Analyzing the Effects of World War I | Facing History & Ourselves
Painting title Gassed by John Singer Sargent. Shows World War I soldiers with bandaged eyes being led by other soldiers. Many dead and injured soldiers laying at the base of the painting.

Analyzing the Effects of World War I

Students use maps of the world before and after World War I to make inferences and predictions about the ways the war changed the world.


At a Glance

lesson copy


English — US


  • Civics & Citizenship
  • Social Studies




One 50-min class period
  • The Holocaust


About This Lesson

This lesson uses maps from Chapter 3 of Holocaust and Human Behavior to help students visualize and better consider the impact of World War I. While maps do not tell the whole story, they can provide crucial information to help us understand and analyze history. The maps Empires before World War I and The World after World War I begin to illustrate the scope of the impact that World War I had on the countries that fought in it and on the world as a whole. With the information these maps provide, students will be better equipped to make predictions about what happened in the years following the war before they study that history. In this lesson, students will analyze these two maps, look for patterns of continuity and change between the maps, and practice making inferences about the period of history that followed World War I based on what they observe from the maps.

While students will be able to glean important information about World War I and its impact, especially on Germany, from these activities, this lesson will be most effective if students have studied other aspects of the war. Look to Chapter 3 of Holocaust and Human Behavior for readings, primary sources, and other resources that explore aspects of World War I that had an important effect on the history of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. 

  • What can maps tell us about how World War I changed the countries that fought in it and the world as a whole?
  • How can viewing the impact of World War I through maps help us predict and understand the history that followed?
  • Students will understand that while maps do not tell the whole story, they can provide crucial information to help us understand and analyze history.
  • Students will be able to begin to make inferences about how changes illustrated by maps might influence the choices and attitudes of governments, ethnic groups, and individuals.
  • Students will know that as a result of World War I, several empires, including the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Russian Empire, broke apart into smaller, independent countries, and Germany lost significant territory in Europe and all of its overseas colonies.

This lesson is designed to fit into one 50-minute class period and includes:

  • 3 activities
  • 1 extension activity

Preparing to Teach

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Lesson Plans


Tell students that one way to observe and analyze the impact of World War I is by looking at maps of the world before and after the war. Then share the maps Empires before World War I and The World after World War I. Remind students that in this war, the Axis powers were led by Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire (which became Turkey after the war), and the Allied powers were led by Great Britain, France, Italy, Russia (until 1917), and the United States (beginning in 1917).

Whether working individually, in small groups, or as a whole class, guide students through the process below to analyze the maps. Give them several minutes to quietly study each map and write down some answers to the questions that accompany each step of the process.

  • Observe: Look carefully at the maps.
    • What do the two maps, when viewed together, show about the way the world changed between 1914 and 1920?
    • Which empires and countries expanded their territory between 1914 and 1920?
    • Which empires and countries had lost territory or no longer existed by the period depicted in the second map?
    • Which countries are on the map for 1920 that are not on the map for 1914?
  • Analyze: Use what you observed in the previous step to draw conclusions about some of the effects of World War I.
    • What patterns do you notice?
    • What do these maps suggest about what the victorious countries gained from the war? What do they suggest about what the defeated countries lost?
    • What other information about the end of the war, besides these maps, would help you better understand the world in 1920?
    • Which countries are on the map for 1920 that are not on the map for 1914?
  • Predict: Make predictions about how the changes these maps show might have gone on to affect Europe in the years following the war.
    • Which countries do you predict will be vulnerable to attack or intimidation from other countries?
    • Which countries appear poised for prosperity and security?
    • What can you infer about how the changes illustrated in these maps affected the way citizens of different countries were feeling after the war?

Conclude the lesson by inviting students to share and discuss the headlines they wrote (in the Analyze step of the second activity), using the Wraparound teaching strategy.

Extension Activity 

After analyzing the maps, you might consider as a class the reading Negotiating Peace, about the terms of Germany’s surrender at the end of World War I. After completing the reading and discussing the Connection Questions that follow it, ask students to consider the following:

  • How does the information in this reading add to your impressions about the impact of World War I in Europe, especially on Germany?
  • Based on the information you learned from this reading, would you modify any of the predictions you initially made after analyzing the maps? If so, how?

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