World War 1- Origin, Causes, World War 1 UPSC Notes

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

World War 1 sometimes referred to as the Great War, was a destructive international conflict that started in Europe. The United States, the Russian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and much of Europe were among its adversaries, and battles were fought throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and some regions of Asia. World War 1 was one of the bloodiest wars in history due to advances in technology, like the recent creation of aircraft, trench warfare, and particularly chemical weapons. World War 1, which began in 1914 and lasted until 1918, resulted in an estimated 9 million military deaths and 13 million civilian fatalities.

Ernst Haeckel is renowned for coining the term “world war” as the war impacted and influenced most parts of the country. The aspirants preparing for the UPSC exam must gain an in-depth cognizance of the World War 1 topic to be able to prepare effectively for the exam. This article shall trace the origins of World War 1, along with its causes and consequences among other things.

World War 1 (1914-1918)

In September 1914, German scientist and thinker Ernst Haeckel first used the term ‘world war’, it lasted for 4 years. World War 1, usually referred to as the Great War, spanned from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. The Central Powers and the Allied Forces fought each other in World War I.

  • Britain, France, and Russia made up most of the Allied Powers. After 1917, the United States also engaged in combat on behalf of the Allies.
  • Austria-Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire were the key countries that formed the Central Powers.

First World War- Origins

The origins of first world war 1 can be traced back to the end of the 19th century, which witnessed an increasing rivalry between several European countries becoming apparent. After the Unification of Germany in 1871, other European countries, especially Britain and France alarmed by its ascent as an economic superpower.

  • Around this time, new nations in the Balkans emerged as a result of the Ottoman Empire’s disintegration. Serbia was one such country, that was expanding its territory and influence at the price of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. This caused the Austro-Hungarian Empire to join forces with Italy and Germany to defend one another in order to fight this threat as well as any foreseeable ones.
  • In response, the Triple Entente was established with the same goals by Britain, France, and Russia.
  • Germany and Britain both improved and grew their fleets of battleships throughout the 1900s. The remainder of Europe did the same. The majority of European nations possessed war-ready militaries by 1914. To start it, only a spark was required. And when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was murdered in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on June 28, 1914, this act served as the ignition.
  • The Austrian-Hungarian heir, Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated by Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip, who was demonstrating in Bosnia against Austria-Hungarian rule. Russia raised an army to defend Serbia after Austria-Hungary waged a war on it.
  • Germany, in response, launched a war on both France and Russia. A sizable German force invaded Belgium’s sovereignty by marching through it on its way to conquer France. Britain was drawn into the conflict as a result of its 1830 commitment to defend Belgium in the event of an assault.

Causes Of World War 1

World War I was not brought about by a single incident. In the years leading up to 1914, a variety of different incidents happened that led to the war. The causes of World war 1 ranged from Germany’s expansionist strategy to imperialism, and militarization. Walk through the under-noted points to be able to delve deeper into the cognizance of the first world war to prepare methodically for the exam.

Germany’s New Worldwide Expansionist Strategy

Wilhelm II, the new monarch of Germany, started a foreign strategy in 1890 with the goal of making his nation a global power. The other powers viewed Germany as a threat, which caused the international situation to become unstable.

Mutual Defense Alliances

Various nations in Europe forged alliances for mutual defence. By virtue of these treaties, allied nations were obligated to defend one another if it came under assault.

    • Italy, Austria-Hungary, and Germany were allies in the Triple Alliance of 1882.
    • By 1907, the Triple Entente, composed of Russia, France, and Britain, had come to an end.
    • Hence, there were two conflicting factions in Europe.

Imperialism of World War 1

Prior to World War I, the European nations fought over raw commodities in Africa and some regions of Asia. A rise in conflict contributed to the outbreak of World War I as a result of growing rivalry and the ambition for larger empires.


An arms race started as the world entered the 20th century. Germany experienced the largest rise in its military expansion by 1914. During this time, both Germany and Great Britain significantly grew their warships. The militarization of the world contributed to the countries involved going to war.

Nationalism of World War 1

The desire of the Slavic populations in Herzegovina and Bosnia to join Serbia rather than Austria-Hungary was a major factor at the beginning of the conflict. Nationalism sparked the War in this manner.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand

He was assassinated in June 1914 while visiting Sarajevo in Bosnia. Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the successor to the monarchy of Austria-Hungary. He was murdered by a Serbian who believed that Serbia ought to rule Bosnia rather than Austria. Austria-Hungary formally declared war when its leader was shot. This resulted in;

    • Russian involvement resulted from its relationship with Serbia.
    • Due to its alliance with Austria-Hungary, Germany then waged war on Russia.
    • Britain, which had accords to safeguard both France and neutral Belgium, proclaimed war on Germany as a result of Germany’s invasion of that country.

Key Events Of First World War

The sequence of the events that took place during the first world war has been listed here. The questions assessing the aspirants’ knowledge of the World War 1 can be based on the key events of the war, the aspirants can check the complete list to be able to gain insights into the topic. Below is a comprehensive table containing all the important dates of the events that led up to the first World War.

Key Events Before and During World War I



Serbia became free of the Ottoman Empire.


In the event of a conflict, Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary created the Triple Alliance.


Britain and France establish the Entente Cordiale.


Britain and Russia join the Triple Entente.


Austria-Hungary takes control of Bosnia-Herzegovina to prevent Serbia from doing the same


The Balkan League engages in a war in the Balkans (Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece). The Balkan League triumphs.


In Sarajevo, Gavrilo Princip killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

June 28, 1914

Serbia is at war with Austria. Russia is getting ready to protect Serbia from Austria.

July 28, 1914

To protect Austria, Germany wages war on Russia.

August 1, 1914

Germany wages war on France, a Russian ally

August 3, 1914

German armies marched through Belgium to France. Britain declares war on Germany. World War I begins

August 4, 1914

Russian soldiers are defeated by Germany at the Battle of Tannenberg.

August 26, 1914

The Allies stopped the German march on Paris at the Battle of the Marne. Russian engagement in East Prussia ended with a German victory in the following month.

September 1914

German forces are kept from attacking the English Channel following the Battle of Ypres

November 1914

Phases of First World War

World war I happened over the course of four years between 1914 and 1918. The events developed as follows. The phases of the 1st world war have been illustrated here, this will assist in developing the understanding of the chronology of the events in the first world war.

  • The fight grew on a number of fronts in Africa, Asia, and Europe. There were two primary events;
  • The Western Front, at which the Germans fought against Britain, and France, and, after 1917, the United States
  • The Eastern Front, at which the Russians engaged in combat with the Germans and Austro-Hungarians
  • The Western Front was stabilized following a brief German advance in 1914, and the “war of attrition”—protracted and terrible trench warfare—began (the western front stayed immovable). German advances on the Eastern Front were tentative at best.
  • Two developments in 1917 altered the trajectory of the war: the United States allied with the Allies and Russia withdrew from the conflict after the Russian Revolution and struck a separate peace.
  • Finally, following the German advance in the springtime of 1918, the Allied assault was successful in causing the German army to make a swift withdrawal. The armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, as a result of the defeat of Germany’s allies and the German Revolution that deposed Wilhelm II as Emperor. This brought about the end of World War I.

Consequences Of World War 1

World War 1 induced ghastly repercussions upon the entire world. The consequences of the first world war included economic ramifications, political consequences, and other social effects. Numerous other treaties were signed after the first world war. Get in touch with the under-noted points to illustrate the consequences of the first world war.

Economic Impact of First World War

The cost of World War I was high for the participating nations. Around 60% of the money that Germany and Great Britain’s economies produced was spent. Governments were forced to increase taxation and take loans from their people. Additionally, they produced cash to acquire guns and other battle necessities. After the war, inflation ensued. The economic impact of first world war in India led to a surge in the demand for goods from Britain.

Political Consequences

Four monarchies—Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, Czar Nicholas II of Russia, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and Emperor Charles of Austria—were forced to abdicate their thrones as a result of World War I.

    • Old empires gave rise to new nations. Austria-Hungary was divided up into several separate states.
    • Poland received land from Germany and Russia. France and Britain were given authority over nations in the Middle East.
    • Turkey was created from the remnants of the Ottoman Empire.

Social Effects of World War 1

The Second World War fundamentally altered society. Due to the death of millions of young males, birth rates decreased (8 million died, and millions were wounded, widowed, maimed, and orphaned). People left their homes after losing their land.

    • Women’s roles evolved as well. They significantly contributed to the replacement of males in offices and manufacturing. After the war, many nations granted women new rights, including the ability to vote.
    • The affluent lost their position as the social elite. After the war, young people from the middle and lower classes clamored for a say in the creation of their nation.

Treaty of Versailles

World War I came to an end on June 28, 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles was signed. In an effort to stop the world from engaging in another war, the Treaty of Versailles was signed. It is divided into a number of chapters, each with a unique clause.

Territorial Clauses of World War 1

  • France won back Lorraine and Alsace.
  • Malmedy and Eupen came under Belgian control.
  • Poland’s annexation of eastern lands led to the isolation of East Prussia on its own territory.
  • Formerly Baltic German cities, Danzig and Memel were designated as free cities.
  • Northern Schleswig-Holstein was taken by Denmark.
  • German colonies were all lost, and the victorious nations annexed them.

Military Clauses

  • Severe restrictions were put on the German navy.
  • Significant Army reductions (only 100,000 troops, prohibition on the possession of tanks, heavy artillery and aircraft)
  • Rhineland region demilitarisation.

War Reparations

In accordance with the terms of the treaty, Germany and her allies were held liable for all “loss and damage” incurred by the Allies and were consequently required to make reparation payments to the victorious parties.

Other Treaties of World War 1

There were several treaties signed towards the end of the war. The important ones have been mentioned below;

  • The Treaty of Neuilly: The agreement was made with Bulgaria. The little Balkan nation experienced numerous geographical losses to the advantage of Yugoslavia, Romania, and Greece.
  • The Treaty of Sevres: This agreement was made in 1920 with Turkey. It was very difficult and gave rise to the Kemal Ataturk-led Turkish national uprising. This sparked a conflict with Greece, which had taken over a sizable portion of Anatolia.

There were numerous significant social and ideological developments brought about by the war such as the United States, which had emerged victorious in the war but had not seen the fighting on its soil, rose to become a first-world power. The other effects of the war are as listed here-

  • The inclusion of women in the labour as a result of the widespread male mobilization was a significant advance for women’s rights.
  • A pre-revolutionary atmosphere was fostered by the success of the Soviet Revolution (also known as the Russian Revolution) and the humanitarian crisis that followed the conclusion of the war, which inspired workers in many nations to protest.
  • The dread of a Communist revolution and the intense nationalism that certain countries’ middle classes encountered during the war propelled them to the far right. Fascist movements flourished as a result of this.
  • In addition, the League of Nations was founded at that time. After World War I, an international diplomatic organization called the League of Nations was created in an effort to settle international conflicts before they turned into full-scale hostilities. The League, which served as a forerunner to the United Nations, had a mixed track record of accomplishment.

India In World War 1

It is frequently forgotten that India’s contribution to Britain and its allies’ victory over Germany and its allies as a former British colony was crucial. As a British colony, India provided numerous soldiers to the World War I battles in Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. Check out India’s condition and impact in World War 1.

  • Both on the Western Front and in East Africa, the Indian Army engaged in combat with the German Empire.
  • They served in numerous locations including Belgium, France, Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Sinai, and Palestine.
  • Over 70,000 Indian soldiers who fought for the British in World War I perished. As per Sir Claude Auchinleck, who served as the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, Britain couldn’t have survived the wars without the Indian Army.
  • India gave Britain as much as 100 million British Pounds to pay for their war in exchange for dominion status and home rule.
  • The British used taxation measures to gather soldiers and money from India as well as substantial amounts of food, currency, and weapons. In exchange, the British promised India self-rule at the end of the war, but this promise was never kept.

Important Battles In World War 1

Here is the compiled list of all the important battles in the first world war. Check out the essential details pertaining to the important battles of the 1st world war.

Important Battles and Events in WW1



German submarines blockade Britain after a British naval forces blockaded Germany.


During the second battle of Ypres, Germany utilises poisonous gas for the first time.

1915 – April – May

Italy becomes an Ally.

1915 – May 22

French and British Loss of the Loos campaign

1915 September

Beginning of the five-month-long Verdun battle

1916 – February

Ottoman Turkey preserved during the Australian, New Zealandean, and British forces’ Gallipoli campaign.

1916 – March

Germans are not defeated by a Russian onslaught under the command of General Brusilov.

1916 – June

The US fights alongside its partners in the conflict

1917 – April 6

Allied forces make few offensive gains in the third battle of Ypres.

1917 – July

Germany and Austria-Hungary beat Italy at the Battle of Caporetto.

1917 – October

Russian and German armistice is signed.

1918 – March 3

Germany starts the Western Front onslaught. The allies execute a successful counter-offensive attack in August of that year after the offensive attack proved unsuccessful.

1918 – July

At the last minute in November, an armistice was struck between Germany and the Allies, ending the first world war.

1918 – November

World War 1 UPSC Notes

World War I was one of the most significant events in world history making it a crucial topic to master for your UPSC exam. The topic is enquired repeatedly in the UPSC Prelims and Mains alike. World War I was a catalyst for a lot of change in the world and society as we know it. Master this topic well with this article. Aspirants can also go through our list of History Books for UPSC preparation. It is of prime essentiality for the candidates to check the list of the major and essential events of world war 1 and delve deeper into the understanding of the concepts to solve the questions based on that.

Important Notes for UPSC
Pardoning Power of Governor DAY NRLM Scheme
Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India Jurisdiction of Supreme Court
Parliamentary Privileges Types of Missiles in India
Our Apps Playstore
SSC and Bank
Other Exams
GradeStack Learning Pvt. Ltd.Windsor IT Park, Tower - A, 2nd Floor, Sector 125, Noida, Uttar Pradesh 201303
Home Practice Test Series Premium