August 2016: Issue #2  -  Global Effects of WWI
World War I changed everything. Let's change how students think about the global impact of the War.

Welcome to  Understanding the Great War . Each issue includes articles, lessons, teaching guidelines, and primary sources that you can freely use, arriving in your inbox on the third Tuesday of every other month. 
"This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years."
- Attributed to Marshall Ferdinand Foch,
discussing the Treaty of Versailles

World War I forever changed the world: politically, socially, technologically, and even economically. Nearly every aspect of modern life around the world was affected by the conflict in some way: Many current political tensions in the Middle East stem from the Sykes-Picot Agreement; processed foods developed to feed scores of hungry troops became a part of everyday life and revolutionized agriculture and industry; weapons technology such as tanks, flamethrowers and airplanes forever changed how wars are fought; and America vaulted onto the global stage as a world power. It all began with the First World War.

The Wall Street Journal has collected a list of "100 legacies that still shape our lives today." From chemical warfare and guided missiles to blue doctors' scrubs and Pilates, the First World War created a lasting impact in some unexpected ways. Each topic is explained with a short article which includes photos and sources.

From The Brookings Essay, noted historian and University of Oxford professor Margaret MacMillan takes a critical look at the parallels between the rise of globalization and nationalism before WWI and today in this long-form essay.

From the companion website to the television series The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century (a  KCET/BBC co-production), historians Jay Winter and Niall Ferguson explain how we are still experiencing the "aftershocks" of the Great War in the 21st century.

PBS also offers an NEA-approved lesson plan, The Legacy of the "Great War," as part of the series. This multi-day lesson plan written by Michael Hutchison asks students to explore the connections between the Great War and World War II as well as between the Cold War and the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Have you used these resources to teach your students about World War I?

Or do you have curriculum advice for your fellow teachers? Feedback on the newsletter? Let us know your experiences teaching about the Great War! 

Send an email to and we'll share the best stories and tips in a future issue.

After the stalemate on the Western Front in winter 1914, many combatants began focusing on winning the war outside of Europe causing major transformations in regions such as the Middle East. This classroom activity from the MacArthur Memorial asks your students to trace the effects in Middle East current events, finding and using several articles to answer a series of questions. An accompanying PowerPoint is also available by request from the MacArthur Memorial.

The MacArthur Memorial provides another classroom activity, Mapping the Legacy of the First World War in the Middle East, where students use the provided maps of the Middle East to identify the alliances of 1914 and answer questions about the borders created in the Middle East as a result of the Great War.

This video series from Al Jazeera English tells the story of the First World War from an Arab perspective. Episode Three (46 minutes) focuses on the Middle East in the aftermath of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, but to learn more about WWI in this region from an often-forgotten perspective you can also watch the series from the beginning.

The Great War YouTube Channel explains the history of WWI chronologically every week. This 10-minute episode focuses on the Sykes-Picot Agreement. The secret agreement between France, Britain and Russia was a turning point in relations with the Arab world. It negated all future promises made by the British and still has consequences 100 years later.

American intervention in Syria is very much a topic of debate today. So it was in 1919. This commentary by Michael Neiberg, published by War on the Rocks in December 2015, framed the pros and cons of U.S. intervention in modern day Syria through the lens of similar appeals at the end of World War I.

Prior to his pivotal role in the Vietnam War, Nguyen Ai Quac (Ho Chi Minh) requested members of the Paris Peace Conference to consider the rights of Vietnamese people in French Indochina. His request was ignored. The National Archives has the original 1919 letter (in the original French and translated into English) from Ho Chi Minh as well as other related documents from the Paris Peace Conference.
Vietnamese soldiers and workers rallied behind the French flag during World War I, yet their experiences in Europe changed their lives and their attitudes toward France, its people and ultimately altered the course of the French colonial enterprise in Indochina. Dr. Kimloan Hill and Dr. Matthew Naylor explore the stories and relationships that set the path to revolution, war and ultimately national independence in Vietnam during an hour-long discussion that was recorded at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in May 2015.

This 50-minute lecture on YouTube by Frederick Dickinson, given at the National World War I Museum and Memorial, covers Japans involvement in World War I. Though the early part of the presentation focuses on 1915, the ramifications of WWI on Japan's place in the Asia Pacific World are also discussed.

To deepen your study, Dickinson provides further exploration of how World War I affected Japan throughout the 20th century in his essay "Toward a Global Perspective of the Great War: Japan and the Foundations of a Twentieth-Century World."

This article by Tait Keller posted to 1914-1918 Online: International Encyclopedia of the First World War examines the ecological impact of WWI, explaining in detail how large-scale environmental transformations came from expanded production and industrialization during the war rather than just the tolls of combat.

The legacy of World War I in the United States and elsewhere is anything but simple. This short video from HISTORY® explores the varied consequences of World War I from the growth of the American government, World War II, the Vietnam War and beyond.

Interested in learning more about the connections between the First World War and World War II? Check out this additional video from HISTORY®: Did WWI Lead to WWII?

Visit for more education resources that you can use free of charge and see the Understanding the Great War newsletter archive.

The United States World War One Centennial Commission and the National World War I Museum and Memorial are dedicated to educating the public about the causes, events, and consequences of the conflict and we encourage the use of these resources to better understand the Great War and its enduring impact on the global community.

Partners on this project include:
The Pritzker Military Museum and Library is a founding sponsor of the United States World War One Centennial Commission.