WHY WERE THE CENTRAL
POWERS DEFEATED IN THE
FIRST WORLD WAR?
There were 4 main Factors:
•Military
•Economic
•Political
•Psychological
MILITARY FACTORS:
Germany faced defeat on the Western Front
largely because of Allied weight of numbers and
German lack of resources, as the war dragged on
 Ludendorff could have used the troops from the
Russian front to bolster those on the Western
front and wait for the war-weary Allies to make
peace, but decided to gamble on an offensive
 Ludendorff Offensive in March-July was nearly
successful, and brilliantly organised but a
strategic defeat, particularly as the army outran
its supplies

MILITARY CONT:
US joined the war on April 17 1917, and nearly 2
million US troops landed by August 1918
 Military problems were exacerbated by the
outbreak of Spanish flu, which affected half a
million German soldiers
 Bulgaria collapses on Sept 20 at Battle of Dorian,
gets no support from Germany
 Turkish army defeated in Palestine by the
British. Signed peace terms on Oct 1. British
polygot army (including West Indians and
Nigerians) was more effective than expected

MILITARY FACTORS CONT:
Battle of Vittorio Veneto about Oct 24, won by
Italy, caused Austrians to desert to Italy
 Austrians seek ceasefire on Nov 3. Germany now
alone
 Germany’s loss of allies is humiliating although
militarily it makes no difference

ECONOMIC FACTORS
Strain on Germany to support its industrially
weak allies
 Civilian hardship in Germany as food supplies
dwindled, eg. Meat consumption fell to 12 % of
pre-war level
 Germany isolated economically by the British
naval blockade, affecting areas such as food
supplies, fuel, raw materials and troop
movements
 US economic reserves in all areas bolstered
fading allies

POLITICAL FACTORS
Austrian Empire falls apart. Yugoslavs, Poles,
Czechoslovaks, Hungarians all declare
independence between Oct 6 and Nov 1
 Germany isolated by the collapse of its allies.
 German navy mutinies at Kiel Oct 27, spread to
civilians who demand political reforms
 Political unrest in Germany, culminating in the
Oct-Nov revolution
 Kaiser abdicates Nov 1917. This is a symbol of
the old system admitting failure

POLITICAL CONT:

Pacifists, socialists, strikers and “gentlemen”
form a quasi democratic ministry. Allow military
to blame them and give the military a “way out”
for the war loss. This is planned by the military
generals.
PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS
Armies were exhausted, eg. The Imperial army
had 1400 (mainly Hungarian) deserters on 1 day
in early Oct because of hunger
 The connection between the military and civilian
populations meant that the “total” war effect
influenced the mindset of Germans
 Many Germans had felt this was a defensive war
and did not have the mindset for a war of
conquest
 The concept of the “Burgfrieden” was breaking
down as German society became divided eg. The
Reichstag voted 212 to 126 for a peace resolution.

PSYCHOLOGICAL CONT:
Winter 1917 was the “turnip winter”
 Deaths from starvation and hypothermia were
121 000 in 1916 and 293 000 in 1918 in Germany
 Military leaders such as Ludendorff and
Hindenburg blocked compromise peace
opportunities
 Assertive German nationalists wanted
“Siegfriede”- a peace through victory which
demanded lands to the east, west and overseas
 Germany felt alone and war-weary, which was a
great contrast to the mood going into the war


The armistice was signed on 11 Nov 1918