16.3 World War I Ends

By 1917, European societies were cracking under the strain of war. Casualties on the fronts and shortages at home sapped morale. The stalemate dragged on, seemingly without end. Soon, however, the departure of one country from the war and the entry of another would tip the balance and end the stalemate.

Painting of men in suits and military uniforms seated at tables reading papers and books, discussing, in a mirrored hall.

Delegates gathered in Paris in 1919 to discuss peace terms. The treaty between the Allies and Germany was signed in June in the Hall of Mirrors, shown here, at the palace of Versailles.


  • Describe how World War I became a total war.
  • Explain how U.S. entry into the war led to an Allied victory.
  • List the effects of World War I in terms of financial costs, high casualty rates, and political impact.
  • Describe the issues at the Paris Peace Conference and the impact of Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points.
  • Summarize the terms and impact of the Treaty of Versailles.

Key Terms

  • total war
  • conscription
  • contraband
  • Lusitania
  • propaganda
  • atrocity
  • Fourteen Points
  • self-determination
  • armistice
  • pandemic
  • reparation
  • radical
  • collective security
  • mandate

Governments Direct Total War

As the struggle wore on, nations realized that a modern, mechanized war required the channeling of a nation's entire resources into the war effort, or total war. To achieve total war, governments began to take a stronger role in directing the economic and cultural lives of their people.

Recruiting and Supplying Huge Armies

Early on, both sides set up systems to recruit, arm, transport, and supply armies that numbered in the millions. All of the warring nations except Britain immediately imposed universal military conscription, or “the draft,” which required all young men to be ready for military or other service. Britain, too, instituted conscription in 1916. Germany set up a system of forced civilian labor as well.

Governments raised taxes and borrowed huge amounts of money to pay the costs of war. They rationed food and other products, from boots to gasoline. In addition, they introduced other economic controls, such as setting prices and forbidding strikes.

Blockades and Submarines Impact Economies

At the start of the war, Britain's navy formed a blockade in the North Sea to keep ships from carrying supplies into and out of Germany. International law allowed wartime blockades to confiscate contraband, or military supplies and raw materials needed to make military supplies.

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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