The First World War Chapter Summary ICSE Class 10 History

Study Material

Students should refer to The First World War Class 10 ICSE notes provided below which has been designed by ICSE Class 10 History teacher based on the latest syllabus and examination guidelines for ICSE Class 10 History. You should carefully read through and understand all topics of this chapter given below so that you can learn the concepts given in Chapter The First World War which will be very useful if you use them prior to your History exams.

ICSE Class 10 History The First World War Summary

We have provided below a summary of Chapter The First World War. This is an important chapter in Standard 10th ICSE History. The summary provided below has been prepared by expert History faculty for ICSE based on the latest ICSE books. You should refer to all Chapter Summaries ICSE Class 10 History which will help you to understand all chapters and to get more marks in exams.

The First World War ICSE Class 10 History

Scope of syllabus:

Causes of First World War
• Nationalism and Imperialism
• Race for Armaments
• Division of Europe into two Hostile groups
• Sarajevo Crisis [immediate cause]

Results of the War
• Treaty of Versailles [June 28, 1919]
• Territorial Rearrangements
• Formation of the League of Nations.

1) In 1914, a war began in Europe which soon engulfed the entire world with battles fought in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Pacific.
2) It was fought on a worldwide scale and affected almost all the countries of the world.
3) During this war, new methods of defense and destruction were used.
4) In the earlier wars, civilians were not involved. But this war was fought by the people as a whole.
5) Because of the unprecedented extent of its spread, impact and damage and its total nature, it is known as the First World War.


1) Nationalism & Imperialism –
Nationalism refers to the sense of unity felt by the people, who share a common history, language and culture. In the latter half of the 19th century, this feeling of unity turned into extreme pride, which made people believe that their country is superior to other countries. This led to the development of aggressive nationalism in Europe.

Aggressive nationalism meant love for one’s own country and hatred of other countries. Each nation thought about its own national interests and did not care for the interests of the other nations. Hence, military strength became synonymous with national prestige and every country began to increase her military power.
This aggressive nationalism led to the Rise of Imperialism, a system by which a powerful nation used to establish its control over another country, by political pressure, or by outright wars etc. Once concerned, this country was claimed as a colony. These colonies were governed by the imperial nation, which exploited the resources of these colonies for their economic interest. By the end of 19th Century, England and France built a huge colonial empire in Asia and Africa. Other countries of the world like Germany, Italy, Russia and Japan also wanted to increase their sphere of influence and create their colonies in Asia and Africa. These colonies were essential for their progress as they could provide raw materials for their industries and markets for their finished products. Besides, acquiring colonies would add to the power and prestige of these countries. This led to a clash of interest among these countries.
Thus, aggressive nationalism and fierce economic competition filled the atmosphere with fear, apprehension, mutual hatred and international tension. People were convinced that international problems could only be solved through militarism.

2) Race for Armaments –
The mad race for armaments was one of the reasons which led to the First World War.
(i) Major Powers began stock piling armaments in the name of self defence and preservation of peace.
(ii) As a result, if one country increased its armaments, other countries were compelled to do the same, which filled the atmosphere with fear and hatred.
(iii) In order to protect her colonies in Africa and a few islands in the pacific, Germany began to build powerful navy with a view to achieving parity with Britain.
(iv) By 1914, she had left Britain & France for behind in the production of iron and steel.
(v) One of its ships, the ‘Imperator’ built in 1912 was the largest in the world.
(vi) Germany dug the Kiel Canal deeper so that the battleships could enter its waters.
(vii) Britain and France were concerned with Germany’s growing military strength, which led to a fierce competition among the European countries and gave rise to the race for armaments.

3) Division of Europe into two hostile Groups –
(i) There were two kinds of states in Europe in 20th Century.
(ii) There were single Nation- States like France, Holland & Germany whose national identities were based on their common language and traditions.
(iii) On the other hand, there were imperial states like the Austria- Hungarian Empire and the Russian Empire.
(iv) Germany entered into an alliance with Austria- Hungary.
(v) In 1882, Italy joined the alliance and it came to be called as ‘Triple Alliance ‘ .
(vi) After the death of Bismarck- the German chancellor, France established friendly relations with Russia, and England.
(vii) The 3 countries- France, Russia, England formed the ‘Triple Entente’ in 1907 to counter the Triple Alliance.
(viii) Japan joined the Triple Entente later.
(ix) Thus, Europe was divided into two hostile camps.
(x) Britain had created a vast British Empire by acquiring colonies in Asian and Africa.
(xi) Other countries like Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and the USA too wanted to acquire colonies in Asia and Africa.
(xii) Rivalries between nations happened not just for colonies but for colonial trade and trade routes as well.
(xiii) These rivalries created suspicion, tension and wards, which finally culminated in the First World War.

4) Sarajevo Crisis [Immediate Cause] –
(i) On June 28, 1914, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria- Hungary was assassinated at Sarajevo, Capital of Bosnia.
(ii) The assassination was organized by a secret society called ‘Black Hand’ or ‘Union of Death’ formed by extremist Serbian nationalists whose aim was to unite all Serbians into a single Serbian State.
(iii) Austria served an ultimatum on Serbia on July 23, Making eleven demands. Serbia accepted most of the demands except those that would have led to the loss of her sovereignty.
(iv) Austria declared war on Serbia, on July 28, 1914. Russia prepared for war to support Serbia. Germany declared war on Russia and on France. Thus, began the expansion of the war to include all those involved in the mutual defense alliances.

Britain, France, Russia and their allies were called the Allied Powers.
Germany, Austria and their allies were called the Central Powers.

The war was fought in different areas called fronts.
They were:
(i) Western Front between Germany and Northern France,
(ii) Eastern Front between Germany and the Russian Forces.

1) In 1915, German U-Boats sunk a British Ship Lusitania.
2) Among the passengers killed, several were Americans.
3) Americans were sympathetic to Britain and this incident further roused anti-German feelings in the USA.
4) The Allied powers had raised Vast amounts of loans in the USA to pay for the arms and other goods bought by them.
5) Hence, USA feared that if Germany won the war, she would become a serious rival to the USA.
6) On 6th April 1917, USA declared war on Germany.

1) In 1917, Russia withdrew from the war after the October Revolution.
2) The Russian empire had suffered serious reverses in the war. Many Russian soldiers were killed.
3) The day after the Bolshevik Government came to power under the leadership of Lenin, it issued the Decree on peace with proposals to end the war without any annexations and indemnities.

1) The Treaty of Versailles [June 28, 1919]
It was signed between the Allies and Germany on June 28, 1919.

Terms of the Treaty –
(i) Treaty declared Germany guilty of aggression. Germany was required to pay for the loss and damages suffered by the Allies during the war. It had to cede her merchant ships to the Allies as compensation.
(ii) Area of the Rhine Valley was to be demilitarized and the German territory west of Rhine was to be occupied by the Allied Troops for 15 years.
(iii) Alsace Larraine were returned to France, Eupen-et-Malmedy were returned to Belgium, Schleswig to Denmark. Danzig became a Free Port in the Polish territory.
(iv) German ceded parts of her pre-war territory to Denmark, Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia and France.
(v) Coal mines in the German area- Saar were ceded to France for 15 years and the area was to be governed by the League of Nations.
(vi) German army was reduced to 1,00,000 soldiers, 15000 Navy men, 24 ships. The Air Force and Submarines were banned.
(vii) The Treaty affirmed the complete independence of Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.
(viii) The covenant of the League of Nations was added to the Treaty of Versailles.

2) Territorial Rearrangements –
(i) Economically and militarily, the United States emerged as a World Power.
(ii) Peace treaties signed after the war transformed the political map of the World, particularly of Europe.
(iii) Three ruling dynasties were destroyed – the Romanov in Russia, the Hohenzollern in Germany and the Hapsburg in Austria- Hungary.
(iv) After the war, rule of ottomans ended in Turkey.
(v) Austria and Hungary became independent states.
(vi) Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia emerged as independent states.
(vii) The war gave a serious blow to monarchy and developed democracy in Europe.
(viii) Alsace- Lorraine was restored to France and Schleswig-Hostein was restored to Denmark.

3) Formation of the League of Nations –
League of Nations was created as a world organization of all independent states in 1920.

Aims and objectives of the League of Nations –
The chief aim was preservation of peace and to guarantee the independence of all states.
(i) All the states of the world were prohibited from entering into any secret treaties and alliances.
(ii) The member- states were not supposed to maintain huge armies, warships and destructive armaments.
(iii) All states were to refer their mutual disputes, if any, to the League of Nations for a peaceful settlement.
(iv) The member states were to take necessary action as directed by the League against any state which tried to disturb world peace and order.
(v) Apart from political functions, League of Nations was supposed to promote cultural, social and economic co-operation among the member states.

Two major countries –
Germany and the Soviet Union were not allowed to become the members of the League for many years, while India, which was not independent, was made a member.
(i) The United States which played an important part in the setting up of the League did not join the League.
(ii) Rise of Dictatorships in Italy and Germany led to the weakening of the League of Nations.
(iii) Leagues came to an end as Hitler committed aggression on Poland which began the World War II [1939-1945].


The First World War Chapter Summary ICSE Class 10 History

Notes for The First World War

The First World War

The First World War which began in 1914 was different from all the other previous wars. It was fought by several nations and affected almost all countries. New methods of defence and destruction were used in it. Because of the extent of the spread of the war, damages caused by it and the total impact of the war was till now unprecedented in history, it came to be known as the First World War.

Causes of the First World War

Aggressive and Militant Nationalism

– Aggressive nationalism means to love one’s country to such an extent that it results in the hatred of other countries. Militant nationalism was the consequence of the aggressive nationalism which included the building of a huge army and appointing of a powerful class of military and naval officers. For example, France wanted the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine back from Germany and Serbia wanted all the Balkan states to unite. This created tensions among the other nations.

– Aggressive nationalism also led to the development of expansionist policies. France and Britain built large colonial empires in Asia and Africa. Many other nations such as Germany, Italy and Japan competed with other powers to establish their colonies. Building of colonies became essential at this time as they not only provided raw materials and minerals for industries but also had great potential to become markets for European manufactured goods.

– Colonies also added to the power and prestige of the European nations. This led to a clash of interests among these countries. This filled the political atmosphere of Europe with hatred and fear.

Race for Armament

– Because of aggressive nationalism and in the name of self-defence, almost every European nation began to pile arms and ammunitions.

– Germany began to build a powerful navy to protect her colonies in Asia and Africa. She built one of the largest ships, ‘The Imperator’, in 1912. Britain and France were suspicious of the growing military strength of Germany.

– Stockpiling of arms gave rise to stiff competition among the European nations which resulted in the outbreak of the First World War.

Division of Europe into Two Hostile Camps

– In the early 20th century, there were basically two kinds of states in Europe. While some were single nation states such as Britain and France, others were imperial states such as Austria and Hungary. The latter had Hungarian, Serbian, Bosnian and Croats who spoke different languages and cultural traditions.

– To secure their interests, nations entered various alliances. Germany formed an alliance with Austria and Hungary which was later joined by Italy in 1882. The alliance came to be known as the Triple Alliance.

– France, England and Russia formed the Triple Entente in 1907 to counter the effects of the formation of the Triple Alliance. It was later joined by Japan. Formation of these alliances divided Europe into two hostile camps.

Murder of Archduke Francis Ferdinand (Immediate Cause)

The First World War Chapter Summary ICSE Class 10 History

– Archduke Francis Ferdinand was the heir to the throne of Austria and Hungary. He was assassinated at the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo on 28 June 1914.

– The assassination was planned by a secret society named ‘Black Hand’ which aimed at uniting all Serbians into a single Serbian state.

– After his assassination, Austria served an ultimatum to Serbia making eleven demands. Serbia accepted most demands but refused some.

– As a result, Austria declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914. Russia supported Serbia and started making preparations for war. On 1 August 1914, Germany declared war on Russia. On 4 August, Britain declared war on Germany.

– Soon afterwards, many other countries joined the war. Japan declared war on Germany with an aim of conquering German territories in the Far East. Turkey and Bulgaria joined the war on the side of Germany. Italy remained neutral for some time and then declared war on Germany (broke the Triple Alliance).

– While Britain, France, Russia and their allies came to be known as the Allied Powers, Germany, Austria–Hungary and their allies came to be known as the Central Powers.

Events of the War

War on the Western Front
– Battle of Marne was an important battle which was fought on the Western front. It was fought between France and Britain on one side and Germany on the other side.
– The victories secured by France and Britain against Germany in the Battle of Marne proved to be a decisive point in the war.

Trench Warfare

The First World War Chapter Summary ICSE Class 10 History

– Machine guns and heavy artillery made the life above ground very dangerous. The opposing armies dug trenches to defend themselves from the enemy’s attacks and to launch attacks.
– It was not easy to live in trenches. Rats, lice, gas, cold, rain and snow were problems faced by the soldiers in trenches.

War on the Eastern Front

– Initially, Austria–Hungary and Germany were able to invade some territories of the Russian empire. They were also successful against Romania, Serbia and Italy.
– Outside Europe, the Allied Powers led campaigns against the Ottoman Empire. While Japan occupied German possessions in East Asia, Britain and France captured many German colonies in Africa.

Policy of Blockade

– One of the tactics employed in the war was the blocking of enemy lines to cut off the supplies of food,war material and raw materials.
– In 1916, Germany sunk many British warships, but she was defeated in the Battle of Verdun. The English blocked the German coast to cut supplies to her. Germany was also defeated in the Battle of Dogger Bank.

War against Turkey

– Turkey had joined the war on the side of the Central Powers. Germany was thus controlling the Baltic Sea and Black Sea. This made Russia isolated as she was not able to get any help from the Entente Powers.

– Thus, Turkey was attacked by the British Indian army and the former surrendered on 30 October 1918.

Entry of USA in the War

– In 1915, the German U Boats sunk a British passenger ship called ‘Lusitania’. Among 1153 passengers who were killed. 128 were Americans. This aroused anti-German feelings in the USA.

– The Allied Powers had raised huge sums of money in the USA to pay for the war goods and materials.Thus, the USA feared that if Allied Powers lost the war, she would not be able to recover the money.Moreover, Germany would also become a possible rival of the USA.

– Thus, USA declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917.

Russia’s Withdrawal from the War

– One of the major events of the war was the withdrawal of Russia from the First World War. She retreated from the war because of the Russian Revolution.

– Russians had suffered heavy damages during the war and over 600,000 Russian soldiers were killed.

– After taking over the leadership of Russia, Lenin proposed to end the war.

– Russia signed a peace treaty called the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany.

End of the War

– By 1918, Germany and her allies began to be routed by the combined forces of Britain, France and USA.

– This gave rise to political discontent in Austria and Hungary. While Bulgaria withdrew from the war,Turkey surrendered to the Allies in 1918.

– While the emperor of Austria–Hungary surrendered on 3 November 1918. A revolution broke out in Germany and he became a republic. The German emperor Kaiser William II fled to Holland. The new German government signed an armistice on 11 November 1918 and the war came to an end.

– About 53 to 70 million people fought in the war and about nine million people were either wounded or killed during the war. Besides, civilians were also killed because of air raids, epidemics and famines during the war.

– The economy of the countries participating in the war was shattered. The Great Economic Depression of 1929–30 is mainly attributed to the war.

Results of the War

Main results of the First World War:

The Signing of the Treaty of Versailles (28 June 1919)

The First World War Chapter Summary ICSE Class 10 History

– The treaty of Versailles was signed at Versailles in France. It was signed by the victorious nations. Main terms of the Treaty were

o Germany was held guilty of aggression.

o He was also required to pay huge war reparations of 33 billion dollars for the losses of the victorious nations.

o The Rhine Valley in Germany was to be demilitarised, and German territory to the west of Rhine was to be occupied by the Allied troops for 15 years.

o Germany lost Alsace-Lorraine to France and Schleswig to Denmark.

o Coal mines in Saar, Germany, were given to France for 15 years.

o Germany lost all her colonies to the victorious nations

o The size of the German army and navy was restricted, and its air force and submarines were banned.

Territorial Rearrangements

– The war marked the end of three ruling dynasties in Europe—the Romanov in Russia, the Hohenzollern in Germany and Hapsburg in Austria–Hungary.

– The rule of the Ottoman Empire came to an end in Italy. Austria and Hungary became two separate states. Thus, monarchy in many countries collapsed.
– Many independent states emerged during the war. Some of these were Finland, Estonia, Latvia,Lithuania and Yugoslavia.
Formation of the League of Nations

– The League of Nations was created after the end of the War. The fourteen-point programme of President Wilson included the creation of a world organisation to prevent any future wars.

– Aims and objectives of the League:

o All nations were prohibited from entering any secret treaties and alliances.

o All nations had to respect each other’s independence.

o Nations should solve disputes among each other by referring the disputes to the League.

o Member nations had to take steps against the aggressive country which tried to disturb world peace.

o The League was supposed to promote cultural, social and economic cooperation among the member nations.

– The League however had some limitations too. Germany and the Soviet Union were not made the members of the League. USA also did not join the League.
– The rise of dictatorship in Germany and Italy weakened the League, which ultimately came to an end with the beginning of the Second World War.

The First World War Class 10 ICSE notes