Big picture questions for Collapse and Recovery of Europe



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BIG PICTURE questions for Collapse and Recovery of Europe
1. What explains the disasters that befell Europe in the first half of the twentieth century?

  • A variety of factors lay behind the disasters. For example, the numerous competitive states that were a force in driving Europe's expanding influence in the world over the previous four centuries became a liability as they turned on one another in devastating wars within Europe.

  • The industrial production that underpinned Europe's wealth and power was used to fight destructive wars within Europe.

  • The growing power of governments and the resources of their colonial empires were directed toward warfare between European powers.

  • Nationalism, communism, and fascism all provided ideological motivations for war.

  • The Great Depression had an impact on all European economies, further destabilizing the region and adding to tensions within societies.

2. In what ways were the world wars a motor for change in the history of the twentieth century?



  • The destructive national hostilities between European states that had led to the wars were dissipated following the Second World War.

  • The world wars led to the collapse of European colonial empires; they also brought the United States to center stage as a global power.

  • The needs of total war led to the expansion of government authority; the destruction wrought by the wars led to a widespread disillusionment among European intellectuals with their own civilization; the political map of the world was radically altered; and communism emerged as an important political movement.

3. To what extent were the two world wars distinct and different conflicts, and in what ways were they related to each other? In particular, how did the First World War and its aftermath lay the foundations for World War II?



  • The wars were distinct in that the Second World War was a more genuinely global conflict with independent origins in both Asia and Europe.

  • New leaders, political structures, and ideologies underpinned the aggressive states in the Second World War.

  • However, the aftermath of World War I did lay many of the foundations for World War II, including the Treaty of Versailles's humiliating terms for Germany, which created immense resentment in that country.

  • The treaty imposed heavy reparation payments on Germany that made the economic crisis of the Great Depression even worse and thus strengthened the Nazi Party.

  • The aftermath of World War I also laid the basis for a series of naval treaties that Japanese leaders felt did not reflect Japan's status as a first-rank power; and it increased Japanese colonial ambitions

  • The Great Depression also strengthened the conservative forces in Japan.

4. In what ways did Europe's internal conflicts between 1914 and 1945 have global implications?



  • They led to a decline of European influence on the world stage.

  • They facilitated the decolonization movements in Asia and Africa after World War II.

  • They facilitated the spread of communism.

  • The decline of Western Europe due to the strains of these conflicts transferred leadership of the West to the United States.


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