World War I

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    Visit our new World War One resource, featuring over 500 historical sources, 50 articles by historians, teachers' notes and more

    With an aggressive Germany looming large, Europe's major powers had settled into opposing sides through defence treaties. On 28 June 1914 they suddenly came into play when Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip. The Allies (mainly Britain, France, Russia) were rapidly at full-scale war with the Central Powers (Germany, Turkey, Bulgaria). Their various colonies became involved too.

     

    The conflict between them was to involve 70 million in combat, and result in 15 million deaths. The lasting image of WWI is one of horror and futility: filthy, flooded trenches in a muddy Belgian field, with opposing troops facing each other through months of stalemate across barbed wire.

     

    The Armistice eventually came on 11 November 1918. Germany and Russia were defeated, and the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires ceased to exist. The map of central Europe was redrawn with new smaller states. Society and values changed too, leading to the radical new world of the 1920s.

     

    This photograph was taken on the western front in France, 1916. It shows British troops going over the top of the trenches during the battle of the Somme. This was one of the bloodiest battles of World War One, claiming over a million casualties in five months. Photography copyright Getty Images.

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