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About World War I
World War 101
General Overview and Statistics
World War I, which lasted more than four years-from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918-changed the entire world order. Monarchies and empires crumbled in Russia, Germany, Turkey and Austria-Hungary, and were replaced by democracies and dictatorships. Alliances between nations formed in that war that remain in place today. It laid the groundwork for the United Nations. It forged the beginnings of a unified Europe. In the aftermath, amid uprisings and revolutions across Europe, Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany and his expansionism and quest for power, among other factors, led to World War II 20 years later.

It impacted almost every continent and almost every member of Western civilization. It was one of the deadliest wars in history, resulting in an estimated 16 million soldier and civilian deaths. For context, more people were killed in World War I than the entire current population of New York state, and more than the entire current populations of Belgium and Sweden combined.

World War I was the first mechanized war. It began with horses and ended with tanks. It introduced chemical warfare, airborne warfare and genocide. It also led to the worst pandemic of the 20th century: the 1918 influenza pandemic, which is estimated to have killed between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide.

Also known as The Great War and The War to End All Wars, it involved more than 70 million military personnel-more than the entire human population of the United Kingdom today-including 60 million Europeans. It was one of the largest wars in history.

In brief, World War I began in July 1914 when a Bosnian Serb Yugoslavian nationalist assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Austria issued an ultimatum to Serbia. Serbia refused. They were essentially on a war footing, but because of a web of alliances between those two countries, the conflict quickly escalated to include all of Europe and beyond. The two main sides in the war became the Triple Entente (France, Russia and Britain), versus the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy). The U.S. joined the war late, in April 1917, on the side of the Entente, after German submarines sank American merchant ships and America learned that Germany had been trying to persuade Mexico to start a war with the U.S.

The Impact
World War I was a significant turning point in the political, cultural, economic and social climate of the world. The war and its immediate aftermath sparked numerous revolutions and uprisings. Britain, France, the United States and Italy imposed their terms on the defeated powers in a series of treaties agreed at to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The most famous of these was the German peace treaty-the Treaty of Versailles. When the war was over, the Austro-Hungarian, German, Ottoman and Russian Empires ceased to exist, with numerous new states created from their remains.

But despite the conclusive Allied victory-and the creation of the League of Nations during the Peace Conference, which was intended to prevent future wars-the fallout would inevitably lead, just over 20 years later, to World War II. Germany, economically crippled by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, was now fertile ground for the rise of an ultra-nationalist party like the Third Reich and a leader like Hitler. Meanwhile, the citizens of the Allied countries, devastated by the loss of an entire generation of sons, were deeply against entering another war. This reticence from the Allied nations-most notably the U.K., the U.S. and France-allowed Hitler to accumulate power, invade other countries and launch a genocide, virtually unchecked, until it was almost too late.


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