World War I

world war

During the years of 1914 to 1918 more than twenty countries on six continents would declare war, making World War (or “the Great War”) the first truly global conflict. The spark that set the world ablaze was the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serbian nationalist on 28 June 1914. The assassination ignited a chain reaction: France and Russia, who had been in an alliance called the Triple Entente, declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary; Germany and Austria-Hungary, who had been in an alliance called the Quadruple Alliance, retaliated; Britain joined the fight because of its interest in protecting its Empire and controlling India; and Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy—who had never been in any formal alliance with each other—joined forces to form the Central Powers.

Militarism—the idea that the military was more important than politics—also played a role in bringing about the war. Countries like Britain, whose empire reached across five continents, and France—which controlled large areas of Africa—were eager to protect their sphere of influence and control colonies. This competition led to an arms race, as each country tried to outdo the other with bigger and more powerful ships.

The result was a bloodbath in which millions of people died—sixty million dead, to be exact—throughout ten years of conflict, starvation, massacres, genocide, and aerial bombing. The war also brought about a redrawing of the map of Europe, with four monarchies—Czar Nicholas II of Russia, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, and the sultan of Ottoman Turkey—ending their reigns and resulting in new nations being formed, including what became Kemal Ataturk’s Turkey.