World War I was the biggest war of its time, and it is known to this day as one of the most fatal wars to happen in history. It was caused by multiple large scale political and social disruptions in the world. Throughout the world, tensions were rising for many different reasons. One big factor was imperialism because imperialism instilled nationalistic traits in countries all over the globe. Another event that was said to trigger the start of World War I was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
When the Archduke died the tensions in the world seemed to finally snap. The multitude of causes show the enormous scale of the war. At the center of the huge war were the battles. The battles during WWI were some of the most gruesome fights history has ever seen, which were made possible by new war styles and weaponry. For example, trench warfare, tear gas, and machine guns were introduced. The continual use of these weapons and tactics show the desperate nature of the nations fighting- desperate enough to end up with a war that contained the most fatalities in a war to their date.
The destruction didn’t end on the battlefield though, the aftermath of the war was just as devastating. Property everywhere was in shambles, the world’s economy was in ruins and political ties were strained. For all of these reasons, WWI was a great war, in every sense of the word.
A world war doesn’t start itself.
Many different incidents went into triggering World War I. Industrialization is the root of the poisonous plant that is WWI. Industrialization caused a sudden international need for natural resources that can’t be sourced everywhere. When it became clear that the economy was dependent on things like coal and iron, countries started to look for and conquer anywhere that might, in some way, produce such profitable resources.
Thus, a nationwide spread of Imperialism ensued. The constant disregard of borders and respect for other nations raised tensions between countries. And so began a race to colonize as much as possible, as soon as possible. Imperialism also instilled a prospect of Social Darwinism. Each country believed that they were the best and that all other countries were only as good as stepping stones, something to walk over as a means to get to better places. During this time every nation slept with one eye open and one hand on a knife kept under their pillow. A relevant example of Imperialism increasing oriental tensions happened in the Balkan Peninsula. Serbia and its government wanted to unite all the Slavs. Russia, a country with a very high population of Slavs, was all for this idea and attempted to help Serbia achieve their goals. However, Austria-Hungary was completely against the union of Slavs because they greatly feared the power that they would hold if they came together. In every corner of the globe distrust blossomed and countless occurences of fear and dishonesty happened without a foreseeable end. That was until one of the biggest wars recorded was unleashed into the world alongside a drastic amount of opinions coming from a huge number of countries. In the end, 32 total countries participated in WWI. The complicated web comprised of countries’ egos and fears weaved a path that ended at the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
The week that followed is known to historians as the week when WWI started. The murder of the Archduke is one of the first times a nation actually took action on their skepticism of another country and it was none other than Serbia versus Austria-Hungary. It turns out that Austria-Hungary actually did have a reason to be scared of the combined might of Serbia. Soon everyone would have a reason to be scared, too.
The greatness of World War I can also be seen at the heart of the war, the battlefield. Because of new weapons and techniques, the battles were some of the most morbid and horrifying battles up to their time. For instance, trench warfare was introduced in WWI. Trenches were underground tunnels that were dug at the location of the fights that soldiers were forced to live in for weeks, or even months, at a time. They looked as if a large mole had dug a home near the front lines. In fact, the constant wetness and darkness of the tunnels made them more fit for a mole of a gopher, than a human. They were the perfect breeding grounds for bacteria and lice, both of which could be found in abundance. Soldiers also suffered from trench foot, a medical condition caused by standing on the wet ground constantly that disfigures and eats away at the feet. It’s as disgusting as it sounds. Trench warfare wreaked havoc on the troops and the fact that it was still being used even though the toll was obvious shows determination was grim and consequences were dutifully ignored. The odds of victory were very slim, so any advantage was seized, including new weaponry, such as poison gas. The gas acted as an irritant that burned the bodies and eyes of whomever it made contact with. The symptoms included, but were not limited to, extreme eye pain and the irradiation of the skin. The only hope of avoiding the worst of the gas was a mask, and even those only worked on occasion. The outbreak of gas was so drastic that propaganda in some countries began to feature gas masks as a symbol of evil to strike fear in citizens. Another weapon improved to aid mass murder was machine guns. The improvements in speed, aim, and power was what actually caused troops to start digging trenches. Machine guns were one of the weapons that caused the most death. Armies couldn’t advance if they were against the fire. As weapons were enhanced, the fatality count rose.
In total, advanced tactics and technology helped to kill around 16.5 million people. The devastation of war isn’t contained to just the front lines. The outcome of the war had lingering effects all over the world. Property everywhere was destroyed, and the land where fighting occurred became a mess of blood and ammunition. Soldiers who fought tooth and nail for their countries returned home hoping for some final peace only to find that they had no home to come back to. Their homes, if left standing, were most likely ransacked for anything that could help the war efforts. Friends of families of fallen soldiers left shattered while waiting for someone who’s never coming back. The land in most parts of the battles was so damaged that the thought of growing any crops was laughable. Not to mention the shattering feeling of waiting for someone who’s never coming back, whether it be a neighbor, spouse, or brother. There was also a large economic impact. Money was borrowed by all different countries from all over the world, a large portion of which went to fund supplies and salaries of the troops. After the war, the countries that fought in the war fell into “economic exhaustion”. There was simply not enough money to go around. People everywhere were struggling to keep their heads above the water because there was barely enough money to live off of.
Eventually, the debt led to the Great Depression of 1929-1939. Countless people were unable to support their families because they were left jobless, in some drastic cases even homeless. The small town impact was large, but the global impact was greater. Many national governments found themselves without a leader. The monarchs of nations like Russia, Germany, and the Ottomans were all killed or overthrown. An entire country was disbanded. At the end of the war, Austria-Hungary was split into separate countries, the main ones being Austria, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. What land wasn’t split into a new country was distributed among other European countries in the surrounding area. World War I was so massive that it involved over 30 different countries. It wasn’t caused by a single large event, it was caused by the domino effect of distrust and nationalistic pride. The destruction it caused was unlike anything anyone had ever seen. Weapons were invented for mass murder. The goal of innovation became to create anything that could harm the largest amount of people in the shortest amount of time, and it worked. The economic and political impact was overwhelming. It affected all people in all parts of the world, whether they were a soldier, a monarch, or a citizen who didn’t take part in the war. Land throughout the world was decimated, including the structures on it. Houses, farms, industries, and lives were destroyed. The greatness of World War I was great in its global destruction and economic and political impact.