You are on page 1of 3

IB HL History

Christopher Wong

Effects of World War One


Context
After 4 years of fighting an armistice was signed on November 11th 1918 to end the
war. Germany surrendered hoping to secure a peace treaty on the basis of Wilsons 14
points, leaving the Allies (chiefly Britain, France, USA and Italy as victors) as victors, and the
Central Powers the defeated (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey). When the Allies
met for the Paris Peace Settlements in 1919, to try and create a lasting peace and resolve
the issues behind the war, they were facing a vastly changed Europe from that of 1914.

Key Political Results of the war, Domestically and Internationally


Political map of Europe re-drawn: collapse of four great empires in central and Eastern
Europe (Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire). Following the Paris
settlement, 9 new successor states emerged, including Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia,
Austria and Yugoslavia. This meant the traditional balance of power was destroyed, replaced
by a power vacuum of new unstable states undermined by ethnic rivalry within them.

Collapse of imperial monarchy and rise of republicanism: Historian Niall Ferguson


argues that the war saw a loss of faith in the monarchy in many states and a triumph of
republicanism undreamt of even in the 1790s. Furthermore, the traditional assumption that
traditional governing elites knew best and had a natural right to govern was shattered
forever. Key examples of the effects this could have is the rise of radical fascist political
movements in Germany and Italy in the interwar years.

Continuity: surprising fact is the amount that the war did not change - i.e. Britain and France
kept their empires and continued with colonial policies; and nationalism remained a powerful
force in European politics.

League of Nations set up as attempt to reform international relations: as part of the


Paris Peace Settlements, and a central part of Wilsons vision for a more ethical system of
diplomacy than that which had contributed to war in 1914, a new international organization
was set up in 1920 with its headquarters in Geneva.

Key Economic Results of the War


Massive economic cost: perhaps the greatest impact of the war was economic, given its
huge cost of 34,000 million. This shattered the previous centurys economic progress. All
powers had paid for the war though loans, and the need to repay these after the war created
a difficult economic situation in the 1920s, especially in Germany where inflation quickly
destroyed the currency and the savings of many middle-class Germans.

Physical damage caused by the war: also had a negative impact on the European
economy, as large amounts of land and industry had been destroyed where the war was
fought. This meant that manufacturing output decline dramatically. Taken together with the
loss of trade and foreign investments over 4 years this left Europe facing economic crisis
in 1919.

Decline of Europe, rise of America: the European powers were indebted to America, who
saw her share of world trade increase significantly in this period. This signified the
decline of Britain and France as Great Powers, and the gradual emergence of USA as the

IB HL History
Christopher Wong
worlds economic superpower.

Key Social Results of the War


Human cost and the lost generation: 8 million dead soldiers left a huge legacy of
dependents (widows, children, war-wounded) that had to be supported by the state through
pensions. Furthermore, in difficult conditions at the end of the war 5 million civilians died
from disease, and 15 million died from a flu epidemic in 1918-9 in Europe as a whole.

Improved position of trade unions and workers: given the governments dependence
upon industry for military production during the war, workers and organized labor (ie. trade
unions) were able to seek greater social and political power. This led to improved pay
and conditions, and in Britain various social legislation after the war, including social
insurance benefits for unemployed workers and their families.

Improved position and social status of women: the demands of a war economy brought
women new employment opportunities in traditionally male-dominated roles, such as industry,
engineering and transport - in Britain, an extra 1.5 million women entered the workforce.
Though the wars end and the return of the men meant that women were often forced back
into the home, these new experiences increased their confidence and led to increasing
demands for more opportunities in the future. Women also gained greater rights in society
largely as a result of their contribution in the First World War - in Britain women were now
allowed to train for new professions such as architects and lawyers, while in many counties
women were given a political voice through receiving the vote.
Effects on Germany
The Treaty of Versailles
The terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which Germany had no choice but to accept,
were announced on the 7th of May of 1919. Germany lost:10% of its land, All its
overseas colonies (including Togo), 12.5% of its population, 16% of its coalfields, and
half its iron and steel industry.
Territorial Restrictions on Germany
Alsace-Lorraine returned to France.
No annexation of Austria allowed.
No annexation of Czechoslovakia.
No annexation of Poland and Danzig.
Lost all of its overseas colonies including Togo, Cameroons, Namibia, and Tanzania.
Military Restrictions on Germany
The Rhineland was to be declared a demilitarized zone.
The German armed forces can be no larger than 100,000.
No manufacturing of weapons.
No importing or exporting weapons
No poision gas.
No tanks.
Small navy, 12 destroyers, 6 battleships, and 6 cruisers.

IB HL History
Christopher Wong

No Submarines
No military aircraft.

Economic Restrictions on Germany


These were denounced by John Mayard Keynes.
Saar coal fields given to France.
Compensation for all damages.
Article 231: War Guilt Clause justifies reperations.
The Germans were outraged and horrified at the result - since Wilson's idealistic and
rejected fourteen points painted the picture of a different outcome. They did not feel as
though they started the war, nor did they feel as though they had lost. The German
people perceived this as a peace conference and not a surrender. At first, the new
government refused to ratify the agreement, and the German navy sank its own ships
in protest. The German leader, Ebert, eventually agreed to the agreement on the 28th
of June 1919.
The Impact of the Treaty of Versailles
In 1919, Erbert's government was hanging on the edge of a knife. Right-wing
opponents threatened revolution.
1922-1923: Germany falls behind in its Reparation payments.
French and Belgian soldiers invade the Ruhr region and sack raw materials and goods
in order to compensate. (Allowed under the Treaty of Versailles)
German government orders the workers to strike. French kill 100 workers and expel
100,000 Protestants from the region in retaliation. The strike aids in causing the
growing inflation.
The three powers were not satisfied with the Versailles treatment. Clemenceau did not
think the treaty was harsh enough on Germany. Lloyd George viewed as a hero, but
realized the long-term effects of the war. The American Congress refused to approve
the treaty.