The First Word War, also known as the Great War or The War to End All Wars was a global war that originated in Europe, lasting from 1914 until 1918. Over 9 million soldiers and 7 million civilians died as a result of the war. The causes of the war are complex: colonial rivalries, economic competition and irreconcilable national ambitions were some of the contributing factors. The war was triggered by the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand by the Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip at Sarajevo. This triggered a series of diplomatic crises, when Austro-Hungary delivered an ultimatum to Serbia whose contents the Serbs deemed unacceptable. Soon all the major European powers became involved in the affair, on one side or the other. Ultimately, the crisis could not be resolved and war was declared.
The war was fought between the powers of the Triple Entente - the French Republic, Russian Empire and the British Empire - and the Central Powers, composed of the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires. As the war progressed other nations joined one side or the other: the United Sates, Japan, Italy and Romania joined the Entente powers and Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers.
When the war ended the world had changed as well: the Russian, German, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires were no more, and many nations faced revolutions or other wars that would define them. National borders were redrawn, as some nations regained their independence, while some enlarged their territories at the expense of the losing states. At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 the United States, France, Britain and Italy imposed their will upon the defeated nations. The League of Nations was formed with the aim of preserving peace. However, economic disaster, feelings of nationalism and humiliation, especially in Germany, doomed the League to failure and contributed to the start of World War II.
Naval and military technology, colonial rivalries, economic competition and irreconcilable national ambitions were some of the factors that led to the outbreak of the Great War.
The path that led the Russian Empire, Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire to war was long and complex. Ethnic and economic problems, combined with nationalism, imperialism and a crumbling Ottoman Empire were some of the contributing factors.
World War I was sparked by the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the Austrian heir to the throne, by a Bosnian Serb. This event triggered an international crisis that led to the outbreak of the Great War.
During the first weeks of war Germany invaded Belgium in an attempt to flank the French Army. The French responded with a series of counter offensives in the Ardennes and Alsace-Lorraine, which ultimately proved disastrous for the French who suffered heavy casualties.
At Mons the British Expeditionary Force tried to hold their ground against the German onslaught into Belgium. Although the British inflicted more casualties on the Germans than they suffered themselves, they were eventually forced to retreat due to the numerical and tactical superiority of the Germans and the retreat of the French Fifth Army.
During the First Battle of the Marne the Entente forces obtained a decisive defensive victory against the German Army. By organizing a successful counter attack the Entente managed to stop the Germans' advance towards Paris and stabilize the front.
During the siege of Antwerp the Germans, with a small force, managed to capture the city of Antwerp and its surrounding garrison from the Belgian Army. After the siege the Belgians fell back to the Yser river.
During the First Battle of Ypres the German Empire attempted to attack the Entente forces on a wide front in a attempt to, at last, secure victory in 1914. However, by the time of the attack the British, French and Belgian armies managed to solidify their defensive positions. The Germans could not break through and now faced the very thing which they sough to avoid: a prolonged war on two fronts.
During the first winter of the war, after heavy fighting in the previous months, the front stabilized. A series of trenches and fortifications were built by both sides all along the front. During this time the French launched a series of attacks against German positions, attacks which would ultimately prove to be costly in terms of casualties and tactically indecisive. A curious anomaly happened in some sections of the front during Christmas: in some places a ceasefire went in effect, with British, French and German soldiers crossing into No Man's Land and exchanging greetings, food and cigarettes, even playing football.