Empires before World War I Austria-Hungary. Ottoman empire. British, German, French and Russian empires.
Empires before World War I
- A lot of people, including myself,
- have found the study of World War I
- to be a little bit confusing sometimes.
- And I think the reason is, the world was very different,
- leading up to World War I, than it is today.
- The modern world we live in was shaped, to a large degree,
- by World War I, and then later [by] World War II.
- And just to get a sense of what
- our modern world looks like –
- and especially what modern Europe looks like –
- this is a map of modern Europe.
- But the interesting thing about this map is that
- instead of being the traditional map that you normally see,
- where you just see the country boundaries –
- the state boundaries – this has the state boundaries
- right here in these little gray lines.
- These show where France ends and, say,
- Switzerland or Germany or Italy begins.
- But overlaying all of that,
- we see where the languages are spoken.
- So this is actually much more focused on,
- [for example], "Where do people speak French?"
- "Where do people speak German?"
- And the thing that you will notice is – for the most part –
- throughout most of Europe, today's boundaries –
- the modern boundaries – closely match up
- to where languages are spoken.
- There are a few areas where there is more of a disconnect
- [for example,] Catalan and Spanish.
- (And actually, that is leading to some issues.)
- But for the most part, in modern Europe,
- the linguistic boundaries and
- the national boundaries kind of match up.
- If we rewind to the world before World War I,
- things were very different.
- Some of the boundaries we recognize.
- We recognize the United Kingdom.
- (Well, Ireland has since been carved out.)
- But the United Kingdom's boundaries
- are not very different now than they were then.
- Spain is not that different.
- France is not that different.
- Italy is not that different.
- Germany is a good bit different.
- In fact, if you take Germany – or the German Empire –
- entering into World War I, or in the early 1900s,
- before 1914, between it and the Russian Empire,
- they essentially were swallowing up a bunch of
- linguistic groups, right over here,
- that now have their own independent states.
- The other thing that you might notice
- is this huge state called "Austria-Hungary" –
- often called the "Austro-Hungarian Empire."
- And people say, "Well, you know,
- I'm familiar with some of these nations
- that have the words 'Austria' and 'Hungary' in them.
- But what is this Austro-Hungarian Empire?"
- And what's interesting about Austria-Hungary
- is it really was an empire.
- It really was trying to cobble together all of these folks
- that spoke all [of these] different [languages] –
- [and that consisted of] all [of these] different types of [ethnicity].
- This is kind of a zoom-in of the Austro-Hungarian empire
- leading into World War I.
- And the Austro-Hungarian Empire is probably
- the most important empire to focus on if we're trying to
- understand how World War I started.
- Because leading up to World War I, in 1908,
- the Austro-Hungarian Empire
- formally annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- And that's another confusing thing for many of us,
- the fact that 'Bosnia and Herzegovina'
- is actually the name of just one country.
- It's called "Bosnia and Herzegovina."
- Or I guess, for the Austro-Hungarians,
- that was, I guess now, one region that they annexed.
- And what's interesting about that is
- if you look at the linguistic map,
- you see that this whole region right over here
- [speaks] very similar dialects: Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian.
- They're all very linguistically and ethnically connected.
- So this whole region right over here
- is linguistically and ethnically connected.
- And what we'll see is that this desire to connect
- ethnic or linguistic backgroundsis what led to a lot of what
- people with similar happened in World War I –
- or at least was the spark that [ignited] –
- people sometimes say –
- the powder keg [that was] World War I.
- The other thing that was very different –
- or the other country or nation or empire that we are
- not [very familiar with] today is the "Ottoman Empire."
- So on a modern-day map we would see the country of Turkey –
- which is kind of on the Anatolian Peninsula.
- So this is Turkey right over here.
- This is modern-day Turkey.
- But entering into World War I, in 1914,
- Turkey , essentially, [was formed out of] part of
- the remnants of the Ottoman Empire.
- So, this right over here is what theOttoman Empire looked like.
- This, right over here, is roughly modern-day Turkey.
- The Ottoman Empire contained much of modern-day Turkey,
- and much of what we now call the 'Middle East.'
- including much of what is now Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel,
- and some of what is now Saudi Arabia.
- This was then part of the dying Ottoman Empire.
- At its peak, the Ottoman Empire controlled much of the Muslim world.
- It controlled Northern Africa,
- as well as all the stuff that you see here –
- and even a little bit of Persia,
- and actually a good bit of the Balkans,
- Southeast Europe, and even Greece at its peak.
- Now I'm talking about going hundreds
- and hundreds of years back into the past.
- So when we enter into World War II,
- we have a world where state boundaries don't necessarily
- match linguistic boundaries or by ethnic boundaries.
- To a large degree, we had these empires that had existed
- as we exited out of the 1800s.
- And these empires were not just in Europe –
- like the Austro-Hungarian Empire –
- or not just in the Middle East – like the Ottoman Empire.
- Right over here is a kind of an empire map
- at around that point in time.
- And you see probably the most dominant empire
- here is the British Empire.
- That's [the area in] pink [here].
- That's the United Kingdom.
- Great Britain would just be this [island] right over here.
- You throw in Ireland, you get the United Kingdom.
- Great Britain was in control of
- the entire Indian subcontinent (in Asia).
- Although nominally, Egypt was somewhat independent,
- Great Britain had a huge amount of influence there.
- Obviously, places like Canada and Australia
- and New Zealand were under the control of,
- or part of, the British Empire.
- Well, what a lot of people don't realize is that
- a significant amount of Africa was also under British control.
- And what we have, running up into World War I,
- is kind of a race between empires –
- a colonization race especially
- between the major powers of Europe.
- In particular, you have Great Britain – or or the United Kingdom –
- that obviously had a vast empire.
- "The sun never sets on the British Empire."
- And it wasn't ever setting on this empire that we just saw here.
- And the German Empire was also startingto flex its muscle and starting to militarize.
- And the more that the Germans saw that the British were militarizing,
- the more the Germans would want to militarize – and vice versa.
- And you just had this arms race.
- And they were all trying to build their empires.
- So the Germans, they were present in Africa.
- You have the French who were present in much of Africa.
- And you have to remember all of this in context.
- Some of this empire building was, frankly, just about you ego,
- and just about spreading someone's influence – spreading [one's] power.
- A lot of it was based on kind of ethnic beliefs about civilization.
- I guess these were rationalizations to [justify taking] control of other people's resources.
- And a lot of it was – we were in a world where access to resources,
- in particular access to raw materials – and especially oil –
- could, to some degree, define whether a power was a power at all.
- And so, with that, I think we have a pretty good basis for [understanding]
- the state of affairs as we enter into World War I.
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