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World War I

The industrial era had many effects, not the least of which was plunging the world into world war. One must consider the relationship between eras and events as a student of history. The industrial era created a perceived need in America for raw materials and markets for goods. The United States was not alone in this desire for expansion. All the industrial nations were in open competition to develop vast empires that would provide them with the fuel to run the factories of industrialism. This imperialist competition led to tension and the creation of vast armies. The willingness to use these armies was known as militarism. In order to feel safe (there was a pretty fair degree of paranoia as you can imagine) nations began to sign secret treaties forming alliances and Europe was divided into an armed camp. Tension was high, the subjugation (talking over) of other nations led to feelings of nationalism that would eventually light the spark that would explode Europe into the flames of conflict.

 

The causes of World War One:

A- Alliance: European nations signed secret treaties that created a system of alliances pitting nation versus nation.

N - Nationalism: There were intense feelings of nationalism on the part of subjugated nationalities. These feelings would eventually lead to rash acts.

I - Imperialism: Competition to develop vast empires caused tension and conflict.

M - Militarism: Nations built huge armies to defend themselves and help to gain these empires. It was a natural feeling for them to want to use these militaries.

A - Anarchy: There was no international organization to help them deal with their problems.

L - Leadership: It was poor. Just look at the system they set up...quite poor indeed.

What were the five reasons the United States entered World War I?

1. Unrestricted submarine warfare.

  • sinking of the Lusitania (1915)
  • The "Sussex" pledge (1916)
  • Germany renews unrestricted U Boat attacks (1917)

2. American Propaganda

  • Stressed German barbarism.
  • Posters depicting the Kaiser as some sort of madman.
  • Urged American to support allies throughout neutrality.

3. German Dictatorship - "Make the World safe for Democracy." - Cultural ties

4. U.S. Business Interests - US trade w/ the allies increased from 825 million in 1914 to 3.2 billion in 1916.

5. Zimmerman Note - Germany asked Mexico to enter the war against the US. We intercepted the note.

What were "Wilson's 14 Points?" - These were his goals for the war. When the war ended he wanted these included in the treaty of Versailles. In short, he wanted to :make the world safe for democracy." Some of the 14 points were:

  • Self Determination - nationalities should be able to have their own countries.
  • Disarmament - we should take away many of the worlds weapons.
  • Freedom of the Seas - to be able to sail and trade anywhere.
  • No blame or punishment - just start over. Blame would create bad feelings.
  • League of Nations - He wanted an international organization to make sure there wasn't another war.

What was actually in the Treaty of Versailles?

  • Germany was blamed and made to pay reparations.
  • A League of Nations was created.
  • No real self determination existed. Nations kept colonies and made new nations without regard the wishes of the peoples who lived their.

How did Congress react to the Treaty and the concept of the League of Nations?

  • Turned Isolationist - wanted no further war or outside contacts.
  • The Treaty as you can imagine received enormous opposition. Henry Cabot Lodge and Alfred Beveridge strongly denounced the treaty, especially Article Ten which called upon the US to support League actions. Wilson campaigned vigorously and gave 37 speeches in 29 cities in a span of only three weeks. He declared that US soldiers should not have died in vain. After a dramatic speech in Colorado Wilson collapsed. His health had been poor for sic months and the strain of the trip was too much. He was rushed back to Washington and a few days later had a massive stroke. For the next year and a half he was incapable of running the government but was protected by his wife and closest advisors.
  • In March 1920 the US Senate finally killed the treaty. The United States did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles and we did not join the League of Nations. Wilson considered this a great failure and it plagued him until his death.

How did America respond to WWI?

  • Essentially it made us turn to isolationism. We wanted nothing to do with Europe. It was as if we had fought in the war for no reason.
  • Many Americans saw US involvement in WWI as a waste of time. From the very beginning it was not particularly popular. When the war ended many Americans saw a Europe that had changed little. Men had died, sacrifices made...and for what. America had walked into the ring of international diplomacy and affairs and received a bloody nose for our efforts. The result was a disillusionment with world affairs. The result of this disillusionment was a fundamental shift in American policy from internationalism to relative isolationism.
  • Everywhere one found a strong impulse to return to old isolationist ways. Wilson's inspiring leadership had keyed the American people to a spirit of self sacrifice that had even resulted in the prohibition of alcoholic beverages. But this was all changing. Victory had brought an emotional letdown - "the slump of idealism." It had also brought a profound disillusionment with the imperialistic and bickering Allies. The war to make the world safe for democracy [also known as the war to end all wars] had not made the world safe for democracy, nor had it ended wars. Some twenty conflicts of varying dimensions were being waged in various parts of the world. About all that America had seemingly derived (gotten) from the war was debt, inflation, prohibition, influenza, and ingratitude from Allies whom she had strained herself to help


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