Ten Things That Were Different in 1914

In 1914, at the start of World War I, Europe and in fact the whole world looked very different from the world we know today, over a hundred years later. We look at 10 things that were fundamentally different.

Technology was different

  • Airplanes
    Compared to modern planes, the planes used in the 1910s were small, slow and unreliable. Initially, they were used mostly for reconnaissance and the only armament were handheld fire arms. There was rapid development during the war and already from late 1914 the first aircrafts were fitted with machine guns.
  • Communication
    Field telephones and radio (Morse code) were used to pass on orders and communications between armies and navies on both sides in World War I but this was not always reliable (e.g. field telephone lines were severed by enemy artillery fire). A significant part of communication was still sent using carrier pigeons.
  • Tanks
    Thanks did not exist before the First World War. They were invented during the war and used by British troops for the first time in late 1916.


  • Machine gun
    The machine gun was invented in the late 19th century and the Maxim Gun ( the first recoil-operate machine gun, invented in 1883) was used by European powers in colonial warfare with great success. However it had not been used in wars between the great European powers before.
  • Cavalry
    At the beginning of the war all European armies still maintained substantial cavalry forces. The static warfare with trenches and barbed wire made cavalry pretty much useless in its original role (reconnaissance and attack) on the Western front.


Borders were different

  • Ireland
    All of Ireland was still part of the UK. Independence of the Irish Republic from the United Kingdom was achieved in 1922.
  • Finland
    Finland was part of Russia (with a varying degree of autonomy) since Sweden had lost the Finnish War against Russia in 1809.
  • Germany and Russia had a common border
    In fact most of Eastern Europe was part of Austria-Hungary, Germany or Russia.
  • Colonization / Imperialism
    Nearly all of Africa and large parts of Asia were under the rule of European powers (including Vietnam, India, etc.)

Women’s Suffrage

  • In most democracies women were not allowed to vote. Most European, Asian and African countries did not pass women’s suffrage until after World War I (UK 1918 to 1928, US 1920, Germany 1918). See Wikipedia


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