World War I, military conflict, from 1914 to 1918, that began as a local European war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, was transformed into a general European struggle by declaration of war against Russia; and eventually became a global war involving 32 nations. Twenty-eight of these nations, including Great Britain, France, Russia, and the United States, known as the Allies, opposed the Central Powers, consisting of mainly Germany, Austria-Hungary. It cost the lives of more than 8 million soldiers and billions of dollars.
Between 1871 and 1914, Europeans experienced a long period of peace. There were wars, but none involved the great powers. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the crumbling Austro-Hungarian Empire was plagued with continuing internal unrest among its many nationalities. The Ottoman Empire was severely troubled by the nationalist aspirations of its subject peoples. In addition, Russia was defeated in the Russo-Japanese War, which plagued Russia by revolutionary unrest and industrial backwardness. These conflicting national interests led to the creation of two rival alliance systems.
The underlying causes of World War I were the spirit of intense nationalism and imperialism that permeated Europe throughout the 19th and into the 20th century. The political and economic rivalry among the nations, and the establishment and maintenance of large arm force and two hostile military alliances were also the cause.
The immediate cause of the war was the assassination of Franz Ferdinand on 1914, by Serbian at Sarajevo in Bosnia. Austria demanded that the assassin should be captured and delivered, but Serbia refused to submit disputed terms to Austria. Austria, therefore, declared was on Serbia. Russia immediately ordered mobilization against Austria and Germany declared war against Russia. Russia’s ally, France then began to mobilize, prompting Germany to declared war and Germany did. Later other countries joined including British, Italy.
The initial German plan of the campaign was to defeat France quickly in the west, while a small part of the German army held in check an expected Russian invasion in the east. The speedy defeat of France was to be accomplished by a strategic plan known as the Schlieffen plan, which had been drawn up by Schlieffen, German chief of staff.
The German strategy failed because the French army was efficient and professional and fought efficiently. During 3 weeks of war, each side had suffered more than half a million men killed, wounded, or captured. At the very beginning of the war, Russian armies advanced into East Prussia, and invaded the Austrian province. The Austrian armies cashed and engaged in combat in which the Russians lost so many men and such large quantities of supplies that they were subsequently unable to play any decisive role in the war.
From the end of 1914 until nearly the end of the war in 1918, the fighting consisted largely of trench warfare. Each side laid siege to the system of trenches, consisting of numerous parallel lines of intercommunicating trenches protected by lines of barbed wire, and from time to time to broke through the lines to fight.
More major military technological innovations occurred during WWI than in any other war in history. The improved airplanes allowed German to raid French and British form high altitude. The tank also demonstrated a potential that became a major force in ground battles by the end of the war. In combination with trenches, barbed wire, poison gas, and high-explosive artillery shells, the machine gun dominated the war also.
WWI made a significant impact on European society by bringing as end to unemployment. The whole economy was involved in the war. It also created new roles for women. Since so many men went to fight, women were called upon to take over jobs and responsibilities and given equal rights as men.
The increased technology of World War I had greatly expanded mankind potential for killing, but it was also hoped that this "war to end all wars" had served as a lesson to nations and the future bloodshed could be avoided. Many aspects of the peace treaty, however, sowed the seeds of future conflict. The harsh penalties against Germany created economic and political instability and thus assisted the rise of Hitler. As the outbreak of WW II proved that humanity had not yet found the means to peace.