The Gold Standard in Education; The Foundation of Our Community.

John Brown - Social Studies

Why Study History?

Reasons to KNOW history:
1.  History tells us where we've been, where we are, 
and where we're going.
2.  History is our story - the story of mankind.
3.  History provides heroes and inspiration.
4.  History teaches a wide range of material.
5.  History provides a context for critical thinking.
6.  History is our past, but also our present.

SCHEDULE 2017-2018 School Year

 PERIOD 1:  U.S. HISTORY / ACTC dual-credit
PERIOD 3: U.S. HISTORY (juniors)
PERIOD 5: U.S. HISTORY (juniors)
PERIOD 6:  Planning

World War I articles

World War I articles



      We are in the midst of the 100th Anniversary of World War I.  It began in the summer of 1914 and lasted until the fall of 1918 – four long years endured, millions of lives lost, and the social order of old Europe forever altered.  World War I killed ancient European dynasties, and birthed new European orders (communism in Russia!).  Never had so many people in so many places in so many new ways been drawn into such conflagration. 

      Our last World War I veterans are all gone.  Maybe you knew someone who fought in World War I.  Or maybe you had a relative engaged (my own great-grandfather left Elliott County, Kentucky, and fought on the battlefields of France; I display his Honorable Discharge on the wall of my study at home).  America did not enter the war until 1917 – and that, reluctantly – but we made a decisive difference.  Many consider World War I the force that ushered in the “modern world” of the 20th century as we have come to know it.

      The repercussions of the War would be felt for decades, and a case can be made that the  War’s eventual armistice would pave the way for radical political movements in Europe later on, whose destructiveness would have to be faced another time, if in similar places (Nazism in Germany; Fascism in Italy).  World War I destroyed four major European empires, altered the Middle East, produced new and previously unheard-of countries, and paved the way for the Great Depression:  powerful political, economic, social, and military impacts.  More than 14 million people would be dead, with more wounded, disfigured, and scarred, both physically and psychologically.  New methods of warfare would be employed, new tactics and strategies devised, and new technologies created.  From World War I, we came to know about doughboys and dirigibles, trench warfare and trench foot, war under the water (submarines) and over the skies (airplanes).

      How did it begin?  And, amazingly, how did it begin so quickly?  In just a matter of a very few short weeks, a local assassination had plunged the entire European continent into war.

      On June 28, 1914, an Austrian archduke, Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, were assassinated by Serbian nationalists while visiting Sarajevo.  Though Ferdinand was not particularly popular in his native Austria (and his wife even less so!), yet within a month the Austro-Hungarian Empire had declared war on Serbia, and other nations immediately began choosing sides.  Alliances drew one nation after another quickly into a raging war between two camps:  the Triple Alliance (composed chiefly of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy), and the Triple Entente (composed chiefly of France, Russia, and Great Britain).  These two “sides” would become known as the Central Powers and the Allied Powers, respectively.

      Before the war was over, more than 30 nations touching almost every continent would be involved.  No wonder it would be called “The Great War”:  never had the world seen war on such a massive scale involving so many belligerents.  And never would the world be the same!





WORLD WAR I, 1914-1918:  BACKGROUND by John M. Brown

      Considering the significant participants in World War I, what strengths and weakness would bring them into alliances with some and set them as hostile enemies against others?

           Though European nations had warred or centuries, this war in which so many were involved over such vast terrain, and which would produce a truly “World War,” was a European conflict in origination.  German von Clausewitz had previously observed that war involved a mixture of political policy, military action, and public sentiment, Each of these elements must be considered to understand this war in its birth and course.

      The balance of economic, military, and political power had greatly changed in Europe by the end of the 19th century:  the state we would recognize today as Germany had been created (having decisively defeated France, and united various Prussian states into a single German nation), the former power of early 19th century France had been greatly reduced, Austria and Hungary had united under a single monarchy, Russia had become significant in some parts of Europe, Britain was continuing expansion abroad while seeking to remain significant on the continent, Spain had fallen in prominence, and Italy had become unified.

     Britain had become thoroughly urban by the beginning of the 20th century, and political power within the empire had shifted away from the aristocracy.   Though she was the world’s wealthiest power, she remained utterly dependent on outside trade and, to maintain such, emphasized her naval strength, which she guarded zealously.

      France had fallen from her formerly strong position through lack of economic development and the lingering consequences of the 18th century Revolution.  Further, her population growth had not kept pace with other European powers, she had suffered significant military defeats, and her people were still socially and politically divided.

      Russia controlled a vast territory and was viewed as a significant, howbeit potential, threat to others’ holdings, but her economic development had sorely lagged, and she had suffered important military defeats in the 19th and early 20th centuries (including at the hands of Japan in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05).  The expansionism she coveted was not yet realized.

      Austria-Hungary had united into what was a potentially powerful force, but internal dissension based on race and culture continued to plague, and limit, her.  This Empire was united in name, but not always in intent, and ethnic rivalries were a perpetual problem.

      Germany became a unified nation in 1871, and was able to build her power through the incorporation of various interests into a united whole.  Prussian militarism and ambition came to dominate the outlook of the nation, and a philosophy of cultural superiority influenced her view of other nations and peoples.

      If one is to understand the political dynamics which lead to a war spreading over Europe and eventually engulfing most nations of the world, one must understand something of the backgrounds of the key players.  Individual national characteristics either blended themselves together, or set themselves at odds, and helped create the circumstances that would “cause” World War I.

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