Toronto Prep. School
World War One
Causes, Results, and Historical Consequences
West and the World 12
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
World War One, beginning in 1914 and ending in 1918, was one of the largest wars the world has ever seen. It resulted in the deaths of nearly twenty million and affected countless people around the world. Perhaps the worst fact about the first “world war” was its complete lack of necessity. Sparked out of the numerous allegiances formed between the European powers, it resulted from a complete failure of diplomacy. The irony of this “war of nonsense” is its outcome. The strong-arming of Germany into agreeing to terms that plummeted that country into a major depression, resulted in another war exceeding the scale of the first. It all began with Austria-Hungary’s desire for domination.. Tension was building in the Balkan region where Austro-Hungarian imperialism was causing discontent among the Slavic peoples. With the vast majority of the population of the Balkans being of Slavic descent, rule by a largely German and Magyar government was bound to create tension. The First and Second Balkan Wars destabilized the region. Austria-Hungary was unwilling to allow its standing as a great power of Europe to diminish. Finally the animosity in the Balkan region resulted in the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The Duke was assassinated by a Bosnian-Serb, Gavrilo Princip, a member of Young Bosnia, a Bosnian-Serbian nationalist group that was tired of Austro-Hungarian imperialism and was seeking to unite the Slavic people. What followed is known as the “July Crisis” when all the European powers
convened to look into the assassination. The outcome of the meeting was a
deliberate failure of diplomacy. Because of the assassination, Austria-Hungary issued the July Ultimatum. The ten demands in the Ultimatum were intentionally made unacceptable, and were intended to provoke war with Serbia. After Serbia failed to comply with two of the ten demands, Austria-Hungary, seeing the chance to expand its empire and further its control over the Balkan
region, declared war on Serbia.
"Whether an equivocal and early response by
Serbia would have made any difference to Austria-Hungary's behaviour
must be doubtful. Emperor Franz Ferdinand was not the sort of personality who commanded popularity, and his demise did not cast the empire into deepest mourning."
This is where things went from bad to worse. The many allegiances the
European powers had developed, The Triple Alliance (Germany Austria-Hungary,
and Italy) and The Triple Entente (France, The United Kingdom, and Russia) came
into play . Unwilling to allow Austria-Hungary to eliminate Russian influence in
the Balkans, and in support of its longtime allies in Serbia, Russia mobilized its army. Germany followed suit, then France. After another failure of diplomacy between the United Kingdom and Germany, the British too declared war on Germany. Now the war that many thought would never happen, and the likes of which no one could have imagined, began. During the time between the last large-scale war fought on European soil and the beginning of WWI, military technology had made huge advances. No longer did standard infantry rifles fire four to ten rounds a minute (at most) but fifteen. Also, the development of machine guns, long range artillery, poison gas and barbed wire were huge factors in making the war more deadly. Unfortunately military tactics had completely failed to keep pace, and large-scale trench warfare was the result. The lack of new military tactics coupled with the advances in military technology made it nearly impossible for either side to take entrenched positions without suffering heavy casualties, which is one of the major reasons why so many...
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