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Factors Leading to the Termination of World War I Thesis

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Updated: Jul 10th, 2022


First World War (1914-1918) brought forth immense destruction and catastrophe to human race. The war terminated abruptly in 1917, the signing of the Armistice on 11 November seems paradoxical to many. Germany surrendered when its forces mostly stood on Allied soil and the vanquishers stopped without infringing inside the enemy territory. Critics have hailed this ceasefire to be premature.

This paper studies the reason why the First World War ended and why an Armistice was accepted on both sides i.e. the Germans as well as the Allies forces. The German leaders realized their military defeat but why did the Allies underestimate the extent of their victory? This paper argues that German resignation to the Armistice was out of military defeat, but the Allies acceptance of the surrender is due to the mutual distrust of its partners i.e. the distrust between Americans, British, and the French.


Liberal states aim at bringing about peace and prosperity. Liberal states will aim at establishing capitalist state and guaranteeing individual liberty. Given this understanding of liberalism, it can be argued that the Allied states wanted to bring about the turmoil on the European continent brought about by the German leadership to establish prosperity and peace. However, the deliberate humiliation of the German leadership at the hand of the Allied forces perpetrated through the signing of the “war guilt clause” indicates that the reason for the Allied forces was not solely to bring forth peace through the termination of the war.

This indicates that the desire of the Allied forces was infused in their schemes to polarize the power over the European continent among the allies and crush the German aggression for good. In addition to the distrust of the Germans, the Allied forces also distrusted their partners, which led to the universal disarmament proposal of 1919. This re-establishes the anarchist theory of mutual distrust of nations. The desire for power to control European continent drove the mistrust among the Allied forces and a sense of insecurity. Further, the termination of the world war also demonstrated the realist theory wherein all the nations wanted to end the war as its costs had become too high for all.

Further, all decisions are rationally taken to bring forth the best interest of the nations. This was exactly what was done at both the origin and the termination of the First World War. The high regard for national security and power over other nations led Germany to war at the beginning of First World War and they continued fighting until the German leaders felt that their enemies could threaten their security. The end was brought forth due to the acceptance of military defeat, and as the cost of war weighed higher than the benefits.

Recent research on origin of First World War shows that the war was the outcome of the deliberate expansionist desire of the German leadership to gain European hegemony and global reign (Lieber 189). Given this change in reasoning of the origin of the war, the reason for the termination of the war may also change. However, little scholarship had demonstrated the reason for which the termination of the First World War. Therefore, it is important in the light of the new availability of primary sources which show that the first world war was a calculated step, may also prove that the termination of the war was too a calculated, ration, decision to end the war weighing the cost and benefits o fits continuation and end. That is why a research into the reason of termination of First World War is important.

Literature Review

The literature on the origin of the First World War makes it abundantly clear that historians and international relations scholars traditionally believed that the vanquished surrendered and accepted defeat, which was the reason for the termination of the war. Another explanation of the termination of the world war is that both the sides i.e. the Germans and the Allied forces negotiated the settlement. However, the central question that criticizes this argument is that “How can two states reach an agreement in an anarchic realm with no central authority to enforce its terms?” (Goemans 10) In other words, the winner always has more power than the vanquished, and so why would the winner lose the opportunity to take advantage of his position?

Goemans believed that domestic German politics that had a great role in the termination of the First World War (29). The regime types and the situation of the domestic politics have a role to play in the termination of the war. This study reflects that regimes types that are divided into three categories such as dictatorship, mixed regimes, and democracies, influence the decision to end the war and the time of ending the war (Goemans 39).

Leaders minimize the domestic cost, which is the punishment the leader faces if they lose a war, by employing various strategies. Leaders in moderately repressive regimes face the maximum punishment as opposed to leaders from a non-repressive and highly repressive regime (Goemans 39-40). The research categorizes Britain and France as non-repressive regimes, Russia, and Germany as semi-repressive regimes and outlines that the latter were more ready to gamble to ensure victory. However, as the war progressed, all the parties saw their aims converge, and in 1918, none of the parties wanted to pay a higher price for the conflict (Goemans 311).

Dan Reiter believes that Germany continued fighting in the early 1918 as it distrusted the commitment of Britain and France in case of a settlement and wanted to gain control over Belgium (Reiter 166). Arguing on the lines of future expectation of the warring sides, the study points out that First World War did not end in before 1918 because both the parties expected a better outcome from the war (Reiter 167).

The Allied forces expected the advent of the American forces in their aid, which would better their chances of a victory, and the Germans expected to redeploy their forces from the eastern to the western border of the country that would make their chances of victory brighter (Reiter 167). The main aim of continuation of war for Germany was complete control over Belgium to make the nation secure from future attacks by the French or British forces (Reiter 171). Germany believed that a peace settlement might escalate future attacks on Germany, it continued to fight in early part of 1918. However, the termination was brought forth due to the German fear of the arrival of more American troops on the Western border would shift the balance of power.

Research on the post-World War I disarmament of Germany, it has been found that British, French, and American policy to German disarmament terms was a permanent solution to completely cripple the latter’s military power to prevent future aggression from the country (Stevenson 221). However, an early termination indicated that the distrust among the Allied forces: “In 1918 … the victors wished to limit the spread of Bolshevism and Britain to prevent too complete a French or American victory, while Wilson suspected his partners of being as imperialist as his enemies.” (Stevenson 222)

In another study conducted by Stevenson showed that the main reason for the ending of the First World War was the convergence of interest of the concerned parties. Stevenson studied primary sources from Germany, Britain, and France and on secondary sources of scholarly work on war termination scholarship by international relations scientists (Stevenson, 1918 Revisited 108). The research found that the Germans ended the war as they accepted their military defeat in the hands of the Allied forces and the Allied forces accepted the terms as they felt that “Continued fighting would have meant the death and mutilation of tens and even hundreds of thousands more men, and arching to Berlin would not in itself have protected Europe from another war.” (Stevenson 132)

The literature review shows that war termination theory of World War I is based on the argument that domestic conditions of Germany led to the end of the terminations of the war. However, the limitation of the studies on termination of First World War lays in the acceptation of the reason from one side of the acceptance of settlement i.e. the German side. Nevertheless very little has been discussed on the reasons why the Allied forces accepted the Armistice when the British were expecting a victory in face of more American support in early 1918. This paper will evaluate why the Allied forces entered the settlement to end the war in late 1918.


The study of the termination of the First World War is based on the endogenous theory of war termination. According to the endogenous war termination theory, leaders who expect optimistic result out of a war will tend to initiate it (Slantchev 814). Further, at least two states are required to start a war, and one of them has to misjudge to get an outcome of the war. However, this cost benefit analysis goes wrong for the state who miscalculates the outcomes.

The study based on endogenous war termination theory suggests that initiators will initiate a war when they are certain of high chances of victory, and will end the war, when the perceived balance of power tilts. (Slantchev 827). This study on the termination of First World War will be based on this theory to see what were the cost benefit aspects that the British, French, Germans, and the United States faced to bring forth the termination of the war so abruptly.


The data that will be used for the study is based on the study of primary sources of World War I. The study is based on the primary sources or official documents issued by the British, French, German, and the United States to demonstrate the cost benefit analysis of the forces to understand why they ultimately settled for termination of the war. There is ample availability of primary sources of First World War from online website archives (war-diary.com; firstworldwar.com; WWI Document Archive).


firstworldwar. 2010. Web.

Goemans, Hein E. War and Punishment: The Causes of War Termination and the First World War. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000.

Lieber, Keir A. “The New History of World War I and What It Means for International Relations Theory.” International Security Vol. 32, No. 2 (2007): 155–191.

Reiter, Dan. How Wars End. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009.

Slantchev, Branislav L. “How Initiators End TheirWars: The Duration of Warfare and the Terms of Peace.” American Journal of Political Science Vol. 48, No. 4 (2004): 813–829.

Stevenson, David. “1918 Revisited.” The Journal of Strategic Studies Vol. 28, No. 1 (2005): 107 – 139.

—. “Britain, France and the Origins of German Disarmament, 1916–19.” The Journal of Strategic Studies Vol. 29, No. 2 (2006): 195 – 224.

war-diary. 2010. Web.

WWI Document Archive. 2010. Web.

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