(Sample Material) UPSC IAS Mains History (Optional) Study Kit "The First World War"

Sample Material of Our IAS Mains History Study Kit

Subject: History (Optional)

Topic: The First World War

The first world war was the logical culmination of aggressive nationalism, imperialism and militarism. Even mutual fear and distrust played their role in it. In one sense it was a great challenge to basis human values which Europeans had developed right from the period of Renaissance and Reformation. It created a devastation on unparallel scale. The first world war was a total war in which not simply the soldiers but even civilians participated. It created a machinery for mass slaughter in the form of chemical and biological weapons. It engulfed almost whole of Europe but the battle field was over-stretched upto Asia, Africa and American continents as well. There were a number of caused behind this.

(i) As a result of the industrial revolution the multi power centers emerged in the world-Britain, France, Germany, Italy, USA & Japan. It led to the imperialist rivalry in the world.

(ii) The treaty of Frankfurt and the Treaty system of Bismarck-the treaty of Frankfurt was too much humiliating for France as she had to submit the region of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany. That’s why Bismarch was apprehensive about the fact that in future Frances would try to take a revenge against Germany. So the basic objective of the foreign policy of Bismarch was to make France friendless in European politics. It was having been guided by this motive that Bismarch started the treaty system in Europe.

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Firstly Bismarch summoned a conference of three emperors-emperor of Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungry at Berlin in 1878. Sumbolically it was a type of fraternization of monarchies against French republic. But in Balkan region the interest of Austria and Russia were colliding with each other. In Berlin congress which was held in 1878 Bismarch clearly sided with Austria against Russia. Its logical culmination was the signing of double alliance between Austria and Germany in 1879. It was a defensive treaty. Initially Italy kept herself away from any commitment to Germany against France, but when France captured Tunisia in 1881 then in 1882 this double alliance developed into a triple alliance.

(iii) The rivalry between Austria and Serbia.

(iv) The rivalry between Germany and Britain.

(v) Upto the beginning of 20th century the imperialist expansion reached upto its climax and the division of Asia and Africa was almost completed. So now imperialism was no more working as a ventilation.

(vi) The breakdown of diplomatic machinery if we equate this situation with the situation subsequent on we find that there was such a situation in which there be military blocs like NATO and Varsa pact but the UNO be absent.

(vii) Immediate cause-Sarajevo massacre

Q. Could the First World war be averted?

The light has blown out all over Europe it will never return in our lifetime this homeless statement of Lord Grey, the British secretary, amply shows that there was complete breakdown of diplomatic channels in Europe at that time. In fact only the assassination of a king or a prince was not such a big issue which could result into the First World War because even earlier the king of Italy ad that of Portugal were assassinated in 1900 and 1909 respectively but it did not result into any major war. In fact here was a basic conflict in the interest of European powers. For example, for Germany and Italy, it was the last phase of unification. Fro Austria it was a question of survival due to the pressure of Pan-slavic movement. For Ottoman Empire it was the only tool to check the further disintegration. For Britain it was a tool for maintaining the balance of power in Europe. For France it was the right time to take revenge of what she had lost in the battle of Sedan. Likewise for Russia it was a new opportunity to reassert its hegemony in Balkan region.
Furthermore due to the breakdown of diplomatic machinery the method of war remained to be the only option before European powers that’s why we can say although the time frame for war could be extended but it could not be averted.

Q. Was Germany solely responsible for the first world war?

Germany played a major role in the first World War. It was pan Germanism and German militarism who intensified the tensions in Europe. Furthermore it was Germany Which supported Austria-Hungry that created a big crisis in Balkan region. On this basis we can say that Germany contributed a lot to the outbreak of first world war.

But still the total responsibility for this war should not be given only to Germany. As even other European powers made their contribution. For example, Russia intensified the crisis through giving unconditional support to Serbia. Likewise France contributed to it by giving unconditional support to Russia. During this critical juncture Britain could do something concrete to avert the war but she did not so. In fact in the first world war other European powers did through commission Britain contributed to it through omission.

Paris Peace Conference

In November 1918 first world war ended and in January 1919 Paris Peace Conference started. When we observe deeply we find that in actual sense it was not simply and all European conference rather it was a world conference. In this conference 27 representatives signed the draft. Among them 17 were belonging to non-European regions.

Three important personalities played the significant role in Paris peace conference. The first was American president, Woodrow Wilson. According to him he brought a solution to European problem in the form of 14 points programme. Another personality was French Premier Clemenceau. He was a grand old man of France. And he had manifested even the battle of Sedan.

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