Q1- analyze (a) the long-term causes and (b) the short-term causes of the Second World War



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Q1- Analyze (a) the long-term causes and (b) the short-term causes of the Second World War (2009 Paper 2).

There are many causes that resulted in the initiation of Second World War. The long-term causes generally started right after Versailles and the short-term causes around 1939. This paper shall analyze the long-term and short-term causes of the Second World War, answering the question what lead to world war in 1939.

The first long-term cause is Versailles. Versailles divided Europe into camps devoted to upholding the treaties or to destroying them. Versailles imposed harsh punishments on Germany blaming them for the First World War. According to Germans, these punishments were unfair, igniting a sense of nationalism in Germany in hope that the treaty would be cancelled. Hitler too believed that Versailles was unjust, therefore he made many demands for Germany and justified most of them by using Versailles as a scapegoat.

Hitler’s demands and goals are determined from either a structualist or intentionalist point of view. Intentionalists argue that Hitler had a long laid out plan as for Germany when he wrote Mein Kempf, where he expressed his desire for German expansion, or Lebensraum. Hitler believed that Germany ought to expand in Eastern Europe in order to have sufficient living space for the Germans. He also wanted to acquire areas that were populated by Germans in hope for unification of all Germans. These long-term goals would require that Germany initiate an offensive war, Second World War, which happened in early 1940s. Furthermore the Hossbach Memorandum, in 1938, suggested that Hitler was planning his economy for a war in 1943 against Czechoslovakia. This expansion to the East, would result in war especially since France was required to aid Czechoslovakia to the Little Entente. Structualists argue that these events were not planned out but were presented to Hitler in the years prior to the war and he took advantage. An example is the Spanish Civil War in 1936 where Hitler did not plan it but took advantage to test his arms, possibly preparing for war.

Appeasement rose because of European fear that Hitler would start war. Britain and France granted concessions to Germany that were unexpected and cowardly in order to avoid tension. Chamberlin, British prime minister, gave into Hitler’s demands granting him with power in false hope of avoiding war. These concessions led to German superiority rapidly and the country became more aggressive as time progressed. Chamberlin could have stopped this build up in 1936 had he chosen to neglect appeasement and fight the threat.

Another long-term failure is the League of Nations’ inability to take decisive and effective measures in order to ensure peace in the world. The League failed to react effectively in the Manchurian Crisis, exposing their lack of machinery to take effective action. The League did not ensure collective security in 1933 and this was a sign to leaders like Hitler and Mussolini that if they took aggressive action, there would be minimal reaction from the League. The Manchurian crisis could have inspired Mussolini to start enter Abyssinia. Britain and France’s reacted by merely condemning the situation, and this only pushed Italy closer to Germany. The League’s credibility was wiped out. This was especially the case when Hitler decided to remilitarize the Rhineland in 1936. This marked a vital change in Hitler’s methods for Germany and Europe where he clearly defied Versailles. Britain appeased Germany by opposing French invasion of the Rhineland, stating Germany was entering its ‘backyard.’ Hitler succeeds in his mission to rearm his country for a potential war in Europe. AJP Taylor argues that if France would have attacked Germany then to stop re2militarization, she could have averted Hitler’s future aggressiveness and probably the Second World War, however she failed to do so without British support.

Historians argue that the economic crisis in Europe was a long-term cause to the war. The Great Depression resulted in a negative effect in Europe as trade and loans went down because America lacked the funds. Investment decreased from America and other nations in Europe, and this made Europe dependent on America. The stock crash destroyed Europe’s’ economies. When the stock market crashed, American banks soon started asking for repayment of loans. With many European countries in debt, Hitler took this to his advantage blaming democracy for the Great Depression. This became a widespread belief that democracy was not the answer, placing a wedge between Britain and France with other European countries. The Depression harmed the international diplomatic system because politicians concentrating on internal situations. The Manchurian and Abyssinian crises are examples as to how international diplomacy was ignored due to self-interest.

There are also numerous short-term causes that resulted in the Second World War. First is Hitler’s betrayal to the Munich Agreements, where he agreed he would not make more demands. However right before the war, Hitler violated his promises by taking parts of Czechoslovakia. The Western Powers gave into these demands for the last time. Hitler then demanded Danzing, however at this point, Britain drew the line for Hitler, abandoning appeasement. Britain ensured Polish security against a German invasion. Regardless, Hitler entered Poland, triggering Britain and French involvement in the Second World War. Second is the failure of the League to combat aggression from Germany, Italy, and Japan prior to the war. The League did not fulfill its duties, therefore Europe plunged into a war that could not be stopped by any sort of international organization.

Furthermore, a short-term cause occurred when the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact was born. This ensured that Germany and the USSR would remain on peaceful terms. However there was a secret article that detailed that Germany and Russia would invade Poland and carve it up to their liking, dividing Polish territories among themselves. This suggests that international war was inevitable with the plans that were being carried out between Germany and Russia.

In conclusion, numerous causes resulted in the war, however the long-term causes probably had a more significant effect, as events and policies kept piling up until the stack reached a limit and toppled to the ground, leading to war.


Word count: 999.


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