The First World War was fought from 1914 to 1918. It is called a world war for the simple reason that all the major countries of the world were involved in it. In this war on one side were Britain, France and Russia called “The Allies” while on the other side were Germany, Austria and Bulgaria known as “Central Powers”. Later, USA joined the Allies while Turkey participated in the war from the other side. The war fought bitterly for four years resulted in the victory of the Allies. In the history of warfare, the First World War stands out prominently as during its course, battles were fought on land, in air and on sea. Britain used a great military weapon like “tank” in this war for the first time.
As a background, we can mention that in the Franco—Prussian war of 1871, France was brought to her knees by Prussia (later known as Germany) who snatched from her two important provinces of Alsace and Lorraine. France resented this loss very much and harboured deep bitterness against Germany. France waited for an opportunity to take revenge against Germany. Imperialistic rivalries among the colony seeking powers of Europe, like England, France, Italy, Spain and Germany also helped in fouling the atmosphere and paved way for a war. In addition stock piling of powerful weapons by major countries of the world also created militant feelings among these nations surcharging the atmosphere.
The immediate cause was however the murder of Austrian Prince Archduke Ferdinand by a Serb at Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. Austria squarely blamed Serbia for this crime, and sent an ultimatum which was ignored by Serbia on the instigation of Russia. As a result Austria declared war against Serbia on July 28, 1914. This led to the escalation of conflict and gradually drew all the major countries of Europe as active participants. Russia declared war on Turkey on 2nd November, 1914 and Britain and France also followed suit. On 7th May, 1915 Germans attacked and sunk an American ship which later led to the involvement of USA in the war. USA declared war on Germany on 16 April 1917. Interestingly, Japan also fought against Germany in this war. The war ended in 1918 following a treaty known as the “Treaty of Versailles”.