The World As We Know It: 19th Century And The First World War


By Ali Hassnain

It was year 1815 A.D, human civilization was at a point no one had foreseen. Traveling around the world was a piece of cake, development of science and technology were going at an unprecedented pace. The wild lings of Europe and Asia were being “civilized” by the colonial rule. The rioting looting, reign of terror and world domination ambitions of Napoleon that followed the fall of King of France (the so-called revolution) had all ended. The New World had recently been conquered. The natives of the new world had sealed their destiny by opposing the torch bearers of civilization and were being hunted. Order was being restored in Europe. Some even suggested that man can travel around the world in a mere span of 80 days, provided of course conditions were right.


The age of Metternich was about to dawn. Major Powers of Europe, United Kingdom, Austria, Prussia and the mighty Russian Empire came together in a system of alliances known as “The European Circus”. Metternich was one of the most powerful people in the 19th century. And he exercised his power often and effectively. He was a conservative who dominated the Austrian confederation with Prussia. Roughly it was the area of modern day nation states of Germany, Austria and Hungary.

At the time European diplomacy was managed by a learned few. Aristocrats in royal courts, bureaucracy, diplomacy and corridors of power thrived. Plotters, peacemakers, warmongers and kind, enlightened liberals were at helm of affairs as well. Metternich, as long as he lived, dominated the politics of Europe. The Balance of power remained untouched, however there were so many issues like resentment, distrust and intrigue built over decades that the peace of Europe was becoming harder to maintain. Bismarck replaced Metternich as the man who ran Europe. It was complicated, indeed very complicated. Countries at peace with each other, fighting a common enemy and then fighting each other. Probably much more complicated than even Middle East today.

Bismarck played a strong role, and end of the day he turned the loosely knit German confederation into the German Empire. Prussia absorbed the confederation instead of being lost into the confederation. For that he played every trick in the book, deception, honesty, war, peace… One finds oneself short of words to describe what he did. When Prussia defeated France in 1871, at last Germany was unified and a world power! The world waited in fear for further wars. For twenty years the world waited. But it was his plan to restore peace in Europe then to fight new wars. He had no expansionist ambitions. He was content with Germany.

Only if world was so simple.. After Kaiser Wilhelm II rose to power after the death of his father, he found Bismarck out of date and unable to relate to him he dismissed him in 1888. By that time, European diplomacy was a house of cards, as it turned out. When he was relieved of his position he made few very clear statements, two of which are:

“Your Majesty, so long as you have this present officer corps, you can do as you please. But when this is no longer the case, it will be very different for you.”

“Jena came twenty years after the death of Fredrick the Great; the crash will come twenty years after my departure if things go on like this”

Another statement attributed to him is:

He even warned in 1898: If there was ever another major war in Europe, it would come out of “some damned silly thing in the Balkans.”

That happened… France was allied with Russia; Germany was allied with Austria-Hungry, Belgium was neutral but had ties with (countries later known as) allied powers. Ottomans were being wooed by both Germans and the British and they ended up joining the Axis powers.

The end result.. The First Great War, also known as the First World War. “42959850” Allied Soldiers Fighting “25248321” Axis soldiers. An estimate number of killed (civilian and military): “38880500” Killed in Action, Missing in Action and Wounded in Action on both sides. The population of Europe (where most of battles took place) in 1900 was “291000000”

Influenza Pandemic (Spanish Flu) killed an estimated number of “50000000” people, spread of which is often attributed to the movement of soldiers due to war.

Impact of war on the way of life was almost immeasurable.

The last known veteran of the First Great war died on May 5th 2011.

War is unpredictable, and unless stopped it takes it course under right circumstances; today’s great players of the Middle East must realize that. If not, nature might take its course. God created Humans and loves them. God loved the lives lost in a needless conflict in 1914 too, when humans force nature to take its course, it does.

“The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” – Joseph Stalin