The full-scale wars experienced in World War 1 (WW1) and World War II (WWII) caused social, political, and economic consequences. The two episodes of WWI and WWII were deeply connected since the former caused the latter. The World Wars completely changed society, causing significant social, economic, and political negative impacts. Aside from the negative consequences, the World Wars caused substantial technological and medical invention development. Both wars were fought in two blocks that included alliances of either communist or capitalist countries. The first and second wars were symbolic of 19th-century history, causing remarkable economic, socio-cultural and political consequences.
The First World War influenced the global power dynamics, encouraged interdependence movement, brought ruin and destruction to Europe, created numerous new nation-states, and contributed to the start of WWII. An estimated 9.5 million soldiers were killed, with Serbia and Germany bearing the brunt of the toll (Kershaw, 2015). Europe was the most affected by WWI, leading to massive destruction, poor diplomatic relations, and the collapse of economies (Ferguson, 1998). The power dynamics also changed to influence internal politics in Europe countries and make the U.S a global superpower. This followed substantial reparations on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles hence plunging Germany into economic and political chaos that paved the way for the rise of Adolf Hitler. The new political and social order established by WWI was poorly marked by conflicts with each other, which, coupled with Hitler’s rule in Germany, led to another conflict of WWII.
Europe was torn economically, geographically, politically, and socially at WWI. Reparations imposed on Germany expedited its economic system that was already in debt from financing the war coercing the Weimer Republic to print money and hyperinflation had soon rocked Germany by November, 1923 (Schivelbusch, 2003). In regards to the map of Europe, the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires were drastically shrunk and broken up, leading to the birth and rebirth of nation-states such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia (Mazza, 2009). Germany essentially lost 13% of its land, which comprised large proportions of its coal production and 48% of its iron production. The German army and navy forces were also limited to 100,000 militant soldiers and 15,000 sailors. The loss of critical resources and reparations overwhelmed Germany, causing political convulsions and economic and social turmoil (Cole & Symes, 2020). The changes imparted by the First World War changed the society and relations between Europe and colonial powers and caused economic and political turmoil.
The defeat and the revolution that followed the War affected the central and eastern European Empires, including Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Russia. After WW1, Europe was consequential economic depression and inflation, especially among central powers. The government structure, especially the loss of central powers, includes democratic republics and socialist dictatorships. Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were the two most brutal and egregious dictatorships that developed in Europe after WWI. The Ottoman Empire was dismantled after WW1, which saw the deposition of the Ottoman Sultan and the beginning of the Turkish national movement that won the Turkish War of independence.
There was a hike in imperialism and nationalist activities after WW1. The economic depression caused by the War motivated the European powers to take over and control less developed nations or territories. For instance, France was restored its colonies by Britain after WW1 notably Guadeloupe and Martinique in the West Idies (Winter, 1998). WWI destabilized most Europe colonialist powers that led to an upsurge in nationalism and independence movements. Part of it was due to the isolationist theory of “self-determination” introduced by President Woodrow Wilson among the recommendations to settle the War.
The economic hardships imposed on the German and Russian people led to internal conflict and opposition. Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany was abdicated to resolve the popular unrest in Germany. A government ruled by emergency decree was established in Germany before the elections. The economic depression, coupled with the reparations led to the resistance to the Treaty of Versailles, led to the acceptance and election of Hitler to his Nazi Party (Blackbourn, 1998). German president Paul Von Hiddenburg appointed Adolf Hitler as the German chancellor due to the increasing support and influence of the Nazi Party. Russia also recorded radical transformation to convert the Russian economy from rural to industrial under Bolshevik control (Engelstein, 2009). This converted the empire into a socialist state after putting an end to the autocratic Tsarist rule in Russia. According to Manning (2003), the socialist regimes of Germany and Russia supported communist subversive activities, and both sought to overthrow the system established by WWI victors. The League of Nations and the Treaty of Versailles failed to maintain global peace, compelling Germany and Russia to wage another world war.
The communist regime in Germany was oppressive to the minority communities and believed in the supreme race. The Nazi idealized that the Jews and black people had inferior genetic makeup. The putative Aryan race was deemed the pinnacle of human racial hierarchy in Germany (Cole & Symes, 2020). Therefore Nazi Germany conducted an extensive campaign through publications and art to sterilize the German society of people perceived as a biological threat to national health. For instance, the degenerate art show conducted through German streets and museums to demonstrate abstraction and the results of genetic inferiority. The so-called “degenerate art” was deemed undesirable by the German fascist regime and hence confiscated from Germany’s museums (Youtube, 2021). Nazi Germany, particularly Germany, promoted artworks deemed to push the values of the Nazi regime.
Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, causing reactions from other European countries and World War II. The War was divided into two fronts: the Allied powers of Great Britain, the United States, and France, whereas the Axis comprised Germany, Italy, the Soviet Union, and Japan (Kershaw, 2015). WWII calibrated the economic, social, and political challenges posed by the first ward war in Europe. Allied powers emerged victoriously, and the War ended with the surrender of Germany on May 8, 1945. Unable to bear the shame and consequences of losing in WWII, Adolf Hitler committed suicide.
Similar to WWI, the end of the Second World War left millions of people dead, caused the collapse of the European economy, and destroyed European industrial infrastructure. About 40 million people died in the War, including soldiers and civilians (Manning, 2003). WWII caused massive destruction of the property hence high reconstruction cost. WWII left the World torn into the communist and capitalist blocks, with the capitalist bloc led by the USA, whereas Russia led the communist bloc. The condemnation between the two blocks led to the Cold War and the heavy destruction of weapons such as nuclear bombs. However, unlike the first wave, the second influenced a wave of democratic changes in the World.
Imperialist movements became fragile, and National movements increased as countries became more aware of the undemocratic system. The World War 11 occurred when most Africans were demanding their independence and it affected Europe militarily, psychologically, politically, and economically. The war also led to increased exploitation of African colonies and the economic hardships alleviated discontent leading to the rise of African nationalism (Achebe, 1996). European colonialism collapsed after the majority of countries gained independence, especially African countries. The USA supported victim countries economically to stop the influence of communism. The Marshal plan was developed to offer military support to war victim countries. The United Nations Organization (UNO) was later rebranded as the United Nations (U.N.) to maintain global peace and prevent the World from such extent of dispute and destruction.
However, the World Wars had some positive social impacts. The conflicts saw the entry of women into the labor market, participating in roles previously believed to belong to men. Feminism spiked after the World Wars in the U.K appropriating imperialistic ideology and right to justify the right to gender equality (Burton, 1994). Women replaced men most deployed to battle in major job and production activities. The wars boosted research and innovation in technology as countries aimed at developing better military equipment, transport, and means of communication. Moreover, the wars highlighted the need for an international body of nations that embrace peace and security worldwide (Winter, 1998). The advocacy of the self-determination principle led to the independence and creation of numerous new nation-states. The U.S became a pre-eminent economic and military power around the World.
In conclusion, the 19th century was marked by WW1 and WW2, which primarily influenced the social, economic, and geopolitical structure of the World. WW1 was settled using the Treaty of Versailles, which fueled the development of socialist communities due to the economic pressure it asserted over the losers, especially Germany. Under Hitler, the Nazi regime under Hitler schemed and promoted the ideology of alien racial supremacy and expansionism policy that motivated Germany to wage WW2. Both wars caused massive loss of life, property damage, and financial losses.
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Winter, J. (1998). Sites of memory, sites of mourning: The Great War in European cultural history (Vol. 1). Cambridge University Press.
Youtube. (2021). DEGENERATE ART (1993). The Nazis vs Expressionism.