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Describe X in N Words: This question asks for an answer in a limited number of words: this limits the ability of Quora users to answer "why" and thus impairs questions in this topic from forming a better resource. Questions and answers with this topic are only shown in feed to people who follow the topic.

How can one summarize World War I in ten sentences or fewer?

Why did it start? Who won? Etc
Balaji ViswanathanBalaji Viswanathan, History buff.
896 upvotes by Jon Davis (Sergeant of Marines. Fought in Iraq during OIF.... (more) ), Raghava Rayudu (Gentleman Cadet in Indian Naval Academy.), Edwin Khoo (AFV Operator, Singapore Armed Forces), (more)
Now the same format available for WWII: How can one summarize World War II in 10 sentences or less?

1. The players: World War I was fought between the allies (UK, France, Russia plus all green regions below - including Japan & Italy) and the central powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Turks plus all the orange regions below).

2. The cause: A Bosnian-Serb student (Gavrilo Princip) suspected to be a Serbian fanatic assassinated the Archduke of Austria in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 leading to a war between Austria (supported by Germany) and Serbia (supported by Britian, France...).

3. The actual cause: Throughout the 19th century, old European powers formed a network of war alliances to keep their status quo on colonialism, putting "barriers" to entry for new powers such as Germany leading the latter to explode.

4. The innovations: Technology played a key role in the warfare with the introduction of new innovations such as tanks, trenches, airplanes, machine guns, railroads, submarines and poison gas, taking warfare to a whole new level.

5. The Theatres: The war's primary theatres were the Western Front (around Belgium), Eastern Front (Russia-Bulgaria) and Southern Theatre (Balkans, Turkey).

6. The American Entry. America kept out of the war until April 6, 1917 - until Germany hit where it hurts Yanks the most (commerce) - sinking five American Merchant ships in March 1917, along with provoking Mexico to join Germany  (Zimmermann Telegram).

7. The epidemics. In the middle of war two deadly epidemics devastated the world: the Spanish flu in January 1918 (1918 flu pandemic) the deadliest disease ever (affecting 500 million people, killing close to 100 million -  17 million in India alone) and Soviet Communism in November 1917 (Russian Revolution).

8. The end. The turning point came during the Hundred Days Offensive The war officially when the central powers surrendered one after another and the war ended on June 28, 1919 (exactly 5 years after the start with 37 million lives lost) with victory to Allies humiliating Germany at the Treaty of Versailles (Paris) -> leading to a much bigger war 20 years later.

9. The legacy: Russia went through a revolution leading to the arrival of communism, US overtook the British Empire as the world leader and Ottoman empire of Turkey disintegrated causing a huge rewriting of the West Asian map.

10. The lesson. Never sink American ships (hello Japanese), don't do anything stupid on June 28 (hello Serbia, France, Germany)* and never humiliate losing powers (hello France).

A side note to help you remember the date:
* Key world changing events that happened on June 28
  1. The Serbian assassination of the Archduke (1914) -- leading to the World War I. The date is a key one in Serbian culture (Battle of Kosovo)
  2. The treaty of Versailles (1919) -- leading to World War II.
  3. Germany makes its stupidest move in WW II with operation Case Blue (1942) (invading Russia). They made the exact same move almost exactly one year before that (Operation Barbarossa) and with the same results.

  4. Milosevic delivered his famous Gazimestan speech (1989) that would indirectly lead to Yugoslavian war and the war in Kosovo.
  5. Israel captures East Jerusalem (1967) at the end of the Six-day war with the Arabs, leading to decades of unrest in West Asia.
Quora UserQuora User, i dabble as an amateur - and i... (more)
17 upvotes by Betsy Megas, Hang Su, Zeeshan Hamid, (more)
Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand gets shot in Bosnia by Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip 28 June 1914

Germany eggs on Austria to declare war on Serbia and everyone else piles in

Russian attack into Prussia in 1914 saves Paris because Germany diverts troops East

Western front is effectively a stalemate for four years though both sides try to break through intermittently, at huge loss of life. Warfare on the Eastern front more mobile

German colonies picked off one by one

Russian revolution on 1917 leads to collapse of Russian forces and total German victory in the East

German final push in early 1918 is a close run thing but foiled by tanks and Yanks

Gradual collapse of the Central Powers from mid 1918 leading to armistice in November 1918

Map of Europe and the near east is redrawn as the Germany and Russia empires lose territory and Austro-Hungary and Ottoman Turkey are dismembered

The Treaty of Versailles imposes crippling punishment on Germany - guaranteeing a re-match in the near future
Dan HawkinsDan Hawkins, Monkey Pugilist
18 upvotes by Edwin Khoo (AFV Operator, Singapore Armed Forces), Dave Calhoun, Jann Griffith Hoke, (more)
To quote Black Adder Goes Forth:

(sitting in the trenches on the Western Front)

Captain Blackadder: You see, Baldrick, in order to prevent war in Europe, two superblocs developed: us, the French and the Russians on one side, and the Germans and Austro-Hungary on the other. The idea was to have two vast opposing armies, each acting as the other's deterrent. That way there could never be a war.

Private Baldrick: But, this is a sort of a war, isn't it, sir?

Captain Blackadder: Yes, that's right. You see, there was a tiny flaw in the plan.

Private Baldrick: What was that, sir?

Captain Blackadder: It was bollocks.

Joe Geronimo MartinezJoe Geronimo Martinez, All over La Jolla-----At Wa'im... (more)
24 upvotes by Ching Wong, Balaji Viswanathan, Quora User, (more)
1) Governments worked on the theory that having lots of weapons would prevent war.

2) Like all wars before and every one since rich people sent poor people to die horrendous deaths.

3) Only one country can claim to have won WWI, America, who joined late, took the credit, spent little, but still wanted a large cut from Germany.

4) The money spent on munitions was enough to educate every child in the world for the next 500 years.

5) The war started because governments made threats and were to embarrassed to back down. All the threat makers willing to see people die, were male.

6)90% of the Russian army didn't have rifles. They had clubs and were instructed to take guns from a fallen comrade. When people talk of the "horrors of communism", the Imperial army had an enthusiasm for slaughter.

7) The last German to surrender was Von Lettow Vorbeck, to the embarrassment of the white supremacist nazis, his army was entirely made up of black troops. His 4,000 Tanzanian troops, held off 250 000 allied troops.

8) There were 53 000 British casualties in the first hour of the Battle of the Somme. Soldiers were ordered to walk into machine gun fire.

9) The favourite food of British soldiers in the trenches was Beef curry.

10) The war was a pointless slaughter an no one gained anything or ever had a chance of gaining anything. Humanity should learn better ways of doing things.
Jon MixonJon Mixon, Studied military actions from ... (more)
11 upvotes by Joseph Boyle, David Durham, Ankit Sethi, (more)
The prelude to World War II.
We need to keep up with other powers on acquiring the latest weapons systems and overseas colonies.

We haven't had a general war in a century, wouldn't it be exciting and a counter to modern decadence and class struggle?

We never thought it would be this hard, but there is no alternative but to carry on.

We've lost faith in our world, which ground up a whole generation in the trenches.

We're desperate and will follow anything different from the past now.

You know, those white people don't look so invincible after all.
6 upvotes by Walter Plinge, Klaas Lannoy, Quora User, (more)
Please don't summarize world war 1 or 2 in 10 words or less. Wars, and history, are much more complex than that. Even the simplest "who did what" calls for nuance. That nuance is what makes studying history fascinating.
James MawsonJames Mawson, Handsome Genius
2 upvotes by David Durham and Quora User.
Dying empires sent millions to perish for trivial reasons
Robert J. KolkerRobert J. Kolker, I am the little boy who told t... (more)
1 upvote by Bennett Nelson.
There was not a single sane  leader or nation in Europe at that time.  It was utter and complete Madness.
David DurhamDavid Durham, The greatest event I've ever w... (more)
1 upvote by Rupert Baines.
One could broadly characterize it as a huge, tragic, depraved family squabble.
Drew StewartDrew Stewart, Avid Reader, WW2, Sports Enthu... (more)
1 upvote by Jann Griffith Hoke.
I think the best way to describe WWI is that it is essentially that Bugs Bunny/Marvin Martian cartoon.  Each country keeps pulling out a bigger gun until eventually one finally shoots and the world gets blown up with just the USA standing on top of the little nub of Earth that is left.
Quora UserQuora User
The end of imperialism and the rise of nationalism. Or
The end of western christian empire (and also turkish caliphate) and the rise of modern (proto liberal) democracy (and also socialism).
Andrew FragosoAndrew Fragoso, I'm interested in history, cur... (more)
Where: Mainly Europe
What: Bullets everywhere, dieses galore, massive realignment, Russian pullout, Germany fucks up and the death of the "sick man of Europe"
Winners: the one's who got to write the story
Leif JerramLeif Jerram, Senior lecturer in history, Un... (more)
1 upvote by David Scoff.
Lots of the answers here focus on relatively short-term or 'circumstantial' causes. Historians tend to distinguish between the waves and the tides - the superficial to-and-fro of human affairs, and the deep underlying forces that drive them this way and that. I'm going to focus on the tides here...

1. European cultures (and the USA too) were dominated in the 1890s and 1900s by ideas that masculinity (in fact, the whole of society) was in decline and needed to be 'saved' from luxury, comfort and idleness - many people proposed that warlike activities (for example, the Boy Scouts, or mountain hiking) might start that process, but that a genuine war would really help.
2. European cultures (and the USA too) were full of talk about how war was 'swift' and 'dashing' - it would be about planes and cars and machine guns - so they felt that they could start wars, and that they'd be low-risk and over relatively quickly, whoever won them, so lots of people were relatively cavalier about advocating war in general.
3. European cultures (and the USA too) were obsessed with the idea that society was full of racially degenerate 'dross' wrecking the gene pool, and that a war might be a great way to clear that out, so lots of people (doctors, trade unionists, landowners, nationalists) promoted violence and struggle as good in and of themselves.
4. So a lot of the 'causes' of the war were actually mentalities and attitudes that permitted or encouraged idiocy, rather than geo-political conflicts, because in cultures where there are geo-political conflicts, but no idiotic ideas, wars don't happen.
5. Most European states apart from France, Britain, Scandinavia, Belgium and Holland were shambolic attempts to form states out of diverse and contradictory social, economic and cultural groups that realistically had little respect for each other and little in common with each other, and this meant that violence in those societies was often an inbuilt part of the political process.
6. France, Germany, Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and the USA had all come to rely on violence very extensively in their colonial enterprises (for example, the colonisation of North America), up to and including the use of genocides as a policy tool, and so they too tended to view violence as a perfectly reasonable way of organising the world.
7. Humans can be so stupid sometimes.
8. There were complex geopolitical conflicts and patterns of alliance, but in many ways, these did not so much 'cause' the war, as give it the shape and form that it took.
9. So by 1914, the 'gate' to warfare was open, wide open, and any one of a number of more momentary crises could have sparked some sort of conflict.
This will be mostly off topic, but related.

The big technlogy was rail transport. It allowed the belligerents to trasport large number of troops to where they were needed. Apart from in 1918 when the allies transported quite a lot of troops using lorries to stem the German advance. Fortunately for the Allies, the Germans ended up looting the supply dumps for food.

Looks like most people have overlooked the logistics. The initial German offensive seems to have been the last time an army expected to live off the land.

One problem for the Allies were the mindnumbing slowness in learning displayed by the British. That applies to both world wars.
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