Lessons in American History Using Primary Sources
A Series of Webquests
By Laura Thompson
Historical Context – At the turn of the 20th century, the world seemed to be enjoying a period of peace and progress. Yet below the surface, several forces were at work that would lead America into a global conflict—World War I, the war to end all wars. Nationalism was but one of the many causes of the war. Historians and eye witnesses have described those causes and have tried to assess the causes responsible for the Great War.
Driving Question: Who and/or what caused World War I?
The following documents present information on the causes of WWI. Examine each document carefully. In the space provided, answer the question or questions that follow each document.
Document 1 - http://www.flickr.com/photos/43571272@N02/4033549824/. This photo is a newspaper headline.
How do you suppose people in the US felt when they saw such a headline?
How did technology like telegraphy, machine guns and airplanes affect the war?
Document 2 - http://www.worldology.com/Europe/world_war_1_effect.htm. This is a map of Europe on the eve of WWI and shows the system of alliances
Who were the members of each alliance? How did the system of alliances contribute to the outbreak of the war?
Document 3 - Austro-Hungarian Red Book No. 7, 1914, (adapted). This excerpt outlines accusations against Serbia by Austria-Hungary.
[T]he Royal Serbian Government has done nothing to repress these movements. It has permitted the criminal machinations of various societies and associations directed against the Monarchy, and has tolerated unrestrained language on the part of the press, the glorification of the perpetrators of outrages and the participation of officers and functionaries in subversive agitation…
…[T]he Royal Government see themselves compelled to demand from the Royal Serbian Government a formal assurance that they condemn this dangerous propaganda against the Monarchy…
…To accept the collaboration in Serbia of representatives of the Austro-Hungarian Government for the suppression of the subversive movement…
What accusations did Austria-Hungary make against Serbia?
What two demands did Austria-Hungary make on Serbia?
Document 4 - http://www.historywiz.com/alliance.htm. This illustrator attempts to show the system of alliances of European nations on the eve of WWI. Examine the political cartoon at the top of the page
What is the illustrator telling us about the system of alliances?
Document 5 - http://www.jahsonic.com/Imperialism.html. The illustration uses a visual metaphor to explain colonial imperialism.
What is the illustrator saying about colonial imperialism?
Document 6 - The Treaty of Versailles, Article 231, (available at: http://www.firstworldwar.com/source/versailles.htm). This excerpt is from Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles. This Treaty was signed by all countries involved in WWI in 1919.
The Allied and Associate Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage…
According to the treaty, who was responsible for WWI?
What did Germany agree to in this article in the treaty?
Document 7 - Count Brockdorff-Rantzau, Memorandum to the American Commission to Negotiate Peace, Confidential S-H Bulletin No. 277, May 15th, 1919 (available at http://www.johndclare.net/peace_treaties5_Brockdorff-Rantzau.htm). Count Brockdorff-Rantzau led the German delegation to the Versailles Peace Conference. On May 7, 1919, he protested some terms of the treaty. Here is an excerpt.
It is demanded of us that we shall confess ourselves to be alone guilty of the war. Such a confession from my lips would be a lie. We are far from declining all responsibility for the fact that this great World War took place or that it was fought the way that it was…But we energetically deny that Germany and its people, who were convinced that they fought a war of defense, were alone guilty. No one would want to assert that the disaster began only at that disastrous moment when the successor of Austria-Hungary fell victim to murderous hands. In the last fifty years, the relations—policies of retaliation, policies of expansion, and disregard for the right of peoples to determine their own destiny have contributed to the European malady which came to a crisis in the World War. The mobilization of Russia deprived statesmen of the opportunity of curing the disease, and placed the issue in the hands of military powers.
What position did the German delegation leader present?
What did he say caused the war?
Who and/or what caused World War I?