Prominent among thewar’s causes were the imperialist, territorial, and economic rivalries ofthe great powers. The German empire in particular was determined toestablish itself as the preeminent power on the Continent. The Germans werealso intent on challenging the naval superiority of Britain. However, itwas rampant nationalism-especially evident in the Austro-Hungarian empire-that furnished the immediate cause of hostilities. On June 28, 1914,Archduke FRANCIS FERDINAND, heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian throne,was assassinated at Sarajevo by a Serbian nationalist. One month later,after its humiliating demands were refused, Austria-Hungary declared war onSerbia.
Other declarations of war followed quickly, and soon every majorpower in Europe was in the war. On the Western Front, the Germans smashedthrough Belgium, advanced on Paris, and approached the English Channel. After the first battles of the MARNE and YPRES, however, the Germans becamestalled. Grueling trench warfare and the use of poison gas began all alongthe front, and for the next three years the battle lines remained virtuallystationary despite huge casualties at VERDUN and in the Somme offensiveduring 1916.
On the Eastern Front, the Central Powers were more successful. The Germans defeated (Aug. -Sept. 1914) the Russians at Tannenberg and theMasurian Lakes. Serbia and Montenegro fell by the end of 1915. In thesouth, the Italian campaigns were inconclusive, though they benefited theAllied cause by keeping large numbers of Austrian troops tied down there.
In Turkey, the Allies’ ambitious Gallipolli Campaign (1915), an attempt toforce Turkey out of the war, was a costly failure. In the Middle East, T. E. LAWRENCE stirred Arab revolt against Turkey. U.
S. neutrality had beenthreatened since 1915, when the British ship LUSITANIA was sunk. By 1917unrestricted German submarine warfare had caused the U. S. to enter the waron the side of the Allies. An American Expeditionary Force, commanded byGen.
PERSHING, landed in France and saw its first action at Chteau-Thierry(June 1917). In Mar. 1918 the new Soviet government signed the Treaty ofBREST-LITOVSK with the Central Powers. The Germans were stopped just shortof Paris in the second battle of the Marne, and an Allied counteroffensivewas successful. The Turkish and Austro-Hungarian empires, disintegratingfrom within, surrendered to the Allies, as did Bulgaria. After revolutionerupted in Germany, the armistice was signed on Nov.
11, 1918. The Treatyof VERSAILLES and the other treaties that ended the war changed the face ofEurope and the Middle East. Four great empires-Germany, Austria-Hungary,Russia, and Turkey-had disappeared by the end of the war. Replacing themwere governments ranging from monarchies and sheikhdoms throughconstitutional republics to the Marxist socialist state of the USSR. Thewar itself had been one of the bloodiest in history, without a singledecisive battle. A total of 65 million men and women had served in thearmies and navies; an estimated 10 million persons had been killed anddouble that number wounded.
Such statistics contributed to a generalrevulsion against war, leading many to put their trust in multinationaldisarmament pacts and in the newly formed LEAGUE OF NATIONS.