The main objective of Bismarck's diplomacy was to establish a balance of power in Europe to maintain peace. To do this, he had to keep France from becoming militarily allied with other nations to keep it in its weakened state after losing Alsace and Lorraine. Furthermore, to keep Germany functioning as a "satisfied" great power, Bismarck needed to check the power of Russia and Austria-Hungary. Though not the original intent, the alliances in the picture resulted.
Three Emperor's League
The direct purpose of this alliance was to join the monarchies of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia against radical movements like socialism that threatened the monarchies. However, the larger purpose was to establish a balance of power in Europe to maintain peace.
Congress of Berlin
Tensions erupted between the monarchies of the Three Emperor's League after Russia's military victories over the Ottoman Empire. This threatened the European balance of power. This resulted in the Congress of Berlin in 1878 as Bismarck tried to reestablish the balance of power by forming a secret alliance with Austria against Russia, which led ultimately to the formation of the Triple Alliance with Italy.
The triple alliance was formed when Italy joined Germany and Austria in 1882. The alliance lasted up until the beginning of World War I, when Italy began to support the Triple Entente on the grounds that Italy was in an alliance with Germany and Austria as a defensive ally, but the Central Powers were taking the offensive.
Russian-German Reinsurance Treaty
In an attempt to maintain good relations with Russia after the deterioration of the Three Emperor's League, Bismarck replaced the league with the Russian-German Reinsurance Treaty that guaranteed neutrality if one state was attacked.
Emperor William II
Crowned Kaiser in 1888, one of WIlliam II's first political moves was to dismiss the chancellor Bismarck in 1890. This led to a departure in German foreign affairs that eventually led to Germany's support of the Austrian crisis, which was a prelude to World War I.
In 1890, William II irrespnsibly and fatefully dismissed Otto von Bismarck, the successful chancellor of Germany. William II would not renew Bismarck's Russian-German Reinsurance Treaty. Before this, Bismarck had maintained friendly relations with Russia to keep them allied with Germany against the French. However, after the alliance was not renewed, the French and Russian became military allies against the Triple Alliance.
Following William II's refusal to renew the Russian-German Reinsurance Treaty, France and Russia became military allies. Both countries had patriotic public demonstrations, including Alexander III of Russia standing on a French battleship in St. Petersburg Harbor. Similarly, this monument, Pont Alexander III was built in Paris to honor the signing of the Franco-Russian Alliance.
South African War
Starting on October 1899 and ending on May 31, 1902, the South African war was fought between the British and the Afrikaners (Dutch descendents in South Africa). Though the outcome of the war was in favor of the British, the ultimate result of the war was a general anti-British sentiment in Europe. It caused Britain to change its isolationist foreign policy and begin protecting its vast territories with various alliances.
Germany's Second Naval Law
In a series of Naval Laws, Germany effectively challenged the supremacy of the British Royal Navy when they decided to double the size of their navy. This increased tension between Germany and Britain and also facilitated the process of Britain becoming less isolationist and forming alliances with other countries, possibly most importantly with the United States.
As ethnic self-determination gained momentum in the Balkans, the Slavic people of Serbia looked for support in Russia. However, Austria, trying to gain an edge on Russia, annexed the Serbian countries of Bosnia and Herzegovina, effectively angering Serbia.
Improved relations with Britain was a main objective of France's foreign minister, Theophile Delcasse. Instrumental in settling the colonial dispute in Morocco and Egypt, Britain and France were able to unite against the ever-more isolated Germany. This action led also to the Algeciras Conference of 1906.
The conference was a result of the conflict between France and Germany over the control of Morocco. Testing the strength of the newly forged Anglo-French Entente, the Germans called for an international conference. Though it was meant to cause conflict between Britain and France, and profit Germany with territory or a port in Morocco, it ultimately strengthened the Anglo-French Entente.
Russia, weakened by the Revolution of 1905 and the war with Japan over Manchuria, decided to settle imperialistic scores with Britain in the Persia and Central Asia. Though this was the immediate goal, the larger purpose of the agreement was to form an alliance against the ever-growing fear of Germany.
Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz
Bolstering and promoting the cause of the Second Naval Law, Admiral Alfred con Tirpitz believed that a strong navy was necesary to Germany becoming a great power and serving as a cause for patriotism and unity in Germany. On this date, Tirpitz was promoted to the position of Vice-Admiral, though in 1911, he would become a Grand Admiral.
David Lloyd George
As Chancellor of Great Britain, David Lloyd George saw the expansion of the German navy as a direct threat to the supremacy of the Royal Navy. In 1909, he introduced the "People's Budget" which was a series of taxes that funded the navy's building of new battleships rather than social welfare programs.
First Balkan War
Lasting until May 1913, the Balkan War began when Serbia, Greece, and Bulgaria attacked the Ottoman Empire in an attempt to secure national autonomy. The Balkan League (Serbia, Greece, Montenegro and Bulgaria) combined armies overcame the numerically inferior and strategically disadvantaged Ottoman armies and achieved rapid success. As a result of the war, almost all remaining European territories of the Ottoman Empire were captured and partitioned among the allies.
The Second Balkan War
The Second Balkan War was a conflict which broke out when Bulgaria, dissatisfied with its share of the spoils of the First Balkan War, attacked its former allies, Serbia and Greece. The war caused a permanent break up of the Russo-Bulgarian alliance, and thus left Serbia as the only ally of Russia in this critical region. For this reason Serbia had Russia's full support.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Archduke Franz Ferdinand is known primarily because of his assasination that effectively began World War I. Heir to the Austrian throne, he and his wife were assasinated by Serbian Revolutionaries while on a visit to Bosnia, attempting to assert authority over the nationalistic nation.
Germany's "blank check"
Even before the assasination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Germany encouraged Austrian aggression in the Balkans. Germany's chancellor Theobald con Bethmann-Hollweg gave Austria-Hungary a "blank check" to attack the Serbians in the Balkan Wars even though they knew that war with Russia, and therefore France, was unevitable.
After the assasination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Austria gave Serbia an ultimatum. Either Serbia cede control of all its lands, or Austria would declare war. The Austrian army began to mobilize and declared war on Serbia on July 28. This essentially marks the beginning, not of the Third Balkan War, but of the First World War.
German Submarine Warfare
The U-boat Campaign from 1914 to 1918 was the World War I naval campaign fought by German U-boats against the trade routes of the Entente Powers. It took place largely in the seas around the British Isles and in the Mediterranean.
Although Russia initially only declared mobilization against Austria-Hungary, they realized they could not fully mobilize without mibilizing against Germany as well. This played a big role in the development of the war because of how much longer it would take Russia to mobilize their armies compared to other countries. Propaganda like this was used to increase the morale of the Russian army.
Walter Rathenau - War Raw Materials Board
The War Raw Materials Board was created in Germany by a Jewish Industrialist, Walter Rathenau. This board was used to ration and distribute all of Germany's war materials. Everything that was useful to the war effort was inventoried and rationed.
Strategy and Politics
Military Strategy dictated much of political considerations, especially in Germany and aforementioned Russia. Germany strategized to defeat France before it turned it's attention to the finally mobilized Russia. To ensure a speedy attack, Germany demanded that Belgium allow Germany to attck France through its borders. When Belgium refused, Germany invaded.
Triple Entente/ Allied Powers
As a response to German aggression in Belgium and France, Great Britain emerged from its traditional neutral position and became allied with France, declaring war on Germany, and forming the Triple Entente of Russia, France, and Great Britain.
Battle of the Frontiers
Attempt by French armies to halt German march toward Paris. Heavy casualties of 27,000 French soldiers. Unsuccessful, but leads up to the Battle of the Marne which will effectively stop the German advance.
Battle of Tannenberg
The Battle of Tannenberg was an engagement between the Russian Empire and the German Empire in the first days of World War I. The battle resulted in the almost complete destruction of the Russian Second Army. The battle is notable particular for the military leadership of German Generals Erich Ludendorff and Paul von Hindenburg.
The First Battle of the Marne
The Battle of the Marne was a battle fought between the 6th and 12th of September in 1914. It resulted in an Allied victory against the German Army. The battle effectively ended the month long German offensive that opened the war and had reached the outskirts of Paris. The counterattack of six French field armies and one British army along the Marne River forced the German Imperial Army to abandon its push on Paris and retreat northeast, setting the stage for four years of trench warfare.
The Battle of the Masurian Lakes
The Battle of the Masurian Lakes was a German offensive in the Eastern Front during the early stages of World War I. It pushed the Russian First Army back across its entire front, eventually ejecting it from Germany. Although not as devastating as the Battle of Tannenberg that took place a week earlier, the battle nevertheless upset Russian plans into the spring of 1915. The battle is noteworthy for the German leadership of Hindenburg and Ludendorff as well.
Sinking of the Lusitania
The RMS Lusitania was a British ocean liner during the First World War. As Germany waged submarine warfare against Britain, the ship was identified and torpedoed by a German U-boat on May 7th, 1915. The vessel went down, killing 1,198 of the 1,959 people aboard, leaving 761 survivors. The sinking turned public opinion in many countries against Germany, contributed to the American entry into World War I and became an iconic symbol in military recruiting campaigns of why the war was being fought.
The Battle of Verdun
The Battle of Verdun was one of the major battles during the First World War on the Western Front. It was fought between the German and French armies. Verdun resulted in 700,000 battlefield deaths (362,000 French and 336,000 German combatants). It was the longest and one of the most devastating battles in the First World War and the history of warfare, lasting over 11 months.
Though Hindenburg was only average in terms of military ability, he had a team of talented and able subordinates who won him a series of great victories on the Eastern Front between 1914–1916. With Ludendorff, the two took over the chancellorship. From 1916 onwards, Germany became an unofficial military dictatorship,
The Battle of Somme
The Battle of the Somme took place during the First World War between July and November of 1916 on either side of the river Somme in France. The battle saw the British Army mount a joint offensive with the French Army against the German Army. The Battle of the Somme was one of the largest battles of the war; by the time fighting paused in late autumn, the forces involved had suffered more than 1 million casualties, making it one of the bloodiest military operations ever recorded.
Auxiliary Service Law
The Auxiliary Service Law represented the most lasting outcome of the Hindenburg Program. The law required mandatory service for all able-bodied Germans (17-60) during the war and eliminated the freedom of workers to change jobs. After a bitter parliamentary struggle, the state made significant concessions to the labor unions in the administration of the law. The passage of the law under these terms gestured to the burdens that the war brought to the home front.
Army Order No. 1
Order Number 1 was issued March 1st, 1917 and was the first official decree of The Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies. It forbade soldiers to obey the orders of the Provisional Government.
Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies
The Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies was established in March of 1917 after the February Revolution as the representative body of the city's workers. It rivaled the Provisional Government up until the October Revolution.
Tsar Nicholas Abdicates
Nicholas II was the last Emperor of Russia. Nicholas II abdicated following the February Revolution of 1917 during which he and his family were imprisoned. Nicholas II, his wife, his son and his four daughters,family's cook were killed in the same room by the Bolsheviks on June 17th, 1918.
The Balfour Declaration of 1917 (dated 2 November 1917) was a letter from the United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Baron Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.
Bolsheviks and Lenin to Power
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a socialist economic system.
Lenin disbands Constituent Assembly
On January 19th, 1918, relying upon the soviets, the Bolsheviks, allied with anarchists and the Socialist Revolutionaries, dissolved the Russian Constituent Assembly thereby consolidating the Bolshevik Government's political power. Lenin truly began his one-party government scheme.
Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war in the former Russian Empire fought between the Bolshevik Red Army against the White Army, the loosely-allied anti-Bolshevik forces until November of 1920.
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a peace treaty signed at Brest-Litovsk between Russia and the Central Powers, marking Russia's exit from World War I. The treaty provided some relief to the Bolsheviks, who were tied up in fighting the Russian Civil War, and it affirmed the independence of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Lithuania.
The Second Battle of the Marne
The Second Battle of the Marne was the last major German offensive on the Western Front during the First World War. The German attack failed when an Allied counterattack led by France overwhelmed the Germans, inflicting severe casualties. It was the turning point of the war in the western front. The battle is noteworthy for the alarming number of American troops involved: 140,000 some.
German Revolution of 1918
The German Revolution was the politically-driven civil conflict in Germany at the end of World War I, which resulted in the replacement of Germany's imperial government with a republic. The revolutionary period lasted from November 1918 until the formal establishment of the Weimar Republic in August 1919.
The armistice between the Allies and Germany was an agreement that ended the fighting in the First World War. It went into effect at 11 AM on November 11, 1918, and marked a victory for the Allies and a complete defeat for Germany, although not technically a surrender. The Germans were responding to the policies proposed by American President Woodrow Wilson in his Fourteen Points.
The Peace Conference of Paris
The Paris Peace Conference was the meeting of the Allied victors following the end of World War I to set the peace terms for the defeated Central Powers following the armistices of 1918. It took place in Paris in 1919 and involved diplomats from more than 30 countries and nationalities. At the center of the proceedings were the leaders of the three "Great Powers": President Woodrow Wilson of the United States, Prime Minister David Lloyd George of Great Britain, and George Clemenceau of France.
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was the peace treaty of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on June 28th, 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Of the many provisions in the treaty, one of the most important and controversial required Germany to accept responsibility for causing the war and disarm.
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. Its primary goals, as stated in its covenant, included preventing wars through collective security and disarmament, and settling international disputes through negotiation and arbitration.
Treaty of Versailles - Article 231 - War Guilt Clause
The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.
All Quiet On The Western Front
All Quiet on the Western Front is a novel by Erich Maria Remarque, a German veteran of World War I. The book describes the German soldiers' extreme physical and mental stress during the war, and the detachment from civilian life felt by many of these soldiers upon returning home from the front.