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Several problems hit the major European nations in the early twentieth century. The previous century had left wounds that were difficult to heal.
Some countries were extremely unhappy with the late 19th-century sharing of Asia and Africa. Germany and Italy, for example, had been left out in the neo-colonial process. Meanwhile, France and England could exploit several colonies, rich in raw materials and with a large consumer market. The dissatisfaction of Italy and Germany in this context can be considered one of the causes of the Great War.
It is also worth remembering that in the early twentieth century there was strong trade competition between European countries, especially in the dispute for consumer markets. This competition has generated various conflicts of interest between nations. At the same time, countries were engaged in a rapid arms race as a way of protecting themselves or attacking them in the near future. This war race generated a climate of apprehension and fear among countries, where one tried to arm itself more than the other.
There was also, between two powerful nations of the time, a very great rivalry. France had, in the late nineteenth century, lost the Alsace-Lorraine region to Germany during the Franco Prussian War. French revanchism was in the air, and the French waiting for an opportunity to retake the rich lost region.
Pan-Germanism and Pan-Slavism also influenced and increased alertness in Europe. There was a strong nationalistic will of the Germans to unite in one nation all the countries of German origin. The same was true of the Slavic countries.
The beginning of the Great War
The trigger for this conflict was the assassination of Francisco Ferdinando, prince of the Austro-Hungarian empire, during his visit to Saravejo (Bosnia and Herzegovina). The investigations led to the criminal, a young member of a Serbian group called the black hand, contrary to the influence of Austria-Hungary in the Balkan region. The Austro-Hungarian Empire did not accept the measures taken by Serbia regarding the crime and, on July 28, 1914, declared war on Serbia.
European countries began to make political and military alliances since the late nineteenth century. During the world conflict these alliances remained. On one side was the Triple Alliance formed in 1882 by Italy, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Germany (Italy moved to the other alliance in 1915). On the other side is the Triple Entente, formed in 1907, with the participation of France, Russia and the United Kingdom.
Brazil also participated, sending nurses and medicines to the battlefields to help the Triple Entente countries.
Battles developed mainly in trenches. Soldiers often spent hundreds of days entrenched, fighting for small pieces of territory. Hunger and disease were also the enemies of these warriors. In the fighting there was also the use of new war technologies such as battle tanks and airplanes. While men fought in the trenches, women worked in the war industries as maids.
End of the conflict
In 1917, an extremely important historical fact occurred: the United States entering the conflict. The US joined the Triple Entente, as there were trade agreements to defend, especially with England and France.
This marked the Entente's victory, forcing Alliance countries to sign surrender. The losers also had to sign the Versailles Treaty, which imposed on these countries strong restrictions and punishments. Germany had its army reduced, its arms industry controlled, lost the region of the Polish corridor, had to return to France the region of Alsace Lorraine, and had to pay the war losses of the winning countries. The Treaty of Versailles had repercussions in Germany, influencing the beginning of World War II.
The war has caused approximately 10 million deaths, triple casualties, razed agricultural fields, destroyed industries, and generated huge economic losses.
From top to bottom and left to right: Trenches on the Western Front; the twin-glider airplane Albatros D.III; a British Mark I tank crossing a trench; an automatic machine gun controlled by a soldier with a gas mask; the sinking of the Real HMS Irresistible battleship after hitting a mine.