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World War I







Map of the world with the participants in World War I prior to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The Allies are depicted in green, the Central Powers in orange and neutral countries in grey.



The immediate cause of World War I, was the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on June 28, 1914.  However, the main causes of the war existed long before 1914.

At the time of his assassination, Francis Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, had been visiting Bosnia, a new Austro-Hungarian province. He was shot by Gavrilo Princip, a 19-year-old Bosnian nationalist who believed that Austria-Hungary had no right to rule Bosnia.

Convinced that Serbia was behind the Archduke’s assassination, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914.

Russia, as Serbia’s protector, began mobilization, or the readying of troops for war.

France, Russia’s ally, and Germany, Austria-Hungary’s ally, also began mobilization.

Germany, located between France and Russia, wanted to conquer France quickly to avoid the need to fight on two fronts. To get to France, German forces had to pass through neutral Belgium; the invasion of Belgium brought Britain into the conflict as well.

One week after the war started, all the great powers of Europe had been drawn into it.  Germany and Austria-Hungary formed the Central Powers, while Russia, France, Serbia, and Great Britain were called the Allies.


By September 1914, the war had reached a stalemate, a situation in which neither side is able to gain an advantage.

When a French and British force stopped a German advance near Paris, both sides holed up in trenches separated by an empty “no man’s land.”  Small gains in land resulted in huge numbers of human casualties. 

Both Modern Warfare

Neither soldiers nor officers were prepared for the new, highly efficient killing machines used in World War I.

Machine guns, hand grenades, artillery shells, and poison gas killed thousands of soldiers who left their trenches to attack the enemy.

As morale fell, the lines between soldiers and civilians began to blur.  The armies began to burn fields, kill livestock, and poison wells

sides continued to add new allies, hoping to gain an advantage.

In addition, anti-German propaganda, or information intended to sway public opinion, turned many Americans against the Central Powers.

To protect American investments overseas , President Wilson officially proclaimed the United States a neutral country on August 4, 1914.


  • During his reelection campaign in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson used the slogan, “He 

               kept us out of war.”



  • Prior to entering World War I, the United States protested Germany’s use of submarine warfare primarily because it

              violated the principle of freedom of the seas


lusitania part 6


  US Entry into the war  




       What helped bring about this change? (#17-Aug. ’04)

1. Bolshevik forces increased their strength in Germany and Italy.

2. Britain was invaded by nations of the Central Powers.

3. Russia signed a treaty of alliance with the Central Powers.

4. Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare..





A major reason the United States entered World War I was to

  safeguard freedom of the seas for United States ships

War on the homefront


Wilson's 14 Points


President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points were proposed during World War I primarily to 

              define postwar objectives for the United States




  One goal for a lasting peace that President Woodrow Wilson included in his Fourteen Points


                Was establishing a League of Nations





Long Term Effects of the War.

The Sinking of the Lusitania

On May 7,1915, a German U-boat sank the British passenger liner Lusitania, which had been carrying both passengers and weapons for the Allies. 

Since 128 American passengers had been on board, the sinking of the Lusitania brought the United States closer to involvement in the war.

The Sussex Pledge

More Americans were killed when Germany sank the Sussex, a French passenger steamship, on March 24,1916. 

In what came to be known as the Sussex pledge, the German government promised that U-boats would warn ships before attacking, a promise it had made and broken before.

As Germany continued to sink American ships in March, President Wilson’s patience for neutrality wore out.   On April 6, 1917, the President signed Congress’s war resolution, officially bringing the United States into the war.

Congress therefore passed a Selective Service Act in May 1917, drafting many young men into the military.

Draftees, volunteers, and National Guardsmen made up what was called the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), led by General John J. Pershing.

The Convoy System

To transport troops across the Atlantic, the United States employed convoys, or groups of unarmed ships surrounded by armed naval vessels equipped to track and destroy submarines.

Due to the convoy system, German submarines did not sink a single ship carrying American troops.

American Soldiers in Europe

By 1918, European nations had begun to run out of men to recruit. Energetic American soldiers, nicknamed doughboys, helped replace the tired fighters of Europe.

Many African Americans volunteered or were drafted for service. However, these men served in segregated units and were often relegated to noncombat roles.

Ending the War

In the face of Allied attacks and domestic revolutions, the Central Powers collapsed one by one.  Austria-Hungary splintered into smaller nations of ethnic groups, and German soldiers mutinied, feeling that defeat was inevitable.

When the Kaiser of Germany fled to Holland, a civilian representative of the new German republic signed an armistice, or cease-fire, in a French railroad car at 5am on November 11, 1918.

Although guns fell silent six hours later, many more deaths were to follow. The influenza epidemic of 1918 killed more people, both in the United States and Europe, than all of the wartime battles.


Financing the War

Modern warfare required huge amounts of money and personnel. 

Many sacrifices within the United States were needed to meet these demands.

The government raised money for the war in part by selling Liberty Bonds, special war bonds to support the Allied cause. 

Like all bonds, these could be redeemed later for their original value plus interest. 

Many patriotic Americans bought liberty bonds, raising more than $20 billion for the war effort.

Managing the Economy

United States entry into the war caused many industries to switch from commercial to military production. The government formed the  War Industries Board oversaw this production. New labor-related agencies helped ensure that labor disputes did not disrupt the war effort.

Using the slogan, “Food will win the war,” Herbert Hoover, head of the Food Administration and future President, began to manage how much food people bought. 

Although he had the power to impose price controls, a system of pricing determined by the government, and rationing, or distributing goods to customers in a fixed amount, Hoover preferred to rely on voluntary restraint and increased efficiency.

Daylight savings time was created to save on fuel use and increase the number of daylight hours available for work. This involved turning clocks back one hour for the summer, creating one more hour of daylight.


African Americans and Other Minorities

With much of the work force in the military, factory owners and managers who had once discriminated against minorities began actively recruiting them.


The flood of African Americans leaving the South to work in northern factories became known as the Great Migration.

New Roles for Women

The diminished male work force also created new opportunities for women.

Many women joined the work force for the first time during the war. Some found work on farms with the Woman’s Land Army; others took jobs traditionally reserved for men.

President Wilson’s Proposals

As the war neared an end, President Wilson developed a program for peace around the world known as the Fourteen Points, named for the number of provisions it contained.

One of Wilson’s Fourteen Points called for an end to entangling alliances; another involved a reduction of military forces. Another dealt with the right of Austria-Hungary’s ethnic groups to self-determination, or the power to make decisions about their own future.

Although both Wilson and the German government assumed that the Fourteen Points would form the basis of peace negotiations, the Allies disagreed. During peace negotiations, Wilson’s Fourteen Points were discarded one by one.

The League of Nations

One of Wilson’s ideas, the formation of a League of Nations, was agreed upon at the Paris Peace Conference. The League of Nations was designed to bring the nations of the world together to ensure peace and security.

Republicans in Congress, however, were concerned about Article 10 of the League’s charter, which contained a provision that they claimed might draw the United States into unpopular foreign wars.

The Peace Treaty

Chief Diplomat: Presidents and the Constitution

Wilson's League for Peace - NHD 2010















Henry Cabot Lodge on the Treaty of Versailles



The treaty which was negotiated at the Paris Peace Conference redrew the map of Europe to the Allies’ advantage. 

Nine new nations were created from territory taken from Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Germany. Although most borders were drawn with the division of ethnic minorities in mind, the redivisions created new ethnic minorities in several countries.

France insisted that Germany be humiliated and financially crippled.  The peace treaty required Germany to pay billions of dollars in reparations, or payment for economic injury suffered during the war.  Wilson, however, opposed this plan, claiming that these demands would lead to future wars.

On June 28, 1919, the peace treaty, which came to be known as the Versailles Treaty, was signed at Versailles, outside of Paris.


Congress and the Treaty of Versailles

Despite Wilson’s intensive campaign in favor of the Versailles Treaty, Congress voted against ratifying it in November 1919.

The United States declared the war officially over on May 20, 1920. It ratified separate peace treaties with Germany, Austria, and Hungary. However, the United States did not join the newly formed League of Nations.


Difficult Postwar Adjustments

The war had given a large boost to the American economy, making the United States the world’s largest creditor nation.

Soldiers returned home to a hero’s welcome but found that jobs were scarce.

African American soldiers, despite their service to their country, returned to find continued discrimination.

Many American artists entered the postwar years with a sense of gloom and disillusionment.












World War I Regents Questions


1.        One goal for a lasting peace that President Woodrow Wilson included in his Fourteen Points

 Was (#24-June ’04)

1. establishing a League of Nations

2. maintaining a permanent military force in Europe

3. returning the United States to a policy of isolationism

4. blaming Germany for causing World War I


2.        During his reelection campaign in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson used the slogan, “He

       kept us out of war.” In April of 1917, Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany.

       What helped bring about this change? (#17-Aug. ’04)

1. Bolshevik forces increased their strength in Germany and Italy.

2. Britain was invaded by nations of the Central Powers.

3. Russia signed a treaty of alliance with the Central Powers.

4. Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare.


3. A major reason the United States entered World War I was to (#24-June ’05)

1. gain additional colonial possessions

2. react to the bombing of Pearl Harbor

3. safeguard freedom of the seas for United States ships

4. honor prewar commitments to its military Allies


4. President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points were proposed during World War I primarily to

    (#21-Jan. ’06)

1. define postwar objectives for the United States

2. outline military strategies for the United States

3. convince other democratic nations to join the United Nations

4. strengthen the United States policy of Isolationism




5.Prior to entering World War I, the United States protested Germany’s use of submarine warfare

             primarily because it (#26-June ’07)

1. violated the Monroe Doctrine

2. discouraged immigration to the United States

3. posed a direct threat to American cities

4. violated the principle of freedom of the seas




6. What was a primary reason for the great migration of African Americans to northern cities

    during World War I? (#27-June ’07)

1. Job opportunities were available in northern factories.

2. Jim Crow laws in the South had been repealed.

3. Voting rights laws had been passed in northern states.

4. The federal government had guaranteed an end to discrimination.


7. President Woodrow Wilson’s policy of strict neutrality during the early years of World War I was   

    challenged by (#24-Aug. ’08)

1. German violations of freedom of the seas

2. return to a policy of isolationism

3. maintain United States leadership in world affairs


8. What was a major reason the United States entered World War I (1917)? (#25-Jan. ’09)

1. The Japanese had occupied Manchuria.

2. Foreign troops had landed on American soil.

3. The Austro-Hungarian Empire had invaded Belgium.

4. Germany had resumed unrestricted submarine warfare.


9 What was one effect of the Bolshevik Revolution(October 1917) on the United States? (#26-Jan. ’09)

1. Nativism increased, leading to the Red Scare.

2. Federal courts banned anti-immigrant groups.

3. The Allied powers needed fewer United States troops.

4. Immigration laws were changed to allow refugees from Russia.


10. What was the effect of the “clear and present danger” ruling established in Schenck v. United States

     (1919)? (#27-Jan. ’09)

1. placing limits on constitutional freedoms

2. decreasing the president’s powers during wartime

3. limiting the hours women could work in industry

4. upholding the right of states to regulate child labor


11. In Schenck v. United States (1919), the Supreme Court decided that a “clear and present danger” to

      the country allowed the federal government to (#25-June ’09)

1. establish a peacetime draft

2. restrict first amendment rights

3. suspend habeas corpus

4. limit minority voting rights




12. One major reason the United States Senate refused to approve the Treaty of Versailles after World

     War I was that many senators (#26-June ’09)

1. were concerned about future United States obligations in foreign affairs

2. rejected United States colonial practices in Asia

3. wanted immediate repayment of war debts from France

4. supported increased foreign aid to Germany


13. Many United States senators refused to support membership in the League of Nations because they

       believed that it would (#24- Aug. ’09)

1. endanger United States economic growth

2. force the United States to give up its colonies

3. grant the president the power to annex new territory

4. involve the United States in future foreign conflict