WW I  (1914) Causes:

1) Imperialism: a rush of European countries to beat each other to the remaining “uncolonized” areas – Africa/China

-        this sharpened rivalries between European countries

-        Japan joins the colonial powers – as it “acquires” Korea, Taiwan, and portions of Chinese mainland in 1895

2) Militarism: no diplomacy – build up nation’s armed forces in preparation for war – military gained more authority

-        Great European powers of the era: Austria-Hungry, France, Germany, England, Russia – planning for war makes war more likely

3) Nationalism: 2 ‘types’ in WW1 – a) great powers tend to act in their own interest b) countries w/ ethnic diversity – the ethnic minorities want separation and independence

4) Alliances: complicated system of ‘coalition’ in Europe were used to boost a nation’s security – aid each other in attack – this led Europe into WW1


- Complicated series of treaties – used to protect each other in case of attack – eventually led to the war

-        assassination of (heir to the thrown) Francis & Sophie Ferdinand in Bosnia (Austrian-Hungarian Empire)

-        Austria – Hungary had recently annexed Bosnia & Serbia

-        A-H was certain that Serbia led the assassination – so it crushed their small army

-        Russia begins Mobilization (the readying of troops for war) – since it is an ally of Serbia

-        Germany (A-H’s Chief Ally) urges Russia to stop mobilizing

-        France mobilizes in support of Russia

-        Germany declares war on Russia

-        Germany lies between Russia & France – so it felt it needed to have a first strike strategy

-        In order to strike France ASAP it had to pass through Belgium…this invasion of Belgium brought Great Britain into the War (allied w/Belgium)

-        In one week, all of Europe’s great powers had been drawn in

-        Central Powers = Germany & Austria – Hungary

-        Allies = Russia, France, Serbia, and England

-        Bosnia was focal point as the Bosnians worked with the Serbians to gain freedom from the Austrian-Hungarian rule

-        Austria-Hungary wanted an apology and demands met...they were not and war was declared

-        Chain reaction was set-off

-        Russia had a treaty with Serbia – Germany with Austria-Hungary – Russia refused support, but France, allied with Russia, readied troops – Germany feared being caught in the middle, declared war on Russia – believing France would soon attack, it moved toward France through Luxembourg & Belgium...bringing Great Britain into the conflict


Modern Warfare

New Killing Machines – horrifying number of deaths

-        machine guns (450 rounds per minute), grenades, artillery shells, poison gases

-        The first reported use of gas was by the Germans on the eastern front on 3-Jan-1915. It was a tearing agent dispersed by artillery shell. The first use on the western front came several months later on 22-Apr-1915 at the village of Langemarck near Ypres.

-        At 1700 hours the Germans released a 5 mile wide cloud of chlorine gas from some 520 cylinders (168 tons of the chemical). The greenish-yellow cloud drifted over and into the French and Algerian trenches where it caused wide spread panic and death.

-        The age of chemical warfare had begun.

-        Trench Warfare:

Lachrymator (tearing agent)

Much like today's tear gas and mace, this gas caused temporary blindness and greatly inflamed the nose and throat of the victim. A gas mask offered very good protection from this type of gas. xylyl bromide was a popular tearing agent since it was easily brewed.


These are the poisonous gases. This class includes chlorine, phosgene and diphosgene.Chlorine inflicts damage by forming hydrochloric acid when coming in contact with moisture such as found in the lungs and eyes. It is lethal at a mix of 1:5000 (gas/air) whereas phosgene is deadly at 1:10,000 (gas/air) - twice as toxic! Diphosgene, first used by the Germans at Verdun on 22-Jun-1916, was deadlier still and could not be effectively filtered by standard issue gas masks.

Blistering Agent

Dichlorethylsulphide: the most dreaded of all chemical weapons in World War I - mustard gas. Unlike the other gases which attack the respiratory system, this gas acts on any exposed, moist skin. This includes, but is not limited to, the eyes, lungs, armpits and groin. A gas mask could offer very little protection. The oily agent would produce large burn-like blisters wherever it came in contact with skin. It also had a nasty way of hanging about in low areas for hours, even days, after being dispersed. A soldier jumping into a shell crater to seek cover could find himself blinded, with skin blistering and lungs bleeding.

-        Britain suffered 60,000 casualties in one day

-        Morale was poor as disheartened soldiers began slaughtering prisoners

-        Blurred distinction between soldiers and citizens

-        German subs sunk anything they believed to be carrying weapons

-        Britain used a blockade to starve German people


-        1/3 were first or second generation immigrants (25% were German-Americans) – Irish and other immigrants held hostile feeling toward Britain

-        Feared the Militarism of Germany & autocratic government led by Kaiser Wilhelm

-        Some felt it was a great day for American Business, selling arms

-        Others felt that the international trade the US had established was in peril – to protect investments, US remained neutral

-        “preparedness” was the mindset (economic ties most strongly with Britain) – camps set up to train men

-        Peace Movement, led mainly by women


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