HST 504 – Week 4
―race to the sea‖
Hundred Days Offensive
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
The Opening Manoeuvres: Strategies and Aims in 1914
- At the beginning of the Great War, all the Great Powers activated their war plans and launched offensives to
defeat their enemies.
- On the eastern front, the Russians were defeated at the Battle of Tannenberg by the Germans but managed
to score victories against Austria-Hungary.
- On the western front, the Schlieffen Plan pushed the German armies through Belgium and into France.
- Yet, as the Germans advanced deep into French territory, their offensive ran out of steam.
- At the Battle of the Marne, the German advancement towards Paris was stopped.
- What remained was the ―race to the sea‖ as the armies tried to outflank each other.
- By November of 1914, no decisive victory could be proclaimed and so a deadlock ensued as each side built
lines of trenches and barbwire.
- The war of attrition had begun even though no state had prepared for a long drawn-out war.
- Moreover, all the Great Powers came to believe that peace could be only ensured through total defeat of the
- The Germans’ ―September Program‖ called for a complete destruction of France’s military power by
annexation of all her main fortresses in the north-east and by extensive reparations.
- Germans would then create a Mitteleuropa, an economic bloc based in Central Europe that would dominate
the entire continent.
- There were states that hoped to acquire territory: the Italians dreamed of expanding in Trentino, Triese and
around the Adriatic coast; the Bulgarians wanted to grab all of the Macedonian territories; while the French,
at the very least, wanted to reclaim Alsace-Lorraine.
- All wanted to enlarge their spheres of influence: Russia over the Balkans and the Dardanelle Straits; Britain
and France over the Middle East; and Japan over the Chinese mainland
Search for Allies
- The search for allies became a central objective of both camps.
- This was difficult as many European countries remained neutral throughout the war, including Switzerland,
Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Spain and the Netherlands.
- The Germans managed to score the first success by convincing the Ottoman Empire to join Central powers
in October of 1914. - The Turks promptly closed the Dardanelles to Entente shipping, creating a communication rupture between
Russia and her western allies.
- Under the Treaty of London, which entailed vast territorial promises, an Anglo-French effort convinced the
Italians to abandon the Triple Alliance.
- In the Fall of 1915, Bulgaria joined the war on the side of Austria-Hungary and Germany under promise of
territorial expansion (into Macedonia at the expense of Serbia).
- The Central powers were thus ensured of control of the Balkan Peninsula.
- By the following summer, the Entente powers made equally enticing territorial promises (especially of
Transylvania) to Romania, convincing Bucharest to declare war on Vienna in order to provide some relief to
- Finally, under enormous pressure, Greece joined the Allies in May of 1917.
- Similarly, Portugal was swept by the tides of war when Germany declared war on her due to her refusal to
halt trade with Britain.
- Extra-European alliances were also sought. The Japanese alignment with France and Britain gave them a
peace of mind about East Asia.
- Yet, France and Britain remained concerned about Germany’s alliance with the Turkish government, which
called for a jihad (i.e., Holy War) against the Entente powers.
- Sir He