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American History Essay: World War 1

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Middlebury College
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The three main factors that led to the First World War were militarism, imperialism and nationalism. According to Doenecke (2011), augmented imperialism, national pride and military power largely caused the First World War. However, there were several other contributory factors such as the Alliance System that partially sparked the war. The Alliance System created by Bismarck, the Chancellor of Germany to isolate the French people partly contributed to the eventual outbreak of the First World War. The main reason for its contribution is that it caused the division of European powers into two military groups, Triple Entente and Triple Alliance and the enmity between these two teams resulted in the First World War (Keegan, 2014). Additionally, the Alliance System led to the escalation of small quarrels to full-blown conflicts, directly leading to the events that sparked the war. After the formation of the Alliance System, no nation could help resolve the conflicts between Triple Entente and Triple Alliance since all the European countries had taken a side in either of these camps. With no mediator, conflicts could not be resolved, and hate continued to increase between the two camps.

President Woodrow Wilson headed America through the First World War. The entrance of America into the First World War was triggered by the unrestricted submarine attacks by the Germans on American merchant ships in 1917 as well as the discovery of the Zimmerman Telegram that contained information showing Germanys attempt to convince Mexico to form an alliance with them against the United States (Doenecke, 2011). After these two events, President Woodrow Wilson asked the American Congress to declare war against the Germans on 2nd April 1917. The participation of America helped bring about the victory of Triple Entente who included the Russian Empire, the British Empire and the French Republic against the Triple Alliance. After their defeat, the Germans were forced to sign an armistice. The United States did not join the Triple Entente camp officially but was an independent power who acted alone in diplomacy. The major contributions made by America to the war were the provision of money, the supply of raw materials and also the delivery of war equipment as from 1917.

America has always been a country of immigrants, particularly in the initial decade of the 20th era, after the Civil War refugees from the Netherlands, Ireland, Scandinavia and Germany started to enter America. In the initial decade of 20th century, over 3 million immigrants got into America from the Pale of Settlement and Italy and the Russian Empire (Martin & Midgley, 2013). After Poles, Jews and Italians were the third most abundant assemblage of immigrants at the time. About 750,000 ethnic poles migrated from Poland to America between 1899 and 1913, and by 1910, immigrants formed 15 % of the entire American population (Martin & Midgley, 2013). These immigrants tended not identify themselves with their nations of origin but rather conformed to Americas political and national ideals.

Furthermore, the Declaration of Neutrality was proposed to the Congress after the First World War started. In the declaration, The President warned that if any the ethnic minorities that lived in America at the time became involved in the issues of their nations of descent, the repercussions would

"be fatal to our peace of mind and might seriously stand in the way of the proper performance of our duty as the one great nation of peace." (Link, 2015, p. 44)

However, when war declared against the Triple Alliance by the allies, the immigrants in America were divided along the national and ethnic lines. Numerous Americans of German origin, who as at 1910 counted for about 8 % of the entire American population became outspoken in their support of Germany (Martin & Midgley, 2013). Young American men of German descend went to the German Embassy in America to request that they be transported to German so that they could join the war. Germany gave its American ambassador a generous propaganda budget that he was supposed to use to say the American citizens towards neutrality and American journalists were given bribes to depict the cause of German in a compassionate light.

President Woodrow Wilson helped negotiate the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 at the Paris Peace Conference after the defeat of the Germans. The treaty encompassed a charter for the League of Nations, an alliance intended to arbitrate international conflicts and avert future wars. Although President Woodrow Wilson had previously advanced the notion for the league in 1918, he met opposition to the Treaty of Versailles after he returned from Europe in 1919 (Link, 2015). The reason for the objection was that the Republican members in the Congress believed that the League of Nations would inhibit the autonomy of America and drag the nation into another war.

The Senate voted against the Treaty of Versailles twice, in 1919 during November and in March 1920. The refusal of America sign the Treaty of Versailles later led to its isolation in the 1920s and 1930s which profoundly contributed to the start of the Second World War which was far costlier in terms lives and property destruction than the First World War (Tindall & Shi, 2016). Since America was not in the League of Nations, no country was strong enough to force Japan to comply with the requirements of the Kellogg-Briand agreement which discouraged war as a means of settling conflicts. Japan exited the League of Nations during its invasion of China.



Doenecke, J. D. (2011). Nothing less than war: A new history of America's entry into World War I. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky.

Link, A. S. (2015). Wilson, Volume III: The Struggle for Neutrality, 1914-1915 (Vol. 3). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Martin, P., & Midgley, E. (2013). Number of Foreign-Born Reaches All-Time High in US. Population Reference Bureau. [Online] Retrieved from

Tindall, G. B., & Shi, D. E. (2016). America: A narrative history. New York City, NY: WW Norton & Company.


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