Top World War I Period: We begin in the middle of the 19th century.
In Europe, the rise of nationalism undermines the dominant powers.
The Kingdom of Sardinia, allied to France, defeats the Austrian empire and obtains Italian unification.
Prussia, which eyes the German confederation, also defeats the Austrians to create the North German Confederation.
5 years later, it allies with the southern German states, defeats France, and obtains the creation of the German Empire which is proclaimed in Versailles.
The new country takes over Alsace Lorraine.
To discourage French revenge attacks, Germany moves diplomatically closer to Austria-Hungary and Russia.
And it rapidly develops its industry and army.
In the southeast of the continent, insurgencies threaten the Ottoman Empire.
Russia, its historical enemy, takes advantage of the situation and after a war sparks the independence of Balkan states, and seizes territories.
However, Russia’s rising status is frowned upon by Western powers, who meet in Berlin to review the treaty.
This worsens Russian public opinion about Germany.
The latter then signs a defensive military alliance with Austria-Hungary.
Italy joins the alliance after France seizes Tunisia, which it long covets.
The three parties form the Triplice or the Triple Alliance.
Germany, now a major power, embarks upon a colonial policy.
The country brings together European powers in Berlin to establish rules around colonization, then seizes territories in Africa and Asia.
This causes friction with the British and French colonial empires.
Faced with growing German power, France and Russia sign a secret military alliance.
France then obtains from Italy a secret treaty of neutrality, which would avoid it having to manage a second front in the event of war.
The United Kingdom also feels threatened by Germany’s rise, especially by its military fleet which can compete with its Royal Navy.
Moreover, Germany moves diplomatically closer to the Ottoman Empire, notably by building a railway line to link Berlin to Baghdad and facilitating access to Mesopotamian oil, coveted by the British Empire.
France, the United Kingdom, and Russia then sign a military alliance and create the Triple Entente.
The alliance’s risk dragging the entire continent into war.
Major powers embark upon an arms race and prepare military plans.
In the southeast of the continent, the Ottoman Empire is weakened by a revolution.
Austria-Hungary takes advantage and annexes Bosnia and Herzegovina.
This move is opposed by Russia, and especially Serbia which dreams of uniting the Slavic peoples of the South.
Then, two Balkan wars push the Ottoman Empire to the borders of the continent.
On June 28, 1914, in Sarajevo, the heir to the Austrian throne François-Ferdinand and his wife are assassinated by a bosnian Serb nationalist.
Austria-Hungary accuses Serbia of having organized the attack.
Russia defends Serbia, while Germany, now the world’s leading military power, supports its Austro-Hungarian ally.
On July 28, Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.
Russia reacts by decreeing a general mobilisation of its troops, triggering Germany to launch its military plan.
To avoid having to fight simultaneously on two fronts, Germany plans to quickly defeat France by bypassing its armies by launching a surprise attack from the north.
It would then focus on Russia, whose troops would take more time to mobilize.
Germany declares war on Russia, invades Luxembourg, and issues an ultimatum to Belgium, demanding the right of passage for its troops.
Belgium refuses insisting upon its neutrality.
The following day, Germany declares war on France and launches the offensive.
The United Kingdom, which guarantees Belgian neutrality, in turn, declares war on Germany and sends its troops to France.
In a few days, all European powers, as well as Montenegro, go to war.
Only Italy remains neutral at this stage.
In Asia, Japan — which is allied with the United Kingdom — declares war on Germany and prepares for an invasion of its colonies
in China and the north Pacific Ocean.
On the eastern front, Russia launches its offensive earlier than Germany expects but fails to gain ground in East Prussia, while further south, Austria-Hungary retreats.
In the West, the Allied armies cannot hold back the German advance.
The Franco-British armies retreat to Marne where they reorganize, while the French government flees the capital to take refuge in Bordeaux.
But the first German army holding the flank pivots away from Paris to join with the second army and continue surrounding Allied forces.
The Parisian reserve army attacks further north, stopping in its tracks the German advance.
With this breach in the ranks, Allied forces rush in and force a German retreat.
This is the failure of the Schlieffen plan.
When the front stabilizes, the two camps attempt to outflank each other and embark upon a race to the sea.
For Germany, it is also a question of isolating Belgium and seizing ports where British reinforcements and supplies land.
The Belgian army barely succeeds in joining the deadlocked warfront.
Networks of trenches are dug on both sides for about 700km between the North Sea and the Swiss border.
Now that the Western front is frozen, both sides use full force to attack the enemy: the war becomes total.
The mighty Royal Navy imposes a naval blockade on Germany, while German submarines are sent to British waters to sink all ships and vessels.
Aviation, which is still a recent invention, is first used for observations.
Planes would then gradually be used for bombing and air combat.
The Germans use zeppelin airships to bomb Paris twice and England around 50 times.
Both sides use lethal gases to attack the enemy in the trenches.
Behind the frontlines, entire populations participate in the war effort, including women who are involved in arms factories.
Around the world, European colonies and British dominions are engaged in war.
They seize German colonies and supply large reinforcements of soldiers to the frontlines.
On the Eastern Front, Russia is in trouble with Austro-German troops.
The Ottoman Empire seizes the opportunity to go to war alongside the Central Powers.
A new front opens in the Caucasus as Britain lands an Indian army in Mesopotamia with the goal to take the control of oil resources.
In reaction, the Central Powers launch an offensive towards the Suez Canal to cut supply lines from India but are stopped in their advance.
In the Caucasus, after the failure of the Ottoman offensive, the government accuses the Armenian people of having supported Russia.
In retaliation, more than half of the Armenian population would be massacred in what is today recognized as genocide by 32 countries, but not by Turkey.
To support geographically isolated Russia, Allies want to open a sea supply route via the Dardanelles Strait.
Franco-British ships enter the strait to bomb Ottoman forts, but find the waters full of sea mines, forcing a retreat.
A month later, on April 25, Allies organize a military landing, but Ottoman defenses hold steady, creating another deadlocked warfront.
During its submarine war, Germany sinks the British ship Lusitania causing 1,200 civilian victims, including 128 US citizens.
The United States, officially neutral until that point, registers protest.
To prevent the US from going to war, Germany slows its submarine warfare.
Italy, after negotiating with the Triple Entente to annex new territories, declares war on Austria-Hungary and launches an offensive around the Isonzo river.
On the Eastern Front, Russia completes its retreat and stabilizes the battlefront.
Bulgaria, which wishes to recover Balkan territories, joins the Central Powers.
Together with Austro-German forces, they invade Serbia.
In reaction, the Allies violate the neutrality of Greece by using Salonica to land reinforcements coming from fronts such as Dardanelles, where Ottoman victory is complete.
But it is too late for the overwhelmed Serbian army that flees via Albania.
Troops are landed on the island of Corfu, from where they will be gradually brought back to the Macedonian front.
On the Western front, Germany launches a massive offensive in Verdun.
The German artillery pounds French trenches, which resists as best they can.
In the south of the continent, Portugal, allied with the United Kingdom, confiscates German ships in its ports.
In response, Germany declares war on Portugal, which then sends troops to France and to its colonies in Africa, where only German East Africa still resists the Allied offensives.
In Mesopotamia, the United Kingdom after losing its besieged army in Kut seeks support in the region.
It secretly negotiates with France the partition of Ottoman territories at the end of the war.
The two powers then support an Arab nationalist revolt which starts in Mecca by promising them independence.
In the North Sea, German and British fleets face off in one of the largest naval battles in history.
Despite heavy losses on the British side, the Germans — small in number –during the night take refuge in their port.
While the Battle of Verdun is still ongoing and Italy is under pressure from Austria-Hungary, Russia attempts to relieve its allies by launching a massive offensive that succeeds in piercing through opposition defenses.
In the West, another great offensive is launched along the Somme with Britain spearheading the attack.
They would use tanks for the first time but to no avail.
While Romania joins the Entente, the Brusilov offensive in the East, and the battles of the Somme and Verdun,all end after having caused tremendous human casualties on both sides.
Troops are exhausted and demoralized.
In Germany, the war effort and the Allied trade embargo prevent the country from getting enough food,causing widespread famine.
Western powers, on the other hand, can count on a supply of resources via the Atlantic, mainly from the United States, towards whom they are in debt.
In response, Germany relaunches unrestricted submarine warfare, with the objective of sinking all commercial and military ships.
In addition, Germany sends a telegram to Mexico offering an alliance against the United States.
The message is intercepted by Britain and transmitted to the United States, which then prepares to go to war.
In Russia, the war effort exhausts the population, who revolt and cause the Tsar to abdicate.
A provisional government is put in place, which chooses to continue the war.
The United States in turn declares war on Germany, but it would take several months for the first troops to join the frontlines.
Greece, which is under pressure from the Allies, joins the Entente.
In both camps, exhausted soldiers begin mutinies.
On the Isonzo front, 11 similar Italian offensives
yield little result at the cost of many lives,
further affecting troop morale.
Austro-German troops counterattack and push
back the front line.
At the gates of Gaza, after a victory, British
armies prepare to enter Palestine.
To gain the support of the Jewish community,
British prime minister Arthur Balfour publishes a statement addressing Lord Rothschild,
a leader of the British Zionist Federation, promising a state for Jewish people in Palestine.
In Russia, the Bolsheviks organize a second
revolution and seize power.
They sign an armistice with Germany.
But after the breakdown of negotiations, war
Austro-German forces put the Russian army
out of action,
forcing the country to accept a peace treaty and recognize the independence of new states.
Russia then sees the start of a civil war.
With Russia out of the game,
Germany concentrates on the Western front to win before US troops grow in strength.
A large-scale offensive is launched lasting 4 months, and German troops push their way to Marne again.
But a powerful Allied counter offensive forces
German troops to retreat.
In parallel, the Allies launch an offensive on the Macedonian front
which quickly forces Bulgaria to sign an armistice.
The Ottoman Empire finds itself isolated, while Arab-British forces reach Damascus, as the French land in Beirut.
Austria-Hungary retreats to the Balkans and to Italy.
The empire is also weakened by minority separatists who proclaim their independence.
The Ottoman Empire, followed by Austria-Hungary, sign an armistice with the Entente.
In Germany, sailors refuse to fight the Royal Navy and start a mutiny which turns into a popular revolt.
The Kaiser is forced to abdicate, and Germany’s new government requests an armistice which is signed on November 11, 1918.
Over a period of 6 months, victors of the war meet in Paris to draw up peace treaties without inviting Bolshevik Russia who signed
a separate peace treaty with Germany.
The United States proposes a peace plan which includes the creation of the League of Nations.
The United Kingdom and especially France, whose northern territory is devastated, want to weaken Germany and make it pay heavy reparations.
June 28, 1919, proves to be a symbolic date because 5 years after the assassinations at Sarajevo, a peace treaty is signed between
Germany and the Allies at Versailles, in the same room where the German Empire had been proclaimed in 1871.
The measures imposed on Germany are severe.
The country loses 20% of its territory and 10% of its population, mainly to the benefit of Poland which is recreated and which obtains access to the sea.
Germany is cut in two while the Saar region, rich in coal, is brought under international control for 15 years.
German colonies are carved up among the victors.
The country’s army is severely dismantled.
Finally, Germany and its allies are considered solely responsible for war damages and must pay all reparations.
The treaty is considered a humiliation by the German people.
Austria-Hungary is completely dismantled.
Czechoslovakia and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes are created.
Italy feels aggrieved as it does not obtain all the territories it was promised.
Austria, which is entirely German-speaking, is denied the right to be attached to Germany.
The Ottoman Empire is also dismembered during the Treaty of Sèvres.
The UK struggles to keep its word, having promised land to the French, the Zionist Jews, and independence to the Arabs.
The Turks refuse the treaty and take up arms again.
They gain some territories, then sign in Lausanne a treaty fixing the new borders of Turkey.
The First World War — or the so-called Great War –was then the deadliest ever, with just under 18 million dead, including 8 million civilians.
The weakened population was then hit hard by the deadly Spanish flu pandemic.
Economically, European powers find themselves heavily indebted, to the benefit of neutral countries and the United States, which strengthens its status as the leading economic power.
Russia becomes the USSR, a country exhausted by war and frustrated by the loss of many European territories.
In Palestine, tensions mount between Arabs and the Zionist Jews who migrate there.
The new European borders disgruntle many.
The fact that some German populations are now living in Poland and Czechoslovakia would contribute to the outbreak of the Second World War.
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