Students explore the First World War. What caused it and the result of the war itself?

World War I began in late July of 1914. It resulted in over fifteen million deaths. Though it was triggered by the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, it had been brewing for years. Differences in opinion over major foreign policies were the actual causes for the war between the Allied (Britain, Belgium, Greece, Italy, France, Japan, Montenegro, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, and United States) and the Central (Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany, and Turkey) Powers. These reading worksheets dive deep in the events leading up to and the aftermath of World War I. We look at what specifically caused the war. We take a deep look at the Allied and Central Powers. We look at the key events of the war and the role of the United States in the conflict.

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Causes of World War I Reading Passage

Though causes of war are complex, historians agree that one particular event set the machine of World War I into motion: the assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand.

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Causes Multiple Choice Questions

At the same time, many of these countries were seeking to expand their influence and power by taking over other countries.

An Overview of What Happened

Most of the fighting happened in Europe in two general areas. On the eastern front, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Bulgaria faced off against Russia and Romania. On the western front, from the coast of Belgium to Switzerland, France fought Belgium.

An Overview of the War - Short Answer Questions

Who was the first country to declare war, and who did they declare war on?

Allied Powers

The military conflict known as World War I took place between 1914 and 1918 and involved all the great powers of Europe, as well as the United States.

QUESTIONS: Allied Powers

For the first years of the war, the United States did not take a side.

Central Powers

The military conflict known as World War I took place between 1914 and 1918 and involved all the great powers of Europe, as well as the United States.

QUESTIONS: Central Powers

Germany was at the helm of the Central Powers, and it had the largest army.

Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand

When Archduke Ferdinand traveled to Sarajevo, some of the Bosnian nationalists felt that this was their opportunity to make a move for freedom.

QUESTIONS: Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand

The government of Austria-Hungary saw the attack as a declaration of war.

In the Trenches Reading Passage

Trench warfare is a style of fighting. In trench warfare, both sides fight from deep trenches which can be many miles long.

QUESTIONS: In the Trenches

What other ways were there to dig trenches, and which was the safest?

The Sinking of the Lusitania

The Lusitania was a British luxury cruise ship. In 1907, at 787 feel long, it was the largest ship in the world, and could carry over three thousand people.

QUESTIONS: The Sinking of the Lusitania

At the beginning of World War I, in 1914, the Germans were trying to gain control of the shipping lanes around Britain which were bringing fresh supplies for the war effort.

The Role of Aviation in World War I Reading Worksheet

Airplanes in World War I were initially used for reconnaissance, or information-gathering.

The Role of Aviation in World War I - Short Answer Questions

Why did both sides start marking the underside of the wings of the planes?

The U.S. Role in World War I

American public opinion was varied, as many immigrants had family ties on both sides.

The U.S. Role in World War I- Multiple Choice Questions

After entering the war, President Wilson, who was the only leader of the time to publicly declare his war aims, issued his Fourteen Points.

The End of the War

On November 9th, 1918, Wilhelm abandoned his throne and fled to the Netherlands.

The End of It - Short Answer

Though it was the Treaty of Versailles that officially ended the war on June 28, 1919, November 11, 1918 has gone down in history as the end of "the war to end all wars."

What Started World War I?

World War I was a deadly stuggle that led to the death of more than 17 million people, hence the name "The Great War." It was a land, air, and sea conflict that involved more than ten countries. The United States of America was one of the countries hit hard during the strike, losing more than 100,000 troops.

The leading cause of this conflict was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary by Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist, on June 28, 1914. Serbia plotted the Archduke's assassination because Austria-Hungary was in charge of Bosnia. 

Although the Archduke's assassination was the immediate cause of what was to come, several other underlying causes contributed to the start of the conflict. Keep reading to learn about these other causes and how they influenced the eruption of The Great War.

How Did Other Countries Get Involved in?

Other countries got involved in this major conflict to support their allies. As discussed by the Indiana Resident Resources, the first World War was originally between Serbia and Austria-Hungary. However, Russia joined the conflict due to its alliance with Serbia, leading to Germany declaring war on Russia.

The other members of the Central Powers were soon drawn in as well. They included:

  • Bulgaria
  • The Ottoman Empire
  • Italy

On the other side of the strife were the members of the Triple Entente. This group consisted of France, Britain, and Russia. Japan also joined this side as an ally to Britain.

The United States eventually entered World War I on April 6, 1917. They joined the war to support their allies, Britain and France. The U.S. also wanted to show its power to the world by proving it could help end a major international conflict.

Factors That Contributed

Other factors that contributed to the eruption of this action of States are discussed below:

The Rise of Nationalism in Europe

Nationalism is a feeling of pride and loyalty to one's country. This was a new concept in the 1800s, and it led to people being more loyal to their countries than to an empire like the Holy Roman Empire. Nationalism also made people think that their countries were better than others, which led to tension between countries.

Roslyn Schools discusses that Russia, France, Germany, and Austria-Hungary wanted to showcase the importance of their nations by manufacturing weapons and training strong armies for the struggle.

Imperialism

The late 1800s and early 1900s were a time of Imperialism when countries expanded their power by conquering other lands. This was for several reasons, including:

  • To get raw materials for manufacturing
  • To reach new markets for selling goods
  • To spread Christianity

Norwich University discusses that Britain and France used their powers to expand their empires. The coercion from these two countries caused tension in Europe. Opposing empires like Germany, the Ottoman Empire, and Austria-Hungary created a division that resulted in Central Powers and Allied Powers, who were the frontiers in the war.

Militarism

Militarism is the glorification of the military and the buildup of strong armies. It was a new concept in the 1800s that led to countries being more prepared for battle.

Countries like Germany and Britain were secretly stockpiling weapons and training their militaries. They were also creating alliances with other countries to have more allies in the event of a major conflict. This led to paranoia among other countries like Russia, which made them want to increase their military as well.

Alliances Between Countries

European countries made mutual defense alliances that obligated them to support each other in the event of a war. According to the alliances, if one country was attacked, the allied countries would join their efforts in defense.

The common alliances that existed pre-World War I are:

  • The Triple Entente: Russia, France, and Britain.
  • The Triple Alliance: Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy.
  • The Central Powers: Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire.
  • The Allied Powers: Russia, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, and the United States.

Final Thoughts

Nationalism was the main reason for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The act led to a domino effect that resulted in the outbreak of this loss of life, which lasted four years. Many people died as countries like the U.S. lost their troops.