First World War
What is the Belle Epoque?
The 20th Century began with an artistic, social and economic “revolution” especially in Europe (France, United Kingdom, Italy, etc), this period of time was named Belle Époque because everything was beauty, happiness and magnificence. Every country wanted to imitate European ones.
This global development began in the second half of de nineteenth century and changed completely the society and way of thinking of that time. Villages and farms became big cities with high levels of technology, banks and big business companies appeared in this period too. Education also improved, and became essential to this new world of innovation and changes. The social structure was modified, a new social class appeared (dedicated especially to services and the administration of this new companies), the middle class.
Wars between countries were ending like the Frank-Prussian War, the conflict between Spain and the Caribbean, etc. Peace reigned and this Belle Époque seemed to be forever, No one ever imagined that in a few years the “Great war” would trigger.
What were the Causes of this War?
One of the reasons of the First World War was the Neocolonialism; in other words, the distribution of undeveloped territories, such as Africa, Asia and Australia, “instituting a system of economic exploitation in which African raw materials, particularly cash crops and minerals, were expropriated and exported to the sole benefit of the colonizing power. The idea of neocolonialism, however, suggests that when European powers granted nominal political independence to colonies in the decades after World War II, they continued to control the economies of the new African countries” (Falola,Matthew).
These territories were divided between England, France and the United States mainly.
First World War Development
This war took place mainly in Europe, but it affected the whole world because of the neo-colonialism, this European war moved into the colonies in Africa and Asia too. America and the rest of the world were affected indirectly because the world economy was weak (most of the money was invested in armaments) and the European countries weren’t importing, which affected exporting-countries. The moral disorder that every war, especially this kind of war, produces in people is impressive.
Two Big Alliances:
Central Power: Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy (withdrew in 1915). A few years later Japan also became a member of the Central Power with the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria
Germany offers his unconditional support to Austria-Hungary, and vice versa if one of the parts is attacked by one part of the Entente Power
“Two years after Germany and Austria-Hungary concluded their agreement, Italy was brought into the fold with the signing of the Triple Alliance in 1881. Under the provisions of this treaty, Germany and Austria-Hungary promised to assist Italy if she were attacked by France, and vice versa: Italy was bound to lend aid to Germany or Austria-Hungary if France declared war against either. […] Italy subsequently negotiated a secret treaty with France, under which Italy would remain neutral should Germany attack France - which in the event transpired.” (Duffy,2004)
Entente Power: France, England and Russia (withdrew in 1917). After the collapse of Lusitania, USA became a member of the Entente Power, Italy did too.
United because of the fear and resentment they had towards Berlin.
East Front: Germany v/s Russia and Russia v/s Austria-Hungary
West Front: France and England v/s Central Powers.
What happened with Germany?
Germany and Poland were late to this distribution because they were solving internal conflicts, causing disagreements over territories. In conclusion, politically this was not a “Belle Époque”, on the contrary, it was a time of instability, conflicts and rebellions. These disagreements led European countries to prepare themselves military; this was called the “Arms Race”. It was a time of intense military race, increasing considerably armaments industries (military and naval staff increases between 1880 and 1914 over the 50%); this led to a new feeling, nationalism (defend what belongs to them).
The second reason was the sudden interest of Russia and Austria-Hungary for the Balkans, who wanted the independence from the Ottoman Empire so they asked help to Russia and Austria-Hungary.
In 1871 Germany and France disputed about the territories of Alsace and Lorena (northeast of France), Germany wins, but France wasn’t happy, and the feelings of resentment were another cause of the First World War.
July 28, 1914: Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Sophie von Chotkovato were murdered while they were visiting Sarajevo by a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip. He was a member of the Black Hand, group who wanted Bosnia-Herzegovina released from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The three men in charge of this assassination were equipped with a revolver, a bomb and a small vial of cyanide, so after the Archduke was killed they were told to commit suicide so the group (Black Hand) wouldn’t be blamed for the death.
"One thing led to another"
“The events of July and early August 1914 are a classic case of "one thing led to another" - otherwise known as the treaty alliance system. The explosive that was World War One had been long in the stockpiling; the spark was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914.
Ferdinand's death at the hands of the Black Hand, a Serbian nationalist secret society, set in train a mindlessly mechanical series of events that culminated in the world's first global war.” (Duffy, 2004)
This assassination caused a series of reactions, the main powers got enlisted for a inevitable war.
In July 23rd Austria-Hungary sent an Ultimatum with ten demands to the Serbia, with the intention to undermine diplomatically this country. Serbia asked help to Russia (knowing that the war was coming) and just accepted eight of the ten demands, on July 28th of 1914 the Austria-Hungary Empire declared war on Serbia. With no interest in loosing his influence in the Balkans, Russia ordered a mobilization of part of his army the next day. Germany makes the same order two days later (supporting the Austria-Hungary) and France three days after Russia, the same day Germany declared war to Russia (August 1st).
European Powers were really prepared for this war: arms productions increased considerably, the commercial, political and industrial rivalry between countries was indisputable, old resentments were bigger every day and the territories’ competition forced these countries to signed treaties creating two big alliances.
What were the Trenches?
These were long excavations in the ground where soldiers could hide and attacked during wars. This was a military technique that was implemented for the first time in the First World War. During the day soldiers fought and at night they moved forward towards the enemy. They had to worry about rats and catching diseases. They weren’t always fed; hygiene was almost inexistence and the medical attention was poor. Soldiers usually were on the front line for eight days, and then in the reserve trench for four. Sometimes men were weeks or month serving in the trenches, with no food, no water, with rain, in other words life in the trenches was really difficult.
“Getting along a trench is not as easy as you think. For one thing it is not straight for more than four yards (it is 'traversed' to prevent crossfire and shell fire having much effect). Then there are all sorts of odd off-turns, to officers' dugouts, or other lines of trenches: at other places there are steps down and other unknown steps up where a piece of parapet has been blown in, or some walls of a traverse have collapsed. In these mazes where we have fought each other so often and each side has held the ground in turn, you can never be quite sure whether a trench won't lead you straight to the German lines. In more than one place in our present line we actually do have communication trenches connecting our and their lines.” (Second Lieutenant Tom Allen; 1st Irish Guards, www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwone/soldiers_stories_gallery_03.shtml)
What Wepons were used?
• Toxic Gas
• Bombs, guns, revolvers, etc.
Battle of Marne: Germany v/s France
Battle of Tannemberg: Germany v/s Russia (largest German victory)
Battle of Verdun: Germany v/s France
Battle of Somme: France and England v/s Germany
End of the War
The winners of this War were the Entente Power, they made the Treaty of Versalles, where Germany is the only guilty and has to pay for his damages.
Also it was created League of Nations, mother of the actual ONU.
. “Dear Folks:
Arrived here last night, and was on the street today when the armistice with Germany was signed. Anyone who was not here can never be told, or imagine the happiness of the people here. They cheered and cried and laughed and then started all over again.
[…]There is no where on earth I would rather be today than just where I am. Home would be nice, and is next, but Paris and France is Free after four years and 3 months of war. And oh, such a war! […] old French couple come up to Major Merrill and me and throw their arms about us, cry like children, saying, "You grand Americans; you have done this for us.” (Normington, 1918)