was invoked as the basis of the peace settlement, it is noteworthy that the principle was carried out at the expense of the defeated nations in favour of the victorious ones. By the application of this principle the Central Powers were mulched in territory so that they might not again prove dangerous in the near future. The colonies of Germany and the outlying territories of Turkey went to swell the possessions of the big allied Powers. First World War (1914—1918)
  • But it must be admitted that the peace was concluded in an atmosphere in which passions were high and the feeling against Germany was very bitter. The horrors and atrocities of the war still before the Allies who held Germany responsible for them, Hence it was natural for them to be hard and vindictive. Besides, they thought that Germany deserved no consideration and mercy in view of the fact that recently when she was victorious against Russia, she had imposed an outrageous peace upon the latter by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Lastly, the Allies had many conflicting interests to reconcile and were handicapped by previous secret treaties by which they had sought to strengthen and enlarge their coalition against the Central Powers. By those treaties many states were brought into the war by liberal promises of territorial gains and so these could not be entirely ignored. First World War (1914—1918)


The Treaty of Versailles held the Germs of another War

  • A careful consideration of the details of the Treaty of Versailles will make it clear that the statesmen who framed it, failed to rise to the height of the occasion. They made a peace which was no peace, and so, as events subsequently proved, the treaty held the germs of another great war. First, it should be noted that the terms imposed on Germany were staggering in their severity and impossible of fulfilment. She was stripped of her armaments and left naked before her enemy. She was deprived of her colonies as well as of all interests and trading privileges outside her boundary. Add to these a crushing war indemnity, loss of territory which deprived her of about six millions of her people and some of her richest mineral districts, and the picture of her humiliation would be complete. The whole scheme seemed designed to keep her in perpetual subjection. The terms were not merely harsh and inequitable but betrayed a lack of sincerity and good faith on the part of the victor powers. Germany was compelled to grant economic privileges to the Allies without reciprocity. Her colonies were mandated to them ostensibly for administration under an enlightened regime. But no such responsibility was assumed by the victor powers for colonies and dependencies they already had. Again, the basis of the territorial rearrangement as made by the treaty was the principle of self-determination. But both in Austria and Germany this principle was ignored. Austria though having an overwhelming majority of German population, was debarred by the peace treaties from joining Germany without the consent of the League of Nations. Lastly, Germany contended that she had laid down her arms in the hope that her action would be followed by a ‘general limitation of the armaments of all nations’ as proposed in President Wilson’s Fourteen Points. But the allied powers did nothing in the direction of disarmament and so Germany had good reasons for complaining of bad faith. First World War (1914—1918)
  • “But the moral defects of the treaty are no more glaring than the practical.” It is idle to expect that a great nation like Germany would submit for an indefinite time to discrimination in the matter of armaments. That a small state like Belgium should be superior to Germany in armaments and soldiers seems absurd. Moreover, the splitting of Germany into two by the creation of the Polish Corridor, and the cession to Poland of a large slice of the industrial area of Silesia were arrangements most offensive to German pride. That the Germans should be deprived through compulsion of the conquests of Frederick the Great was of all the conditions of the treaty the one most calculated to urge them to look forward to another war. Lastly, while a huge indemnity was imposed on Germany, her natural resources were materially reduced. This was a serious obstacle to national recovery, making it impossible to realise the indemnity. “One cannot starve a goose and expect it to lay golden eggs.” Thus the treaty left many sore places. Europe had not been made safe for democracy. First World War (1914—1918)

Results of the Great War

  • One great result of the War was the triumph of the principle of nationalism. In this respect the settlement of the Peace Conference of Paris differed widely from that of the Congress of Vienna. The one was based on the negation of the nationalist principle, while the other consecrated it and made it the public law of Europe. Empires which had peoples in subjection against their will, dissolved into their component elements and nationalism won signal triumphs. Thus out of the old Russian empire were set up the four independent republics of Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Poland was recreated by gathering up the fragments which had been infamously seized by her neighbours during the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Fragments of the late empire of Austria-Hungary went to make the new state of Czechoslovakia as well as to enlarge the possessions of Romania, Italy and of Serbia now called Yugoslavia. The restoration of Alsace-Lorraine to France and the Danish speaking portion of Schleswig to Denmark redressed long-standing national grievances. As a matter of fact nationalism received an immense impetus through the war and became self-conscious and assertive after it, chiefly in the new states. The influence of nationalism was not confined to Europe alone. It had awakened China and rejuvenated Turkey. Great Britain was obliged to yield to Egyptian nationalism and in 1922 had to withdraw the protectorate which she had established over Egypt during the war. In Ireland the principle of nationality scored an important triumph. The Sinn Fein movement which had been started in the early years of the twentieth century, developed into a separatist movement. In 1918 the Sinn Feiners organised a parliament of their own (the Dail Eireann) at Dublin and chose De Valera as provisional president. At the same time the Irish Republican Association was formed to carry on guerilla warfare against British rule. There were murders and outrages on both sides, and terror was met by counter-terror. Eventually the British Government entered into negotiations with Ireland, which resulted in a treaty being signed in 1921. It provided for the establishment of an Irish Free State with Dominion Status. Ulster, now known as Northern Ireland, chose to stay out of the Free State. First World War (1914—1918)
  • Another important result of the war was the spread of democracy. Thrones toppled down in Russia, Germany, and Austria, and thus three of the oldest royal dynasties in Europe—Romanoff, Hohenzollern and Hapsburg—passed away. Germany and Austria adopted democratic constitutions, while in Russia the democratic movement became entangled with Bolshevism. The new states that had been created, set up republican constitutions with a parliamentary government based upon democratic franchises. Greece after her defeat at the hands of the Turks in 1922 abolished monarchy and set up a republic. But the most signal triumph of democracy was perhaps in Turkey where the Sultanate and Caliphate were abolished and a republic set up with Kemal Pasha as its President. In most cases military defeats discredited the monarchy, and the peoples in groping for a panacea for the political unrest and disorders which followed after the war, turned to Republicanism and in some cases to Communism for a better state of things. First World War (1914—1918)
  • But this trend towards democracy was in some countries arrested by the rise of dictatorships. Post-war Europe was confronted with a variety of perplexing. First World War (1914—1918)
  • problems, and in many cases democracy was found incapable of coping with them. Hence the experiment of dictatorship was tried in many countries, notably in Italy, Russia, Germany and Spain. The anti-democratic forces of the time were Bolshevism, Fascism and Nazism and all these gave rise to dictatorships. In these states the fundamental ideas of democracy such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press and participation of the people in the government, were denounced as a source of weakness and were consequently repudiated. Power was assumed by an individual who proclaimed himself as the representative of the state and who allowed neither opposition nor criticism. First World War (1914—1918)



  • There was nothing new in the ideas behind the League of Nations. Most of the costly wars in history have produced plans for the prevention of war among nations and for the settlement of international disputes by arbitration rather than by armed conflict. The nineteenth century had witnessed a considerable growth of international co-operation in various fields. In the period following the Napoleonic wars people indeed laid stress on nationalism rather than on international co-operation, but, this period also saw a series of efforts to avoid war and to unite the nations of Europe by ties of common interests. The Holy Alliance of Czar Alexander I, although it soon became overlaid by other motives, was a project for the union of the Christian States for certain common purposes. But the Czar’s project fell through as it was then regarded as an Utopian scheme unworthy of serious consideration. Nevertheless the idea that Europe had a common interest in the maintenance of peace was recognised. The Concert of Europe, based upon the Quadruple Alliance of 1815, inaugurated a period of congresses and provided for collective deliberation. It indeed could not secure the co-operation of the European states in matters of common interest, but the periodical meetings of the diplomats in several congresses was no doubt a fruitful experiment in internationalism. In the Congress of Paris held after the Crimean War the problem of preserving international peace was raised and discussed. The period of comparative calm in the last quarter of the nineteenth century saw the growth of international organisations in commercial, labour, cultural and scientific fields. But this unity of spirit did not extend to politics. Nevertheless great advance was made in the development of the practice of arbitration to settle disputes among nations. Many international disputes were settled without resort to arms. The Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907 tried to remove the menace of war by a policy of disarmament, but failed. But they gave a definite shape to the arbitration movement by setting up an international court before which causes may be taken for adjudication. Here something of real importance was done. First World War (1914—1918)
  • The League of Nations was thus the culmination of a series of attempts made in the nineteenth century to avoid war by the peaceful settlement of international disputes. It carried the movement towards world organisation into the sphere of politics by setting up a mechanism for the preservation of peace and also for international co-operation in other fields. The Covenant of the League of Nations is contained in twenty-six articles. In the preface to the Covenant the object of the League has been stated to be the promotion of the international co-operation and the achievement of peace and security. Its seat was fixed at Geneva in Switzerland. The League was to function through an Assembly, a Council and a permanent Secretariat headed by a Secretary General. The Assembly was to consist of representatives of all the members joining the League, each state being entitled to a maximum of three delegates, but only to one vote. The Council was to consist of the representatives of the chief Allied Powers, viz. Great Britain, the United States, France, Italy and Japan with four other members elected by the Assembly. The Council formed something like the executive or Cabinet for the League. The duty of the Secretariat was to prepare business for the Assembly and Council.
  • Two other major agencies connected with the League were the Permanent Court of International Justice and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The former was to deal with international disputes referred to it by the Council and the latter with all kinds of labour problems. First World War (1914—1918)

The Work of the League

  • The League settled many minor disputes among nations. It successfully settled the quarrel between Sweden and Finland over the Aaland islands. The vexed question of Upper Silesia; in dispute between Germany and Poland, come in for the consideration of the League Council. It appointed a special commission which demarcated the boundary between the German and Polish zones. On three occasions the League successfully intervened in the disturbed Balkan area. In 1921 it protected Albania against aggression by Yugoslavia. Two years later it successfully intervened to protect Greece against the threat of attack by Italy. In 1925 the League stopped the threatened outbreak of war between Bulgaria and Greece and thereby averted what looked like a serious crisis. Another interesting dispute settled by the League was the boundary dispute between Iraq and Turkey. After a lengthy investigation by a League Commission an award was made in 1926, which was accepted by the parties. Turkey, however, was not satisfied with the decision. She became suspicious of the League and for a time drew closer to Soviet Union. One serious defect of the League was that it had no effective machinery to enforce its decision and so it failed to maintain peace when quarrels involved Big Powers. It could not restrain Hitler. It failed to stop Italy’s aggression in Abyssinia and Japan’s in Manchuria. First World War (1914—1918)
  • The League indeed faited in its main purpose in the political sphere. It could not secure disarmament nor could it prevent wars and aggressions. But in the less spectacular field of social and humanitarian work it accomplished much. It concerned itself through its agencies with the suppression of traffic in women, children and opium and with the struggle against slavery and forced labour. Much was done to promote educational and intellectual co-operation to facilitate international transit and communications and to coordinate the activities of various health and scientific organisations throughout the world. First World War (1914—1918)


World History

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