World War I, which becomes known as ‘The Great War’, lasts from 1914 to 1918.
On June 28 1914, Yugoslavian nationalist Gavrilo Princip assassinates Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.
The assassination serves as the trigger for war, with a diplomatic crisis ensuing and heightened tensions between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. Because of the forming of international alliances in the decade leading up to Ferdinand’s assassination, the crisis draws in a number of major nations.
On July 28, one month after the Archduke’s assassination, Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia. Russia subsequently mobilises troops in preparation for supporting the Serbian war effort and a chain of declarations ensues. Germany invades Belgium – a neutral territory – and Luxembourg, before heading for France. This prompts the UK to declare war on Germany. German advances are stopped at Paris, and the Western Front is formed – this becomes an attritional battle along trench lines. On the Eastern Front, Russia defeats Austro-Hungarian forces before German intervention halts Russia’s invasion of East Prussia (despite being outnumbered).
International alliances continue to form as the war grows in scope and duration. In 1915, Italy joins the Allies while Bulgaria throws its support behind the Central Powers, while Romania and the US join the Allies in 1916 and 1917, respectively.
Prolonged fighting takes place before the Austro-Hungarian empire agrees to an armistice on November 4 1918; Germany following suit a week later on November 11.
The war therefore officially ends on November 11 1918, a day that is now commemorated annually with a minute’s silence observed at 11:00 to honour and respect those that lost their lives during the war.
In total, 10 million people lose their lives in the war, which lasts for more than four years, with almost 40 million people either killed, injured or missing as a result of their involvement in World War I.
The League of Nations is established in 1919 as a means to try and prevent future conflict, but overly punitive reparation payments and peace treaty terms, along with economic depression and strong nationalist sentiment in Germany, undermine this effort and ultimately lead to a second world war less than two decades later.