World War I (1914-1918) was the result of the permanent friction provoked by the imperialism of the great European powers.
The Great War, as it was called before World War II, was a conflict on a global scale. It started in Europe and involved the colonial territories.
Two blocks faced: the Triple Alliance , formed by Germany, Austria and Italy, and the Triple Entente formed by France, England and Russia.
The dispute involved 17 countries on five continents such as: Germany, Brazil, Austria-Hungary, United States, France, British Empire, Turkish-Ottoman Empire, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Kingdom of Romania, Kingdom of Serbia, Russia, Australia and China.
The war left 10 million soldiers dead and another 21 million wounded. Also 13 million civilians lost their lives.
In pink, Entente countries; in yellow, the Triple Alliance and in green, neutral countries
Causes of World War I
Several factors triggered the First World War.
Since the late nineteenth century the world had been in tension. The extraordinary industrial growth made possible the Arms Race , that is: the production of weapons in a quantity never imagined.
The expansionism of the German Empire and its transformation into the largest industrial power in Europe gave rise to enormous distrust between Germany and France, England and Russia.
We add the old rivalries between France and Germany, Russia and Germany, and the United Kingdom and Germany. Also the disagreements over boundary issues in the colonies generated by the Berlin Conference (1880).
French anti-Germanism developed as a consequence of the Franco-Prussian War. Defeated France was forced to hand over to the Germans the regions of Alsace and Lorraine, which is rich in iron ore.
The Russian-German rivalry was caused by the German claim to build a railway linking Berlin with Baghdad. In addition to passing through oil-rich regions where the Russians intended to increase their influence.
English anti-Germanism is explained by German industrial competition. On the eve of the war German products competed in markets that were dominated by England.
All of these issues made conflict inevitable as the economic and political clashes between the industrialized powers intensified.
The ring of alliances was a bomb ready to explode.
In 1908, Austria announced the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, contrary to Serbian and Russian interests.
In order to show a good relationship between the new subjects, the heir to the Austrian throne, Francisco Ferdinando, paid a visit to the region with his wife.
On June 28, 1914, a Bosnian student murdered the heir to the Austrian throne Francisco Ferdinando and his wife in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia.
This double murder was the pretext for the outbreak of World War I that lasted until November 11, 1918.
Illustration of the murder of Francisco Ferdinando and his wife
Phases of World War I
At the beginning of the conflict, the forces were balanced, in number of soldiers, different were the equipment and the resources.
The Triple Entente had no long-range cannon, but it dominated the seas, thanks to English power.
Battle tanks, battleships, submarines, large-caliber howitzers, and aviation, among other technological innovations of the time, were war artifacts of great destructive power.
With heavy artillery and 78 divisions, the Germans passed through Belgium, violating the neutrality of this country. They beat the French at the border and headed for Paris.
The French government moved to Bordeaux and at the Battle of Marne, restrained the Germans, who retreated.
Later, the French and Germans made positions by digging trenches all along the western front. Protected by barbed wire, the armies buried themselves in a trench, where mud, cold, rats, and typhus killed as much as machine guns and cannons. This moment is called Trench Warfare .
In 1917, the United States , which had remained out of war despite lending capital and selling arms to Entente countries, especially England, entered the conflict.
He declared war on Germany for fear of its imperialist and industrial might.
That same year Russia, emerged from the conflict, because of the Revolution of 1917 , which overthrew the tsar and implanted the socialist regime.
Although Germany continued to suffer successive defeats, its allies surrendered, the German government was still at war. Hungry and tired, the German people revolted and the soldiers and workers forced the kaiser (emperor) to abdicate.
A provisional government was formed and the Republic of Weimar was proclaimed. On November 11, 1918, the new government signed the German surrender. World War I was coming to an end, but the general peace was not signed until 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles was signed.
Reactions to the effects of the treaty are among the main consequences of World War I.
Thus, in 1939, just over 20 years later, they triggered World War II .
The Great War left profound consequences for everyone. We can highlight:
- redesigned the political map of Europe and the Middle East;
- marked the fall of liberal capitalism;
- motivated the creation of the League of Nations ;
- allowed the economic and political rise of the United States.
Brazil in World War I
In April 1917, the Germans sank into the English Channel the Brazilian merchant ship Paraná. In retaliation, Brazil breaks relations with the aggressors.
In October, another Brazilian ship, the Macau, is attacked. At the end of 1917, a medical team and soldiers landed in Europe to assist the Entente.