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First World War: Causes and Effects Essay

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Updated: Apr 19th, 2022


World War one seems like an ancient history with many cases of compelling wars to many people, but amazingly, it became known as the Great War because of influence it caused. It took place across European colonies and their surrounding seas between August 1914 and December 1918 (Tuchman, 2004). Almost sixty million troops mobilized for the war ended up in crippling situations.

For instance, more than eight million died and over thirty million people injured in the struggle. The war considerably evolved with the economic, political, cultural and social nature of Europe. Nations from the other continents also joined the war making it worse than it was.

The Causes of World War One

Over a long period, most countries in Europe made joint defense treaties that would help them in battle if the need arose. This was for defense purposes. For instance, Russia linked with Serbia, Germany with Austria-Hungary, France with Russia, and Japan with Britain (Tuchman, 2004).

The war started with the declaration of war on Serbia by Austria-Hungary. This later led to the entry of countries allied to Serbia into the war so as to protect their partners.

Imperialism is another factor that led to the First World War. Many European countries found expansion of their territories enticing.

Before World War One, most European countries considered parts of Asia and Africa as their property because they were highly productive. European nations ended up in confrontations among themselves due to their desire for more wealth from Africa and Asia. This geared the whole world into war afterwards.

Competition to produce more weapons compared to other countries also contributed to the beginning of World War One. Many of the European nations established themselves well in terms of military capacity and eventually sought for war to prove their competence.

Desire for nationalism by the Serbians also played a crucial role in fueling the war. Failure to come to an agreement about Bosnia and Herzegovina led the countries to war. Both countries wanted to prove their supremacy.

Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife in Austria-Hungary sparked the war. Tuchman (2004) reveals that the Serbians assassinated Ferdinand in Sarajevo in June 1914 while protesting to the control of Sarajevo by Austria-Hungary. The assassination led to war between Serbia and Austria-Hungary. This led to mobilization of Russian troops in preparation for war.

The already prepared Germany immediately joined the war against Russia and France. On the other hand, Russians declared war on Austria and Germany. The invasion of the neutral Belgium by Germany triggered Britain to declare war against Germans.

Earlier, Britain had promised to defend Belgium against any attack. The British entered France with the intention of stopping the advancement of Germany. This intensified the enmity among the countries involved (Tuchman, 2004).

Tuchman (2004) argues that the French together with their weak allies held off the fighting in Paris and adopted trench warfare. The French had decided to defend themselves from the trenches instead of attacking. This eventually gave them the victory.

Although The British had the largest number of fleet in the world by the end of 1914, they could not end the First World War. The Germans had acquired a well-equipped fleet. This helped them advance the war to 1915. However, many countries participating in the war began to prepare for withdrawal from the conflict. The war had changed the social roles in many of the countries involved.

For instance, women in Britain performed duties initially considered masculine so as to increase their income (Tuchman, 2004). In the Western Front, the innovated gas weapons killed many people. In the Eastern Front, Bulgaria joined Austria-Hungary as the central power leading to more attacks in Serbia and Russia. Italy too joined the war and fought with the allied forces.

The British seized German ports in 1916. This led to severe shortage of food in Germany. The shortages encountered by the Germans led to food riots in many of the German towns. The Germans eventually adopted submarine warfare. With the help of this new tactic, they targeted Lusitania, one of the ships from America.

This led to the loss of many lives, including a hundred Americans, prompting America to join the war. On 1stJuly the same year, over twenty thousand people died and forty thousand injured. However, in the month of May the same year, the British managed to cripple the German fleet and eventually take control of the sea (Tuchman, 2004).

The year 1917 marked a remarkable change in Germany. Attempts to convince Mexico to invade the United States proved futile. Germany eventually lost due to lack of sufficient aid from their already worn-out allies. Towards the end of 1918, British food reserves became exhausted. This reduced the intensity of the warfare against Germans. It was in this same year that they established “Women Army Auxiliary Corps”.

It placed women on the forefront in the battlefield for the first time. On the Western Front, the Germans weakness eventually led to their defeat. The war came to an end. The British eventually emerged the superior nation among all the European nations.

The signing of the Treaty of Versailles on twenty eighth June 1919 between the Allied powers and Germany officially ended the war. Other treaties signed later contributed to the enforcement of peace among nations involved in the war (Tuchman, 2004).

The Effects of the War

First World War outlined the beginning of the modern era; it had an immense impact on the economic and political status of many countries. European countries crippled their economies while struggling to manufacture superior weapons. The Old Russian Empire replaced by a socialist system led to loss of millions of people.

The known Austro-Hungarian Empire and old Holy Roman Empire became extinct. The drawing of Middle East and Europe maps led to conflicts in the present time. The League of Nations formed later contributed significantly in solving international conflicts.

In Britain, a class system arose demarcating the lower class from the advantaged class whereas, in France the number of men significantly reduced (Tuchman, 2004). This led to sharing of the day to day tasks between men and women. First World War also caused the merger of cultures among nations. Poets and authors portray this well. Many people also ended up adopting the western culture and neglecting their own.


In conclusion, the First World War led to the loss of many lives. These included soldiers and innocent citizens of the countries at war. The First World War also led to extensive destruction of property. The infrastructure and buildings in many towns crumbled. It contributed to displacement of people from their homes. Many people eventually lost their land.

The loss of land and displacement of people has substantially contributed to the current conflicts among communities and nations. However, the First World War paved way to the establishment of organizations that ensured that peace prevailed in the world. It also led to the advancement of science and technology. It led to the realization that women too could perform masculine tasks.


Tuchman, W. B. (2004). The Guns of August: New York: Random House Publishing Group.

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