A Basic Summary of World War One:
Europe had a long standing culture of regarding war as glorious and honorable Together with a complicated set of alliances that essentially broke most of the world into two camps war was really inevitable. Unfortunately iindustrializationallowed mass production of soldiers and material which meant the war was far larger than the people who started it envisioned.
So the trigger was an Austrian Archduke being shot by a Serb, Gavrilo Princip. Austria declared war on Serbia. Russia considered itself the protector of the balkans and declared war on Austria. Germany declared war Russia, and to avoid fighting a war on two fronts declared war on France in the hopes on knocking them out before the technologically backwards Russians could mobilize.
France had an excellent defensive line but it didn’t extend as far as Belgium and so Germany invaded Belgium. Britain was a guarantor of Belgium neutrality and so declared war on Germany.
Britain, France and Russia were known as the Triple Entente, while Germany, Austro-Hungary and later the Ottoman Empire were referred to as the Central Powers.
The early war had movement on both east and west fronts. Germany did well in the west and poorly in the east, but nowhere was decisive. The war dragged on, with most of the professional armies being destroyed and large conscript or volunteer forces replacing them.
1915 – Italy entered the war on the side of the Entente and the Ottoman empire joined the central powers. The last great cavalry charges occurred. The western front stagnated and trench warfare solidified. Hindenburg and Ludendorff distinguished themselves on the eastern front.
Britain attacked the Ottomans at Gallipolli, it was a catastrophic failure.
1916 – The new armies were ready to use on-masse. Faulkner attacked Verdun not to take ground but to kill as many enemies as possible, a new and terrifying tactic. It had mixed success causing huge French casualties but giving them a morale boost.
The British attacked on the Somme to relive pressure on France, it was the worst military affair In British history. The tank was used for the first time.
Germany was under blockade, but managed to blockade Britain through the use of submarines. This caused diplomatic problems with neutrals.
Hindenburg and Ludendorff became de facto leaders of Germany.
1917 – Russia had a civil war due to the extremely poor conditions for their soldiers and civilians. The communists took control (with the help of Germany). Russia left the war seeding large amounts of land and resources to Germany.
America joined the war. The stated cause was Germanys submarine usage (in particular the sinking of the Lusitania) but really America had been funding the entente and it now looked like they might lose (and hence America would lose alot of money). This had huge implications. America had been isolationist, focusing instead on gaining hold of their massive new territory. But now they became an extremely powerful world player.
Western front was a stalemate. Britain started a campaign to make Arabs rise against their Turkish masters.
1918 – Germany was starving. This year had the most casualties of the war. Germany launched a last ditch offensive which was a surprising success. However the advance outran communication lines and stalled. The Entente counter attack was successful, the German people lost the will to fight.
The Arab uprising was successful and destroyed the Ottoman empire.
A poorly thought out peace treaty was signed and the guns finally fell silent.