<Standard WHII.17...........................................................................................Standard WHII.19>

Describe the major events and consequences of World War I

Topics on the Page

  • World War I Poetry
Physical and economic destruction

League of Nations and attempts at disarmament
British War Propaganda Poster
British War Propaganda Poster
The collapse of the Romanov dynasty and the subsequent Bolshevik Revolution and Civil War in Russia

Post-war economic and political instability in Germany
The Armenian genocide in Turkey
Additional Resources for Teaching World War I
  • Women's History
  • African American History
    • The Harlem Hellfighters
  • LGBT History
  • Video Resources
  • Poetry Archive
  • Primary Sources

Focus Question: What were the major events and consequences of World War I?

For an overview, see The Global Effect of World War I from Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

For an overview of WWI through political cartoons published during the period click here.

For explanations of some of these cartoons and cartoons organized by their country of origin click here.

BBC Schools offers this interactive website as a way for primary and secondary schools to discover resources and summaries of World War One.

primary_sources.PNGPrimary Sources

  • The First World War Poetry Digital Archive
    • War poems by Siegfried Sassoon on the excellent World War One poetry archive.
      • These works and others like them give us a unique first person account of what war was like for these young men, and helps explain the effects of war after the survivors had returned home.
  • For a first-person account read Trench Warfare Begins on the Aisne.
    • Click here to an archive of primary sources of World War I from BYU.
      • Click here to look at Yale's library of the numerous primary sources on World War I.
  • For a comprehensive list of WWI primary resources from Fordham University click here.
  • Screen Shot 2017-03-18 at 11.16.22 AM.pngFor songs from World War I, click here and here

The Language of World War I from the Oxford English Dictionary discusses new words that entered the English language from the war.

Map that shows the alliances between European nations in WWI. For more information on the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente, click the map for redirection.

timeline2_rus.svg.pngFor an interactive timeline outlining the major events of WWI click here.

Physical and Economic Destruction Caused by the War

  • Millions of men were killed or wounded, affecting their ability to work and contribute to the economies of their respective countries
    • War-torn countries lost thousands of churches, houses, and buildings to battles; crops and animals were killed, decreasing the food supply
  • Britain, Italy, and the U.S. saw their GDP increase, France and Russia saw a decrease, and the Netherlands remained steady.
  • Countries, particularly Germany went into debt, paying reparations; borrowing from others and cashing in investments led to a cyclical pattern of debt swapping which led to Germany defaulting on their loans and set off the Great Depression
    • Food rationing became more prevalent in Germany
New Zeland Soldiers in Trench Line, September 1916
New Zeland Soldiers in Trench Line, September 1916

The Battle of the Somme: 141 Days of Horror

Multimedia.pngCrash Course video for brief overview of World War I (starts at assassination of Franz Ferdinand, not before).

The Teenage Soldiers of World War I
  • 250,000 underage soldiers fought for Britain during the war

Map icon.pngAnimated Map: The Western Front, 1914-1918

external image Red_apple.jpgThe First World War: The Soldier's Experience Through Primary Sources.

The unprecedented loss of life from prolonged trench warfare

  • War began dramatically with sweeping advances by the Germans through Belgium and France en route for Paris.
  • Stalemate and trench warfare soon set in
  • Expected war of movement wasn't restored until towards the close of the warT
    • The line rippled as successes were achieved at a local level
    • Thousands would die to move the fighting lines only feet at a time.
primary_sources.PNGFor audio files from the BBC archives of WWI veterans discussing their experiences click here.

multicultural.pngThe Chinese Labour Corps

Who Dug the Trenches? See information about the Chinese Labour Corps

Chinese Labour Corps on the Western Front, UK National Archives

Multimedia.pngForgotten Men: The Chinese Labour Corps in World War One

Further Information about Trench Warfare
1. Rats in the millions infested trenches.
Belgian troops engaged in trench warfare
Belgian troops engaged in trench warfare

  • There were two main types, the brown and the black rat.
    • Both were despised but the brown rat was especially feared.
      • They gorged themselves on human remains and disfigured them by eating their eyes and liver
        • They could grow to the size of a cat.
    • Men would attempt to rid the trenches of them by various methods:
      • gunfire
      • with the bayonet
      • clubbing them to death.
    • It was futile however: a single rat couple could produce up to 900 offspring in a year
      • Easily spreading infection and contaminating food.
    • The rat problem remained for the duration of the war
      • Many veteran soldiers swore that rats sensed impending heavy enemy shellfire and consequently disappeared from view).
Map of German trenches
Map of German trenches

2. Lice were a never-ending problem
  • Breeding in the seams of filthy clothing and causing men to itch unceasingly
    • Clothing was periodically washed and de-loused, lice eggs invariably remained hidden in the seams
    • Within a few hours of the clothes being re-worn, the body heat generated would cause the eggs to hatch
  • Lice caused Trench Fever, a particularly painful disease that began suddenly with severe pain followed by high fever.
    • Recovery - away from the trenches - took up to twelve weeks.
    • Lice were not actually identified as the culprit of Trench Fever until 1918.

3. Patrols would often be sent out into No Mans Land.
  • Some men would be tasked with repairing barbed wire to the front line.
  • Others would go out to assigned listening posts
    • hoped to pick up valuable information from the enemy lines.
  • Sometimes enemy patrols would meet in No Man's Land.
    • Could hurry on their separate ways or else engaging in hand to hand fighting.
  • They could not afford to use their handguns while patrolling in No Man's Land, for fear of the machine gun fire it would inevitably attract, and prove deadly to all members of the patrol.

Canadian solider lights German prisoner's cigarette, 1917
Canadian solider lights German prisoner's cigarette, 1917
The appalling reek given off by numerous conflicting sources.
  • Rotting bodies lay around in their thousands.
    • Approximately 200,000 men were killed on the Somme battlefields, many of which lay in shallow graves.
  • Overflowing latrines would similarly give off a most offensive stench.
  • Men rarely had the luxury of a bath in weeks or months
  • Men's feet were generally accepted to give off the worst odor.
  • Trenches would also smell of chloride or lime
    • Used to stave off the constant threat of disease and infection.

5. Trench foot ran rampant through the trenches, especially early in the war.
  • Cold, wet and unsanitary conditions
  • If left untreated could lead to gangrene and require amputation


primary_sources.PNGFor a series of letters written by the soldiers in the trenches and tips on how to use them in the classroom click here.

For a closer look at Australia's contributions to WWI, click here

external image Red_apple.jpgFor a lesson plan on the experience of soldiers enduring trench warfare click here.

League of Nations and attempts at disarmament

"The League of Nations was an international organization created in 1919 after the First World War.
  • The Covenant establishing the League was part of the Treaty of Versailles.
    • The aims of the League were to promote international co-operation and to achieve international peace and security"
(quoted from the League of Nations Photo Gallery from the Indiana University Center for the Study of Global Change).
  • its main goal was disarmament
  • depended on the “great powers” to protect its decisions militarily

Brief History:
President Woodrow Wilson
President Woodrow Wilson

  • American President Woodrow Wilson intended the League of Nations to be the primary body of a new style of international relations based on the cooperation of all of the nations of the world. This idea was based on his 14 Points, a basic outline for the post-war world.
  • The League was to be centered in neutral Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Small nations as well as large nations were asked to join, dependent on their acceptance of the Covenant of the League.
  • The League of Nations first met in November 1920.
  • Forty-two nations were represented at this first meeting.
    • Notably absent were Germany, Russia, and the United States.
  • Germany, identified as the aggressor in World War I, was barred from admission at first
    • admitted in 1926.
  • Russia, now the Soviet Union, was not invited to join the League due to the radical policies of the new communist government.
    • The Soviet Union finally became a member of the League in 1935.
  • In November 1919, the U.S. Senate voted against accepting membership to the League, and the nation never joined.

map-ancient-rome-2.jpgFor an interactive map from BBC's Bitesize History showing the terms of the Versailles Treaty click here.

Image shows (L - R) Prime Minister David Lloyd George (Great Britan) Premier Vittorio Orlando, Italy, French Premier Georges Clemenceau, President Woodrow Wilson, May 1919.
external image Big_four.jpg

primary_sources.PNG1919 Treaty of Versailles : limited the size of the German army and blamed Germany for the entire war.external image 1024px-League_of_Nations_Anachronous_Map.PNG

Multimedia.pngClick here to watch the League of Nations: Wilson's League for peace.

Multimedia.pngThe Treaty of Versailles and the End of World War I

For a list of the League of Nations' successes and failures click here.

  • 1921: Washington Conference - Japan, U.S., and Britain all agreed to limit the size of their navies
  • 1927: 62 nations signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact, outlawing war
  • 1925: Prevented war between Greece and Bulgaria
  • 1923: France and Italy invaded other areas but the League couldn’t stop them
  • 1931: Lost credibility for allowing Japan to invade Manchuria
  • 1932-1935: Couldn’t prevent Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay
  • 1932-1937: Disarmament Conference attempted to limit world wide armament - with world war two beginning to become a fear, disarmament seemed unrealistic
  • 1936: Hitler re-militarized Germany, denounced Treaty of Versailles, and invaded Austria in 1938

primary_sources.PNGLetter from Nguyen Ai Quac [Ho Chi Minh] to Secretary of State Robert Lansing, 1920. Includes "Claims of the Annamite People" that called for civil rights for the Vietnamese people of French IndoChina.

primary_sources.PNG"Any war of threat of war is a matter of concern to the whole League and the League shall take action that may safe guard peace." (From Article 11 of the League's Covenant)
  • While the League was able to prevent a number of wars from breaking out, it was considered a failure when several disputes led to invasions or war.
  • For details on both these successes and failures, as well as information on the strengths and weaknesses of the League of Nations, visit League of Nations

external image Red_apple.jpgFor a lesson plan, see The Great War: Evaluating the Treaty of Versailles from EDSITEMENT

The collapse of the Romanov dynasty and the subsequent Bolshevik Revolution and Civil War in Russia

Boris Kustodiyev painting of Nicholas II, 1915
Boris Kustodiyev painting of Nicholas II, 1915

  • World War I began in 1914 when Austria declared war on Serbia.
  • Russia went to war to defend the Serbs and to increase its influence on the world stage after a humiliating defeat during the Russo-Japanese War.
    • was ill-prepared for the battle.
  • They had inadequate weapons, infrastructure, and poor leadership, despite having the largest standing army in the world.
  • Nicholas II went to the lines to lead his armies
    • this proved to be a poor move.
    • Problems increased and prices rose dramatically.
  • Women organized themselves to protest high bread prices.
  • Food and fuel shortages and outbreaks of diseases were a major problem.
  • Also, many soldiers deserted and protested military command.
    • These soldiers were important in a final revolt in 1917 which brought about the end of the Romanov Dynasty.
      • Nicholas II and his family were put under house arrest and in July of 1918 were murdered.

The Bolshevik Revolution


Russian peace demonstration in 1917
Russian peace demonstration in 1917

  • The October Revolution of 1917 overturned the interim provisional government.
    • (also called the Bolshevik Revolution )
    • The October Revolution was a much more deliberate event, orchestrated by a small group of people.
  • The Bolsheviks, who led this coup, prepared their coup in only six months.
    • Had very little popular support when they began serious efforts in April 1917 but as Russia continued to perform poorly in the war and as the economic situation at the home front worsened, the Bolsheviks steadily gained a larger following.
  • By October, the Bolsheviks’ popular base was much larger; though still a minority within the country as a whole. This was largely due to the Provisional Governments continuation of the war and not carrying out the promise of land reform.
    • they had built up a majority of support within Petrograd and other urban centers.
primary_sources.PNGFor a first hand account, see John Reed's Ten Days That Shook the World

  • After October, the Bolsheviks realized that they could not maintain power in an election-based system without sharing power with other parties and compromising their principles.
  • As a result, they formally abandoned the democratic process in January 1918
    • declared themselves the representatives of a dictatorship of the proletariat.
  • In response, the Russian Civil War broke out in the summer of that year and would last well into 1920.
Attacking the Czar's police during the first days of the March Revolution
Attacking the Czar's police during the first days of the March Revolution

  • The Bolsheviks (Red Army) were led by Lenin and Trotsky and represented Russia's working class
    • They were generally viewed as an extremist group
  • Opposition White Army was a coalition of groups who had their own interests to protect as reason to protest the revolution
  • In November 1917, Lenin's Bolsheviks held St. Petersburg (Petrograd) but little else, and it seemed unlikely that they could possibly establish permanent control over Russia.
  • But Lenin , displaying the same indefatigable energy that had carried him through a decade of disappointment, immediately set to work on the task of consolidating power.

  • World War I constituted the foremost obstacle to his goals
  • On December 3 he opened talks for an armistice with the German government.
  • At the same time, the Bolsheviks also faced a challenge from the Constituent Assembly
    • which the Provincial Government had declared Russia's first elected government.

  • At first, Lenin and his allies expressed support for this body, and allowed its elections to proceed throughout December.
  • 168 Bolshevik delegates were elected
    • there were 703 seats in the Assembly which meant that some sort of power-sharing arrangements would have to be worked out.
  • But Lenin wanted no part of any such arrangement
    • when the Assembly met for the first time in January of 1918, Bolsheviks sent armed sailors to break it up.
  • Democratic rule was thus displaced in favor of "Party rule"
    • became official in March 1918 when the Bolsheviks renamed themselves the Communist Party, a title under which they would govern Russia for seventy years.

For an article from the BBC demonstrating the connections between Russia's involvement in WWI and the Russian Revolution click here.

For an article giving a concise overview of the Russian Civil War and the events leading up to it click here.

game_icon.svg.png For a game about the events of the Russian Revolution, visit Russian Revolution Linkages

Post-war economic and political instability in Germany (see also World History II.20 )

  • German society changed enormously as a result of the war.
  • During the war the percentage of women in the workforce had risen to 37%, a massive rise.
    • At the end of the war this figure did not fall dramatically
      Friedrich Ebert, German President
      Friedrich Ebert, German President
      • from now on women had a significant role to play in the German economy.

  • The reaction of many Germans to the ending of the war also had a large impact on German Society.
  • Many of the former soldiers were of the opinion that they had not lost the war; they believed that the army had been cheated.
    • Hitler later phrased this as 'The Stab in the back'
  • As a consequence of this, many Germans looked for people to blame.
    • Some lay the blame in the hands of the Kaiser.
    • Others, many others, looked to the new government.
  • They had immediately sued for peace and accepted the terms of the Armistice.
  • For many Germans this showed that they were largely to blame.
  • Other theories that were popular amongst the former soldiers were that it was the result of Communists or Jews.
    • So in the immediate Post-War era, there is a mass of suspicion within Germany.
  • Combined with these factors is the potential threat to the social order.
    • Under the Kaiser the armed forces and aristocratic Prussian elite had enjoyed many privileges.
      • These groups now had to try and reestablish their authority.
      • In a democracy this proves difficult and can lead to further tension.
    • The first President of the Weimar republic, Ebert, worked hard to try and win the support of the elite groups.
      • he wanted their support in order to maximize the stability of the new republic.
    • Likewise, he had to work hard to gain the support of the army
      • who in return needed his support if they were to survive as a significant political power in the years following the peace settlement.

The economic consequences of the war were dire for Germany. This diagram illustrates the cost of the war for each of the major participants:

external image d61.gif
The cost during the war was bordering on $40 billion. Consider the fact that there has been 85 years of inflation since this expenditure, in modern terms this figure would be closer to $1100 billion.

  • The German economy suffered terribly during the war. Industrial output fell by over 40% between 1914 and 1918.
  • Machinery was, at the end of the war, obsolete in many cases, run by ill trained people.
  • Millions of working men had been killed in the war.
  • The workforce was not physically fit enough to work as hard as required
    • food shortages had been so bad that:
      • "Germans ate dogs, crows, zoo animals and rodents, and even the front-line troops were reduced to meager portions of horse-meat."
  • Estimates suggest that up to 35% of all trade was organized illegally on the Black market.
  • The economy also suffered from shortages of raw materials.
    • From 1915 until the end of the war, Germans were forbidden to drive cars.
  • The situation hardly improved as a result of the Armistice, as the Germans hadn't the means to purchase fuel on a large scale and found it difficult to purchase raw materials in any case as the international community shunned them as a consequence of the war.
  • Some predicted that the Versailles Treaty would result in the economic destruction of the German nation. English economist John Maynard Keynes published his prediction in 1919 in a book entitled The Economic Consequences of Peace. To learn more click here.

Multimedia.pngStudent video project on the consequences of World War I on Germany's new Weimar Republic.

Germany, 1923: banknotes lost so much value that they were used as wallpaper
Germany, 1923: banknotes lost so much value that they were used as wallpaper

Political Impact of the War
  • This is the most obvious area of change.
  • The war led to the Kaiser being forced to abdicate.
    • This left a power vacuum that was filled by the Weimar Republic.
  • There were other political consequences of the war that may be less obvious.
    • The food shortages across Germany led to a radicalization of peoples views.
    • As a result, extremist views such as communism became widely supported, particularly in the industrial cities.
  • In 1919 there were several Left Wing uprisings.
    • The Sparticus attempted a revolution in Berlin and a short lived Soviet Republic was formed in Bavaria.
  • The implications of these uprisings are great.
    • The government was forced to make use of a body called the Freikorps.
      • This group was made up of disillusioned soldiers, who were right wing in their beliefs.
  • Some historians argue that the methods employed by the government at this early stage of its existence, led partially to the government's fall 14 years later.

  • Germany was extremely isolated at the end of the war.
    • Trade was hard to come by as most of her previous trading partners now shunned Germany
      • They preferred to do business with the victorious Allies.
  • Likewise the Germans struggled diplomatically
    • most notoriously when their views were ignored at the Peace conference at Versailles.

Physical Cost of the War
  • The cost of the war for Germany is estimated to be in the region of $38 billion.
  • In addition to this, consider the massive loss of life.
    • Germany suffered the loss of 1.7 million young men, with another 4.3 million men being wounded during the conflict.
      • The total casualties amounted to over 7 million
        • including some men who were prisoners or listed as missing.
Multimedia.pngWatch this video to gain an understanding of the aftermath of WWI.

The United States Holocaust Museum offers this overview of the aftermath of World War One, as well as this documentary on the road from Germans to Nazis.

Armenian Genocide in Turkey

  • The Armenian Massacres was a series of deadly acts against Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire
    • were organized by government authorities in the last decades of the 19th century and first decades of the 20th century.
  • The most devastating massacres began in 1915 during World War I (1914-1918).
  • These wartime atrocities have become known as the Armenian Genocide.
    • More than a million Armenians perished as a result of these actions, according to most estimates.
  • The Armenian Genocide took place under cover of World War I and had three major stages.
  • In the first stage, all able-bodied Armenian men aged 20 to 45 were conscripted into the Ottoman army.

    Armenian villagers being escorted to a nearby prison
    Armenian villagers being escorted to a nearby prison

    • They served as soldiers at first, but in early 1915 they were disarmed and reduced to laborers
    • toiling under brutal conditions, even working as pack animals.
    • Many were bound and shot.
  • In the second stage, Armenian politicians, community leaders, educators, intellectuals, and leading priests were arrested in April 1915
    • They were soon deported and executed.
  • In the third stage, beginning in May and June of 1915, the remaining Armenian population was deported
    • supposedly for relocation in the deserts of Mesopotamia, then part of the Ottoman Empire.

  • Large numbers of the deportees in the eastern and central provinces of Trabzon, Sivas, Harput, Erzurum, Van, and Bitlis were killed at the outset in mass executions.
  • Others died on the forced marches due to exposure, starvation, dehydration, or mistreatment.
  • But contrary to expectations, about 200,000 to 300,000 Armenian survived the long trek.
    • mainly from Turkey’s western, northwestern, and southwestern provinces
    • These wretched survivors, reduced by starvation to skin and bones, faced another series of massacres in the areas of Dayr az Zawr and Ra’s al ‘Ayn in Syria
  • As of March 3, 2017, Turkey continues to deny that the Armenian Genocide happened. Here is a New York Times article from 2015, on the hundred year anniversary that discusses that issue.

For an overview of the Armenian Genocide from the New York Times click here.

Explore the Armenian Genocide Museum to learn more.

Multimedia.png Armenian Genocide Survivors recall the events a hundred years later here and here.

Additional Resources for Teaching World War I

Female_Rose.pngWomen in WWI

English women at work in the New Gun Factory in London
English women at work in the New Gun Factory in London

Click here for a link about Women's Roles in WWI .

Multimedia.png Video on women (in UK) during WWI

For an article accompanied by images and a video of women in WWI propaganda, click here.

multicultural.pngAfrican Americans in WWI

For information on African Americans during World War I and the roles they played as well as the social impacts, visit African Americans and World War I

Oxford AASC page on African American involvement during World War I
African-American regiment in France
African-American regiment in France

Click here for an article on the colonial troops who fought in WWI, making it a truly global conflict.

Who Were the Harlem Helfighters? PBS The African Americans

Photographs of the 369th Infantry and African Americans during World War I, National Archives

lessonplan.jpgClick here for the Edsitement page on race relations post-WWI (in the US), along with Lesson Plans and study guides.

Gay_flag.svg.pngLGBT People and WWI

primary_sources.PNGClick here to read what it was like for LGBT population during and after the World War I.

  • Read more about homosexuality in World War One here.

Multimedia.pngVideo Resources

  • A clip from a documentary illustrating the impacts from World War I.
    • Click here for the NPR series "What If WWI Had Never Happened"
  • Click here to see photos of World War I in color.
    • Click here for a weekly series from the Guardian "Photography then and now" which blends photos from WWI with pictures of the same spots today.
  • Click here for an interactive documentary from the Guardian called "A Global Guide to the First World War"
    • Click here to watch the video of the U.S. before the Great Depression from WWI to the Roaring 20s.
map-ancient-rome-2.jpgClick here for a map of Europe throughout WWI and here for an interactive map of Europe between WWI and WWII.
Multimedia.pngFor images, see The Great War Archive Flickr Group

primary_sources.PNGWorld War I Poetry Archive

external image Red_apple.jpgWeb Resources for Teaching World War I from the National World War I Museum

Click here for a tag bundle on WWI from world history teacher Jeremy Greene.

game_icon.svg.pngFor student games on WWI, see Schools Online: World War One - Games and Information. Also, for an interactive time, see World War I Timeline Breakdown (also available from first link)

Works Cited:
  1. The World At War: League of Nations Timeline, http://worldatwar.net/timeline/other/league18-46.html
  2. Romanov Dynasty, http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/history/russia/romanov.html
  3. Armenian National Institute, http://www.armenian-genocide.org/
  4. http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_1741501560_2/Armenian_Massacres.html
  5. http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/trenchlife.htm
  6. http://www.schoolshistory.org.uk/ASLevel_History/week3_impactofwar.htm
  7. http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/history/russia/romanov.html
  8. http://www.sparknotes.com/history/european/russianrev/summary.html
  9. http://www.sparknotes.com/history/european/interwaryears/section2.rhtml