How the First World War Started

During the summer of 1914, many people in Europe felt very optimistic about the future. Modern technology was improving people’s lives. Political freedom was gradually increasing in many countries. New artistic styles and scientific discoveries were being made. But later that summer, a terrible war began.  

In the early twentieth century, the various countries of Europe competed with each other in an attempt to be the most powerful country on the continent. In each country, many of the political leaders wanted to control more land, more people, and more resources.  

The First World War began when the archduke of Austria-Hungary was assassinated. Austria-Hungary wanted to punish the assassin, who was from the small country of Serbia. This led to a serious dispute, and soon other countries were involved. Within a few weeks, a war had begun. On one side were Germany and Austria-Hungary, and on the other side were Russia, France, and Britain.  

The people in these countries at first welcomed the news of a war. Many people were  intensely patriotic, and supported the war effort without thinking carefully about the reasons for the war. Some people thought that war would bring adventure and glory to their lives, and they cheered enthusiastically in the streets.  

After the war started, it soon became clear that it was a terrible disaster. In the western part of Europe, the opposing sides fought many bloody battles. Soldiers on both sides lived in filthy trenches that had been dug out of the ground. Sometimes, hundreds of thousands of men were killed in battles that lasted only a few days. In most cases, these battles did not result in large gains or losses of territory.  

The war continued for more than four years. When the war was finally over, millions of people had been killed. Many people realized that their eagerness to fight against other countries had led them into a great disaster. This disaster did not end when the war ended in 1918. During the next thirty years, there would be many violent revolutions in Europe, and a second major war that would be even worse than the first.  

Today, people in most European countries no longer view other nations as enemies. They have no interest in fighting wars with their neighbours. Instead, they are interested in trading with the other countries, and in visiting those countries as tourists. The lessons of the twentieth century have reminded people that wars can have terrible consequences.


believing that good things will happen in the future
ᅳopposite pessimistic
optimistic about
Bankers are cautiously optimistic about the country’s economic future.
optimistic (that)
We are still relatively optimistic that the factory can be saved.
Andrew took a more optimistic view.

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relating to art or culture
artistic work Opinion about the artistic merit of his paintings has been mixed.


a large mass of land surrounded by sea
the continents of Asia and Africa



a royal prince, esp. of the royal family of Austria in former times: Archduke Charles



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to murder an important or famous person, especially for political reasons
a plot to assassinate the President
the man who assassinated Nasseredin Shah

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someone who murders an important person
Kennedy’s assassin is assumed to have been Lee Harvey Oswald.

Although the assassins were never caught, it is commonly believed that they were working for the government.
His assassins must have been aware of his security arrangements.


a serious argument or disagreement
dispute with
The firm is involved in a legal dispute with a rival company.
dispute over
He got into a dispute over a taxi fare.
Every effort was made to settle the dispute , but without success.
dispute between
the bitter border dispute between the countries
A long-running pay dispute is disrupting rail services.
The coal industry was plagued by industrial disputes .
The police don’t usually like to intervene in domestic disputes .
The miners were in dispute with their employers over pay.
A dispute arose over who was to be the next king.


intense activity is very serious, uses a lot of effort, and often involves doing a great deal in a very short time
The job demands intense concentration.
At least 3000 people were killed in a week of intense fighting.
ᅳintensely adverb He disliked Kate intensely.


the importance, honour, and praise that people give someone they admire a lot :  
She dreamt of future glory as an Olympic champion.
Goran’s  moment of glory  came when he defeated Rafter.
He began the season in a  blaze of glory , scoring seven goals in as many games.


feeling or showing a lot of interest and excitement about something
enthusiastic about (doing) something
All the staff are enthusiastic about the project.
The singer got an enthusiastic reception. an enthusiastic supporter of reform

ᅳenthusiastically / -kli / adverb


(a) sudden serious misfortune causing great suffering and damage:
The flood was a terrible disaster.
Hundreds of people died.
The crash was the worst air disaster (=crash of a plane) this year.
Everything was going well, and then suddenly disaster struck. (=something terrible happened)
One hundred and twenty people died in China’s worst air disaster . the economic consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster
disaster for
The oil spill was a disaster for Alaskan sea animals.
The 1987 hurricane was the worst natural disaster to hit England for decades.

Their expedition nearly ended in disaster , when one of the climbers slid off the mountain.
The drought could spell disaster for wildlife.
Disaster struck when two men were killed during their parachute jumps.
The peace process was on the brink of disaster .
Luckily the pilot saw the other plane just in time, and a disaster was narrowly averted .



very dirty
The house was filthy, with clothes and newspapers strewn everywhere.


a deep ditch dug in the ground as a protection for soldiers:
In the First World War the soldiers fought in trenches

the trenches of World War I

something that happens as a result of a particular action or set of conditions
consequence of
Many believe that poverty is a direct consequence of overpopulation.
consequence for
Our findings have far-reaching consequences for researchers.
dire/disastrous/serious etc consequences

Errors in forecasting can have dire consequences.
with … consequences
He ate some poisonous mushrooms, with fatal consequences.
take/suffer/face the consequences (of something) (=accept the bad results of something you have done)
He broke the law, and now he must face the consequences of his actions.