The Impacts of World War I

The Impacts of World War I

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The Impacts of World War I

The First World War was truly ‘the Great War’. Its origins were
complex, it’s scale was vast and it’s conduct was intense. Its impact
on military operations was revolutionary, in the sense that new
weapons were created, eg the tank, and the use of different gases. Its
human and material costs were enormous. In short the first world war
helped shape and change the world and it’s people.

The war was a global conflict. Thirty-two nations were eventually
involved. Twenty-eight of these constituted the Allied and Associated
Powers, mainly being the British Empire, France, Italy, Russia, Serbia,
and the United States of America. They were opposed by the Central
Powers: Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire.

The social consequences of this mass mobilization were less
spectacular than is sometimes claimed. There were advances for the
organized working class, especially its trade unions, especially in
Britain, and arguably for women, but the working class of Europe paid
a high price on the battlefield for social advances at home. In the
defeated states there was very little social advance anyway.

The First World War redrew the map of Europe and the Middle East. Big
empires such as the Ottoman Empire were defeated and collapsed, and
were replaced by a number of weak successor states. Russia underwent a
bloody civil war involving the overthrow of two Governments (the
monarchy and the provisional government) before the establishment of a
Communist Soviet Union which put it beyond European diplomacy for
quite some time. Germany became a republic who expected defeat, and
they were increasingly weakened by the burden of (arguably unfair)
Allied reparations. France recovered the provinces of Alsace and
Lorraine and received reparations, but continued to fear (maybe too
strong a word?) the German province/empire that had once dominated
them.

In terms of alliances and let downs, Italy was disappointed by the
territorial rewards of its military sacrifice. This provided ground
for Mussolini's Fascists to establish themselves within the Italian
government, and they had overthrown parliamentary democracy by 1924.

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The British maintained the integrity and independence of Belgium. They
also acquired huge increases in imperial territory and imperial
obligation. But they did not achieve the security for themselves which
they believed they would have.

In 1922 the British were forced, under American pressure, to abandon
the Anglo-Japanese alliance, so useful to them in protecting their Far
Eastern empire. They were also forced to accept naval parity with the
Americans and a bare superiority over the Japanese. 'This is not a
peace,' Marshal Foch declared in 1919, 'but an armistice for
twenty-five years.'

The cost of all this in human terms was 8.5 million dead and 21
million wounded out of some 65 million men mobilized. Although this
was huge, it was not the real impact. The real impact was moral. The
losses struck a blow at European self-confidence and in their belief
that they consisted of superior civilizations.
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