The Central Powers were one of the sides involved in the First World War. The member nations of the Central Powers fought against the Triple Entente, also known as the Allied Powers, and the outcome of the war ultimately favored the Triple Entente. The roots of the alliance among the nations who fought on the losing side in the First World War lie in the 1870s, and several of these nations were also involved again on the losing side in the Second World War, in some cases because they were invaded and occupied.
In the late 1870s, the German Empire joined forces with the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy to form a secret alliance known as the Triple Alliance. After the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Germany called upon members of the Triple Alliance to join forces to fight against the Kingdom of Serbia. Italy declined, switching sides to fight with the Allied Powers.
As the war progressed, the Kingdom of Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire joined the war on the side of Germany. These Central Powers were ideally located to deliver devastating military blows on multiple fronts throughout the war, as they were positioned between several key members of the Allied Powers. The war raged from 1914 to 1918, concluding officially with the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.
After the close of the war, steps were taken to demilitarize the Central Powers and reduce their political and economic clout. This was done ostensibly to curb their capacity to engage in war again, although it was also designed to penalize these nations and their citizens for their involvement in the war. With the outbreak of a global depression in the 1930s, radical politicians rose to power in some of the nations involved in the Central Powers and set the stage for the Second World War.
The politics involved in the First and Second World War lie deep in European history, with long histories of political and economic clashes between a number of the nations involved. Legacies of these conflicts persist to this day, especially in Germany, where citizens continue to struggle with the role of Nazism in the Second World War. Nations that fought against each other in the early and mid 20th century later joined forces in organizations like the United Nations, European Union, and North Atlantic Treaty Organization, creating complex alliances that are unlikely to break down in the future.