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World War I was the first war that involved nations spanning more than half globe, hence "world" war. It lasted from 1914 to 1918 and was called "The Great War" until [[World War II]] started. The apparent reason for the war was the assasination of the successor to the Austrian throne in [[Sarajevo]] by a fanatic Serbian student, but the real reasons were far more complex. At the beginning of the twentieth century, [[Europe]] had a delicate balance of power, which was destroyed by the death of [[Queen Victoria]] and the decommission of German chancellor [[Otto von Bismarck]]. All major powers were eager to start a new war in 1914, and the declaration of war was met with great enthusiasm by the people. After [[Austria]]'s declared war, [[Germany]] and the [[Osman Empire]] joined, declaring war on the [[Entente]] powers: [[France]], [[Great Britain]], [[Russia]] and - towards the end of the war - the [[United States]].

The First World War was different from prior military conflicts. This time, millions of soldiers fought on all sides and the casualties were enormous, mostly because of the more efficient weapons (like machine guns) that were used in large quantities. Although the First World War lead to the development of air forces and tanks (which weren't used before at all), much of the action took place in entrenchments, where thousands died for each square meter of land. The armies of the First World War also used chemical warfare, which was not yet banned at the time.

All of this lead to a huge trauma all participants had afterwards. The optimism of 1900 was entirely gone and those who fought in the war became what is known as "the Lost Generation" because they never fully recovered from their experiences. For more details on the subject, you should read one of the great novels about the war. They include: 
*[[Frederic Manning]]: "Her Privates We" 
*[[Erich Maria Remarque]]: "All Quiet on the Western Front"
*[[Richard Aldington]]: "Death of a Hero"
*[[Robert Grave]]: "Goodbye to All That"
*[[ErnestHemingway|Ernest Hemingway]]: "A Farewell to Arms"

See also: [[World War II]]