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Unit 8 - 20th Century Global Conflicts

World War I

World War I, or The Great War, was a bloody stalemate that lasted nearly 5 years. Its causes were many: secret alliances, colonial competition, militarism and the glorification of war, and most of all nationalist tensions that had been building for nearly a century. When the archduke of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia, a chain reaction was set off due to the two major alliances that had already been set in place. The war was fought on two major fronts- the Western Front and the East, with Germany fighting on both sides. As troops exhausted themselves from trenches and made very little headway on either side, nationalist fervor and glorification of war faded into disillusionment and despair. Russia, in a desperate situation and vastly unprepared, experienced a revolution which unseated the 300-year long Romanov dynasty and plunged Russia into a bloody 

4 year long Civil War, which ended with a victory by the communist Red Army and the establishment of the Soviet Union.When the war was finally ended after the reluctant entry of the United States and an uneasy armistice, Germany was broken and humiliated. The resulting peace treaties that placed war guilt and forced reparation payments on Germany and its allies set the stage for the rise of fascism in Europe and the next world war.

The Interwar Years

The Interwar Years were characterized by major changes in European politics, finance, and culture. The war left most of Europe economically shattered, but Germany was faced with crippling debt after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which left most Germans feeling cheated, bitter, and resentful. While the liberal democratic Weimar Republic struggled to repair the broken nation, more and more citizens became disillusioned by the promise of democracy and looked toward National Socialism as solution to Germany's problems. Adolf Hitler, and Austrian war veteran, rose to power within the ranks of the Nazi Party and set Germany on a path to new empire, breaking the Versailles Treaty, while enacting harsh laws against Jews in Germany. Meanwhile, a dispirited Italy was also faced with economic chaos, and looked to Benito Mussolini's fascist party as a way to bring stability, order, and glory to the nation. In the east, the Soviet Union embarked on a new era as a communist power. Led by Lenin and the Bolshevik party, War Communism was imposed on the whole population. Lenin hoped to stimulate the stagnant communist economy with his New Economic Policy, which was controversial and at times 

disorderly. When Stalin took power in 1927, he turned the Soviet Union into an industrial superpower at the expense of the peoples' quality of life. This chapter will also take a look at the economic crisis that was the Great Depression, in particular its impact on France and Britain.

World War II

World War II officially began on September 1, 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. However, aggressive acts had taken place at the hands of the Axis Powers- Germany, Italy, and Japan- for nearly a decade before the start of the war. The policy of appeasement set the groundwork for Hitler and Mussolini to grasp a firm grip on conquered territories, and it would take the Allied Powers of Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and later the United States, along with their allies, 6 years of brutal fighting as they sought to liberate Europe, North Africa, and Asia from fascist militant forces. World War II was the largest and deadliest war the world has ever seen, and provided the setting for what is arguably the most horrendous atrocity in history- the Holocaust. When the war was over, the world looked vastly different- millions of dead soldiers and civilians, a Europe divided between East and West with an "iron curtain", and the United States rose to the status of super power with their use of nuclear weapons. 

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