A Global Conflict

Though most of the fighting took place in Europe, World War I was a global conflict. In 1914, Japan joined the Allies by declaring war on Germany. Japan used the war as an excuse to seize German outposts in China and islands in the Pacific. Japan's advances in East Asia and the Pacific would have far-reaching consequences in the years ahead as ambitious Japanese leaders set out to expand their footholds in China.

The Ottoman Empire Joins the War

Because of its strategic location, the Ottoman empire was a desirable ally. If the Ottoman Turks had joined the Allies, the Central Powers would have been almost completely encircled. However, the Turks joined the Central Powers in late October 1914. The Turks then cut off crucial Allied supply lines to Russia through the Dardanelles, a vital strait connecting the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.

In 1915, the Allies sent a massive force of British, Indian, Australian, and New Zealander troops to attempt to open up the strait. At the battle of Gallipoli (guh LIP uh lee), Ottoman troops trapped the Allies on the beaches of the Gallipoli peninsula. In January 1916, after 10 months and more than 200,000 casualties, the Allies finally withdrew from the Dardanelles.

Despite their victory at Gallipoli, the war did not go well for the Ottomans on a second front, the Middle East. The Ottoman empire included vast areas of Arab land. In 1916, Arab nationalists led by Husayn ibn Ali declared a revolt against Ottoman rule. The British government sent Colonel T. E. Lawrence—later known as Lawrence of Arabia—to support the Arab revolt. Lawrence led guerrilla raids against the Ottomans, dynamiting bridges and supply trains. Eventually, the Ottoman empire lost a great deal of territory to the Arabs, including the key city of Baghdad.

Deportation and Mass Murder of Armenians

Meanwhile, the Ottoman empire was fighting Russia on a third front in the Caucasus Mountains. This region was home to ethnic Armenians, some of whom lived under Ottoman rule and some of whom lived under Russian rule. As Christians, the Armenians were a minority in the Ottoman empire and did not have the same rights as Muslims. Still, they prospered—much to the resentment of their neighbors.

Starting in 1915, the Ottoman government embarked on a brutal campaign against the Armenians, some of whom had joined the Russian forces. Claiming Armenians were traitors, the government ordered the deportation of the entire Armenian population from the war zone. But Henry Morgenthau, the U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, disputed Ottoman claims that the deportations were a wartime necessity:

A map shows the Ottoman empire, from 1914 to 1918.
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How did the Arab revolt against the Ottoman empire affect the Allied cause?

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments