1. What Impact did World War One have on World History? The impact of the First World War was universally destructive. It was destructive of human life, property, political, social, cultural and economic fields. For years after the war all countries were heavily burdened and advance remained impeded. However, the impacts of WW1 on World History had some important consequences like the evolution of capitalism, progress of women and some social equality. One basic change that proved to be very significant after WW1 was how it profoundly affected Capitalism.
During the war economic systems were minutely controlled by the belligerent governments. For the first time states worldwide attempted to drive all their resources, wealth and moral purpose of society into one singular cause – warfare. The aim was to utilise labour and all natural resources within ones country effectively. Motives of profit for private enterprises became disreputable. Production of civilian use and luxury purposes were cut down and it became impossible to open or shut down business without Government approval. Governments became so war determined that even unprofitable war factories were kept going with government support.
These goals were to coordinate production in the interest of a whole country and became known as “Rationalisation”. Austerity became patriotic. And it became embarrassing to show comforts too openly. Eating meagrely and wearing old clothes created a sense of equality. Enlisting rich and poor alike for common cause gave new impetus to the notion of economic equality. Hardships impacted equality and this would shape further equality on World History. ‘The pre-war economic equilibrium also was destroyed. ’ (Barraclough, G, 1982, p129) The allocation of manpower due to military conscription saw many casualties at the fronts.
This state determination evidently became more important that individual life. This insatiable need for men saw great numbers of women fill the offices and factories. Women took over many jobs that they were thought to be too inept. Although after the war the women made way for returning veterans the wartime experience in the labour force was the beginning of the revolution of women’s place in modern society. ‘Men generally acknowledged the essential contributions women made to the war effort and conceded their right to participate in the political process, a notable reversal of pre-war attitudes.
In 1917 the provisional government in Russia even allowed women to vote. In February 1918 the British parliament granted the suffrage to women over thirty. Immediately after the war, women in Austria, Germany and the United States were similarly enfranchised’ (Upsher, J, 2005, p762). The outlooks of millions of individual women became motivated to participate in national economics. Thus World War One redefined women’s work and this was a social process that would have impact on World History. With Europe torn by warfare, the rest of the world made headway and accelerated in industrialisation.
The United States production capacity increased extensively. Because countries like China, India and South America couldn’t obtain goods from Europe they began to purchase civilian goods and cotton textiles from Japan. Because England was unable to export locomotive parts and mining machinery countries like Brazil and Argentina began to manufacture the products themselves. With Britain and France only producing gravely for themselves, and Germany out of the world market the position of Europe as the world’s workshop became subversive. Post-War Europe now had new competition and its supremacy was in decline.
This trade and manufacturing by other countries would impact on history forever in the industrialisation world. ‘Few people realised in 1918 what had happened; but the age of European predominance was over and a new age of global politics had begun. ’ (Barraclough, G, 1982, p119) Along with control of economic production during WW1 belligerent governments attempted to control ideas and totally discard freedom of thought. These belligerent governments made effective use of Propaganda and Censorship. The pre-war crisis then was largely unknown to people, they were just stuck in an incomprehensible nightmare.
Each side was loosely accusing the other for being the instigators of this pure malevolence. Morale was low due to the futile fighting, the appalling death toll and injured, and the long attrition. Being over worked, eating insipid foods, living an austere lifestyle and seeing no victory this Propaganda and Censorship was used to keep emotions at a high pitch. The messages were conveyed through slanted news reports, solemn editorials, schoolbooks, public lectures, placards, posters. Popular thinking was ideally influenced by means of mass press, new motion pictures and new universal literacy.
In Allied countries the Kaiser were portrayed as a demon, macabre images with glaring eyes and moustaches with aberrant sharp bristles, bent on the insane subjugation of the world. In Germany people were taught foreboding the day when Senegalese and Cassocks should rape their women and hate the English for blockading Germany so inhumanely starving their little children. Each side had induced that they were doing the right thing and the opposing were the reason for wrong, iniquity, barbarity, and debauchery. This inflammation of opinion had such a strong impact it helped sustain the people in such a fearsome struggle.
But when it came time for peace, this propaganda, censorship, forced thinking, fixed ideas, profound aversions became an obstacle to political judgment. ‘You must not kill your neighbour, whom perhaps you genuinely hate, but by a little propaganda this hate can be transferred to some foreign nation, against whom all your murderous impulses become patriotic heroism’ (Bertrand, R, accessed 8/11/08). It is this obstacle and propaganda monster that would impact on World History and influence hatred and racism, adding another dimension and fixed reasoning.
Another strong impact World War One had on World History was the beginning of politics to eclipse religion. Religious dogma’s were shattered during the war and a passage written from the memoirs of a British Infantry captain reveals the decline of religious beliefs among those who witnessed the atrocities of the Great War. ‘Hardly one soldier in a hundred was inspired by religious feeling of even the crudest kind. It would have been difficult to remain religious in the trenches even if one had survived the irreligion of the training battalion at home.
A regular sergeant at Montagne… had recently told me that he did not hold with religion in time of war… ’ (Graves, R, 1957, pp188-189). The barbarity outweighed the illogical notion of religion to be a palladium. World War One was an atrocity where ‘Over 8 million men had perished… In retrospect the war of 1914-18 was the great European civil war, which destroyed the old European order, squandered Europe’s human and material resources, and jeopardised its future’ (Barraclough, 1982, p119). It had heavy impacts on World History leading a destructive path for the economy.
It instigated a time of hardships that would daunt and impact on the World for some further decades. However it did introduce women into the workforce in great numbers, forwarding a revolution for women that would commence prominently in World War Two. It also saw rich and poor alike with social equality for the first time in history, and this would be a process that would shape in years to come for World History. Ultimately the war’s impacts were that of a heavy burden on the World. However progress from the War for women and equality would impact on World History forever.
Bibliography What Impacts did WW1 have on World History? Barraclough ,G, 1982, ‘The Times: Concise Atlas of WORLD HISTORY’ , Angus & Robertson: Australia. Pp118-119, p129. Bertrand, R, http://en. thinkexist. com/search/searchquotation. asp? search=Propaganda+ accessed 8/11/08). Upshur, J et al, 2005, World History Vol 2 since 1500: The Age of Global Integration: 1017 World History Dossier, 2008, School of Arts. Graves, R, Good-bye to All That, rev. Ed (Garden City, N. Y. Doubleday, 1957), pp. 188-189: 1017 World History Dossier, 2008, School of Arts.