Did the Allies win the First World War or did the Central Powers lose It?

This enquiry examines the extent to which the Allied victory in 1918 can be attributed to the strengths and actions of the Allied powers or the weaknesses and actions of their opponents, the Central Powers.

Stage 1

Which alliance looked more likely to win a war before it actually broke out in 1914?

The purpose of this stage is for students to weigh the relative strength of the rival European alliances in 1914.

Political Map of the World 1914

Modern map depicting the world in 1914

Modern map depicting the world in 1914 (scroll down to figure 5)

Political Map of the World 1914

The Triple Entente and Triple Alliance in 1914

Cards describing the countries of the Triple Entente and Triple Alliance in 1914.

Instructions for using the cards

Instructions for using the Triple Entente and Triple Alliance cards.

Stage 2

Did Germany actually lose the First World War in the autumn of 1914?

The purpose of this stage is to consider how the German Schlieffen plan of 1914 went wrong and consider the implications of a two front war for Germany.

Map showing encirclement of Germany by the Triple Entente

A map which shows German fears of facing a two front war.

The Schlieffen plan

Detail on the Eastern Front 1914.

Stage 3

How close did Germany come to winning the war at sea?


Students assess whether the Germans came close to winning the war at sea, beginning with introductory evidence focused on a particular incident.

Lusitania commemorative medal

Images of the original German medal commemorating the sinking of the Lusitania.

German advertisement warning against sailing in Cunard liners

The German government advertisement warning against sailing in Cunard liners from an American newspaper and British recruitment poster exploiting the sinking.

Card sort of events during the war at sea 1914-1918

Student resource.

Stage 4

How close did Germany come to winning the First World War on the Western Front in the spring of 1918?

Students study the spectacular German gains of Spring 1918 in the context of their planning and the Allied reaction to them.

All Quiet on the Western Front extract

A youtube clip of the film from 1930.

The German Spring Offensive “Operation Michael” – March 1918

Account of the German spring offensive of 1918.

How well planned was the German spring offensive of 1918?

Further information about the German offensive. A handout for students.

How did the Allied Powers react to the German spring offensive of 1918?

This resource provides students with more details of the Allied reaction to the offensive.

National Army Museum

Detailed narrative of events on the Western Front from March to November 1918.

Stage 5

How much pressure did the Allied naval blockade put on Germany during the First World War?


The aim of this stage is for students to assess how much pressure the Allied naval blockade of Germany placed on the German home front compared to the policies of the German government itself.

Image of a pressure gauge

Display image as an introduction to this lesson.

A map of Europe in 1914

Map which shows the coastline of Germany during the First World War.

The Allied Naval Blockade of Germany 1914-1918

Chronological information students can refer to and use as evidence to support their opinions about the level of pressure they think the blockade placed Germany under.

How much pressure did the German government put on its own people during the First World War?

Supporting documentation to help students make up their minds to what extent they consider the Allied blockade placed pressure on Germany in the First World War.

Stage 6

Did the Allies win the First World War or did the Central Powers lose it?

The aim of this stage is for students to debate answers to the enquiry question and arrive at reasoned conclusions, where appropriate drawing on evidence studied in more depth in earlier lessons.

Explanations for why the Allies won and the Central Powers lost the First World War

A card sort exercise.

The historic reputation of Allied commanders on the Western Front

Historiographical information to help support students draw some conclusions to the enquiry.

More Resources »