World War 1: The War in Europe Discussion Questions

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Would you like to teach your sixth through twelfth grade students about World War 1 specifically in Europe? These questions for their discussion will provide additional insight, as they employ deeper thinking skills.

World War I in Europe

  • In his iconic World War I book All Quiet on the Western Front, Remarque opined ''our knowledge of life is limited to death.'' Although World War I was fought across the globe, the great majority of the fighting took place in Europe. The catastrophic damage to the infrastructure, combined with soldier and civilian deaths, forever altered the continent. Your middle school and high school students can answer these discussion questions, as they arrive at a greater depth of understanding of this tragic war.

Questions About the Causes of WWI in Europe

  • How would you evaluate how the result of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 led up to the conditions which began World War I?
  • What were the Bosnian Crisis of 1909 and the Moroccan Crisis of 1911? How did those incidents help contribute to the war?
  • How were various European alliances, the buildup of military forces, and the desire to regain former territories contributing factors to the war?
  • Why was the region known as Alsace-Lorraine such a ''sticking point'' during those years?
  • How do you analyze the ways that differing views over foreign policy that were held by the various European countries contributed to the underlying causes of the war?

Questions About the European Battles

  • Who was Gerard Leman?
    • As the Germans neared Paris, how do you judge the way he and his men played a crucial role in holding off the Germans at the Battle of Liege?
  • How did the French take advantage of a gap in the German line at the First Battle of the Marne?
  • How did the Allies utilize hundreds of tanks, which were new to warfare, to their advantage at the Second Battle of the Marne?
  • How long was the Battle of Verdun in 1916, and why didn't it end sooner?
    • At the battle, what did it mean when Robert Nivelle boldly declared, ''They shall not pass'' to his troops?
      • How did the start of the Battle of the Somme hurt the German position, while they were still fighting at the Battle of Verdun?
  • Although no clear-cut winner emerged from the First Battle of the Somme, how did it still benefit the Allies?
  • How did the Germans use the Canal du Nord to their advantage at the Second Battle of the Somme?

Questions About the Fronts and Trenches

  • How would you juxtapose the ''Western Front'' of the war in Europe with the ''Eastern Front'' in Europe?
    • How would you calculate some of the important attributes of each front?
  • How would you compare and contrast the quality of the German trenches, as opposed to the quality of the British trenches? Why was this the case? How did it affect the different troops?
  • What was the Hindenburg Line?
    • What famous event happened to it on September 29th, 1918?
  • How did the geographical fact that the Triple Alliance countries were situated between England and France on one side and Russia on the other side, determine the development of two main fronts?
  • How did the fact that Russia began pulling out of the war in 1917 mean that Germany only had to defend one front instead of two, and why did that worry America and the Allies?
  • Imagine you were a soldier in the trenches. Would the smell of decaying corpses, poisonous gases, mud, water, flamethrowers, explosions, or some other factor be the worst? Justify your answers.

Questions About the Campaigns

  • At the onset of World War I, what two countries did Germany attack to get to France?
    • What was the name of this plan, and why do you imagine it was implemented?
      • In the end, how did this German plan fare?
  • How did the battles of the war that took place in Europe differ from those that took place in Africa and the Pacific?
  • How would you compare and contrast the details of the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915-16, versus the Macedonian Front of 1915-17?
  • American soldiers only fought in the war for a total of seven and a half months. How was America able to turn the tide of the war so quickly?
  • How did both the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance coerce conscripts into either fighting or working for the war effort?
  • What did Italy do on April 26th, 1915 that helped changed the complexion of the war?

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