Effects of World War I
- Abraham Lincoln
The century following Lincoln’s assassination proved the truth of his words. The effects of World War I were a harsh reality check for Europe and other major nations of the world.
Decline of the Empires
The political changes effected by World War I were reflected best in the decline of the empires. While the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary completely collapsed, the Great War also sounded the death knell for monarchies in Germany and Russia, which became republics. World War I was also the cause for a rise in nationalistic tendencies leading to the demand for independence in many British colonies of outside Europe.
Changing Economies and Societies
The economic strain caused by World War I resounded through Europe and the rest of the world. Inflation skyrocketed in many countries. The burden of reparations drastically affected the German economy. The value of the deutsche mark dipped to an all-time low. European nations owed their allies over $10 billion in the postwar years.
Much changed on the social front too. With the men having joined the war, the women of most countries took over businesses and establishments. Mechanization and mass production paved the way for labor laws. The disillusionment caused by war led to a revolution in many societies. People chose republics over monarchies and the desire for better standards of living were openly vented.
Read more Socio-Political Changes Following World War I
Need for the League of Nations
“A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.” - President Woodrow Wilson
World War I exposed the need for an association of nations – a body to promote international peace and security. The necessity of an organization to prevent a global conflict of the nature of World War I was initially pointed out by President Woodrow Wilson in his Congressional Speech in 1918. The emergence of the League of Nations was a natural corollary to the catastrophic consequences of the Great War.
On June 25, 1919, the plan to create the League of Nations was sanctioned at the Paris Peace Conference. The initial council meeting of the League of Nations was held in Paris on January 16, 1920. The League of Nations headquarters was moved to Geneva in November 1920. The League's inaugural General Assembly was attended by forty-one nations on November 15, 1920.
Despite being the brainchild of President Woodrow Wilson, the United States did not join the League of Nations, as it was not ratified by the U.S. Congress.
The one distinct positive outcome of World War I was the boost received by research and technology. Rail and automobile transport, radio and wireless communications, research and development of weapons and arms, including nuclear research, boomed. The years following World War I saw unprecedented armament and chemical research. The atomic bombs used in World War II were developed in the period following the Great War. Aviation technology, quite literally, took off. Machines of mass production, developed during the war, revolutionized industries in the postwar years.
Did World War I cause World War II?
"This is not peace. It is an armistice for 20 years." - Ferdinand Foch, Maréchal de France
As Foch rightly remarked, the Treaty of Versailles was the cause of much dissent in Europe. While Germany had based the armistice on President Wilson’s Fourteen Points, the Treaty of Versailles had none of the idealism he had envisioned. The harsh terms of the treaty placed all responsibility of the Great War on Germany. The financial reparations paid by the Central Powers caused much resentment. Although, World War I was by no means the only reason for the outbreak of World War II, the settlement of territories, responsibility, and finances only led to more strife which eventually translated into World War II.