Maps of the world in 1914, in 2006, and of multinational corporations in 2000 reflect two of the biggest developments in the 20th century. Massive changes in boundaries resulted from the end of the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian empires. Deep-rooted changes also took place in political forms—monarchies had predominated in 1914—and in social systems. The emergence of multinational companies was the other area of great change. While it is clear that the age of empires is over, defining the period that followed is difficult. In this period, following world history from 1914, it is difficult to achieve a perspective. The history of the period is not over, and discerning the most important ideas is challenging.
Triggers for Change. World War I, worldwide depression, and World War II were clearly major factors. Everywhere, European dominance was questioned, threatened. Former colonies challenged Western military supremacy. A framework was provided by the cold war. When the Soviet Union collapsed and the United States emerged as the sole world power, new questions emerged. Would some other nation become the global power? Technological change profoundly affected life. The destructive power of weaponry grew, as did the nature of warfare, with civilians increasingly under fire. Genocide was frequently a feature of the post-war period. Population growth, made possible by 19th-century improvements in health care, created a new concern. Taken together, the factors in the rapid changes of the 20th century, coupled with the problem of historical perspective, raise many questions concerning the most significant triggers.
The Big Changes. Political changes were substantial. Everywhere aristocracies were replaced, in some instances by totalitarian governments, elsewhere by democracies. Economically, many countries followed the Western lead in industrialization. Oil-producing countries played a new role in world events. China and India transformed themselves into major exporters. Nationalism, Marxism, and consumerism comprised the secular forces that had the greatest influence on culture. Religion continued to play a vital role. Globalization continued in the latter half of the 20th century, after a hiatus in the 60s and 70s. This period was considerably more intense than the first development of globalization, as China, Russia, Japan, Germany, and the United States played key roles. Environmental change also became global, with the products of one nation affecting another far away.
Continuity. Three areas of continuity can be discerned. Some countries continued to produce raw materials and goods in traditional low-cost ways. Gender roles were influenced by changes in other spheres, but pressure for change was countered in many areas by resistance. In the same way, cultural change was resisted by efforts to underline native culture. Governments in some cases reacted to change by insisting on their rights. For instance, the United States remained hostile to what it viewed as infringements of its sovereignty in matters of the environment, punishment of war criminals, and banning land mines.
Impact on Daily Life: Emotions and Behavior. Emotional and behavioral patterns were impacted by global change. In some cases, change was brought about intentionally, to help effect reform. Lowering birth rates also impacted family life. The demands of consumerism brought sales tactics that forced changes in behavior. As increasing numbers of businesspeople traveled the globe, they brought with them a new set of global behaviors.
Societies and Trends. Chapter 33 covers World War I. The interwar period is examined in Chapter 34, focusing on anticolonialism and major regime changes in Russia, Germany and Italy. Chapters 35 and 36 deal with World War II and the cold war, respectively. Latin America is the focus of Chapter 37. Decolonization and its impact in Africa, the Middle East and south Asia are the subjects of Chapter 38. Events in east Asia and the Pacific Rim are dealt with in Chapter 39. The turn of the 21st century is covered in Chapters 40 and 41.
Descent into the Abyss: World War I and the Crisis of the European Global Order
I. The Beginnings of the Liberation Struggle in Africa
Western-educated Africans gained authority
W.E.B. Du Bois
Sédar Senghor, Aimé Césaire, and Léon Damas
Popular Revolt in Egypt, 1919. Large numbers of women of all classes took to the streets in the widespread revolt against British rule in Egypt. Although more is known about the elite women that took part, the working-class women in the protests were far more numerous, and took on much more active roles in the continuing turmoil of the next decade. British rule had brought harsh conditions for women working in sweatshops and fields. World War I had brought increased prosperity, but inflation more than balanced the boom. British abuses during the war increased, and made life harder for many. When the British prevented Egyptian nationalists from going to Paris to plead their cause, popular risings resulted. Women took part in large numbers, some achieving martyrdom. Although Egypt was seemingly far-removed from the battlefields of Europe, it was like many other parts of the world in being pulled into the violence and confusion of World War I. The three great powers involved in the war were colonial powers, and the lands of their empires were submerged in the upheaval. The British and the French, in control of the sea approaches to Europe, could draw on their empires for men and materials. The exigencies of war led to greater leadership for Westernized Indians and Africans. However, the end of the war brought European attempts to take the reins of empire back into their own hands. The result was the first wave of decolonization.
Chapter Summary. World War I was a principal turning point in 20th-century world history. European global dominance quickly resulted in the spread of the conflict to most world regions. The massive human losses resulting from the war shattered existing global systems. New, dominating historical forces emerged.
The Coming of the Great War. Europe in 1914 was divided into two rival alliance systems.
The Long March to War. Fears of Germany caused an alliance between Russia, France, and Britain: The Triple Entente. In reaction, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy allied, later known as the Central Powers. Italy, marginalized in the alliance, joined the Triple Entente in 1915. The Alliance system was imperiled by the global rivalries between the members. Most of the world had been claimed by one or the other of the powers by 1900. A costly arms race developed. In particular, Germany’s creation of a powerful navy threatened Britain’s control of the seas. The nations often used military and diplomatic measures to defuse social tensions at home.
The Outbreak of the War. The Balkans became a dangerous trouble spot where rival small nations contested and where the great powers had interests. The assassination of an Austrian archduke by a Serbian nationalist in 1914 provided the cause for war. Austria-Hungary, supported by Germany, moved to attack Serbia. Russia responded by mobilizing its military, causing Germany to declare war on Russia and its ally, France. When Germany invaded Belgium to strike France, Britain entered the war. Britain’s entry brought in her dominions and imperial territories, along with her Japanese ally.
A World at War. European leaders expected a brief and decisive struggle that would resolve the tensions existing between the two blocks. It quickly became apparent that there would be a long war.
The War in Europe. The Germans’ plan for quick French defeat failed. Modern technology, combined with leadership incompetence, created a devastating stalemate on the Western Front. British, French, and German soldiers suffered staggering losses.
The War in the East and in Italy. The Russians surprised the Germans by mounting massive offensives, but the German reaction completely defeated the poorly trained Russian armies. Austria-Hungary, with German help, also checked the Russians. The Italians had joined the British and French, but the fighting between the Italians and Austrians ended in stalemate.
The Home Fronts in Europe. Neither governments nor their citizens were sympathetic to the horrors of the war. National resources were organized to continue the fighting. The war resulted in unprecedented government growth. The executive branches of government increased power at the expense of parliaments, and governments manipulated public opinion and suppressed dissent. Developments already visible in industrial societies quickened. Socialists and worker representatives became tied to governments. Some labor groups rejected their leadership and criticized the continuing war. The discontent contributed to the collapse of Russia and weakened Germany. Women entered the labor force in increasing numbers, and recast gender roles and images. When fighting ended, women were pressured back into the home, but they gained the vote in several nations.
The War Beyond Europe. The presence of European combatants in all world regions inevitably spread the conflict. British naval supremacy effectively blocked overseas supplies from reaching the Central Powers. Both the British Dominions and non-settler territories provided manpower and material support to Britain and France. Britain sent Indian forces to several war theaters; France used African troops on the European front. Japan attacked the Germans in China and the Pacific. The Ottoman Empire allied with Germany. After losses against Russia and in the Middle East, Ottoman leaders launched a genocidal assault against their Armenian subjects. The United States at first remained neutral, and sold goods and made loans to both sides. For the first time in its history, the United States moved from being a debtor to a creditor nation. Most Americans remained pro-British, and when German submarines struck at American vessels, public opinion turned interventionist. The United States entered the war in 1917. Its men and materials helped to turn the balance against the Germans.
Endgame: The Return of Offensive Warfare. A final German offensive on the Western Front in 1918 failed. The Austrian-Hungarian Empire fragmented along national lines. The German military agreed to an armistice and installed a civilian government in Berlin to sue for peace. Many Germans, unprepared due to previous propaganda, blamed defeat on socialists and Jews. The war caused the death of 10 million soldiers; 20 million were wounded. As the war ended, millions of individuals perished in a global influenza pandemic. Direct and indirect costs reached hundreds of billions of dollars. Much of Europe was in ruins.
Failed Peace and Global Turmoil. Woodrow Wilson’s hopes for a peace aimed at establishing a new order preventing major wars and not punishing the defeated was not realized. The Peace of Paris humiliated the Germans; they were compelled to pay huge reparations. The collapsed multiethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire was broken into the new nations of Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Yugoslavia. Poland was reborn, and received German territory. Colonial regions found out that Wilson’s calls for self-determination applied only to Europeans. The victors strengthened their empires. Many other peoples shared the dissatisfaction. The new Russian government was not invited to the deliberations. Wartime promises to the Arabs were ignored. China’s efforts to regain lands seized by the Japanese failed. In the United States, Congress rejected participation in the League of Nations. The treaty set the stage for a very insecure future.
The Nationalist Assault on the European Colonial Order. The world conflict severely disrupted the colonial systems. European vulnerabilities and rivalries were starkly revealed; for the first time they fought each other in their colonies. Significant campaigns occurred in Africa and the Middle East. British naval supremacy allowed the Allies to draw heavily on their territories for men and raw materials. Indian industrial production was encouraged to help the war effort. Thousands of Asian and African soldiers and laborers served on many fronts during the war and gained direct experience of their rulers’ weaknesses. Manpower shortages in the colonies gave indigenous administrative personnel opportunities to exercise increased administrative responsibility. Many promises had been made to win support from colonial subjects or independent potential allies. The unmet demands and broken promises contributed to long-standing dissatisfactions and enhanced the standing of nationalist leaders.
India: The Makings of the Nationalist Challenge to the British Raj. India and Southeast Asia, among the earliest of colonized territories, had the first movements for independence. In India, Burma, Indonesia, and the Philippines, before the close of the 19th century, Western-educated groups were organizing nationalist associations to make their opinions heard. India, Europe’s most important colonial possession, produced patterns that were later followed all over the colonial world. The diversity of the colonial world produced important variations in decolonization, but key themes were the ascendancy of Western-educated elites, the importance of charismatic leaders, and a reliance on nonviolent tactics. The party that led India to independence, the Indian National Congress, formed in 1885, and grew out of regional urban political associations. The organization was loyal to its rulers; it lacked a mass base or firm organization and was most interested in elite-related issues. The members reacted to British racist attitudes. As time passed, Indians developed a common identity that had not previously existed among India’s many diverse peoples.
Social Foundations of a Mass Movement. By the end of the 19th century, there was wide dissatisfaction with British rule. Businesspeople were angered by the favoritism given to British interests and products. The Indian army absorbed a large share of revenues and was used widely outside of India to advance British concerns. British officials received high salaries and pensions. The peasantry was pushed into the production of cash crops at the expense of food production. Landlessness, disease, and poverty were widespread.
The Rise of Militant Nationalism. A united nationalist movement was hindered by the differing concerns of Hindus and Muslims. Leaders such as B.G. Tilak ignored the split and asserted that nationalism should be built on appeals to the Hindu majority. He broke with moderates by demanding boycotts of British goods, and threatening violence if independence was not granted. Tilak was the first leader with a mass following, but it was limited to Bombay and its region. His use of reactionary Hindu ideas alienated Muslims, moderate Hindus, and other religious groups. Tilak was imprisoned by the British. Another early nationalist threat came from Hindu communalists pushing violent overthrow of the Raj; they committed terrorist acts in Bengal. The British crushed them by World War I. The failure of the two movements strengthened the more moderate Congress politicians who advocated a peaceful path to independence. The British cooperated through the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909 that expanded opportunities for Indians to elect and serve on local and national councils.
The Emergence of Gandhi and the Spread of the Nationalist Struggle. India had loyally supported Britain with men and resources during World War I. But, as the war dragged on, Indian casualties mounted while economic conditions in India hurt all sectors of the population. Inflation and famines raged during war; peasants and workers suffered while employer profits increased. Moderate politicians after the war were frustrated by Britain’s refusal to honor promises of a steady move to self-government. The Montagu-Chelmsford reforms of 1919 had increased powers of Indian legislators at national levels and placed aspects of provincial administration under Indian direction. But the Rowlatt Act of 1919 offset the reforms by restricting key civil rights. The localized protest during and after the war provided the base for Gandhi’s nationalist campaign. Gandhi combined knowledge of the British with the attributes of an Indian holy man and, thus, was able to win followers among all classes. He stressed nonviolent, but aggressive, protest tactics (satyagraha, or truth force) to weaken British control without provoking reprisal.
Egypt and the Rise of Nationalism in the Middle East. Egyptian nationalism predated the British occupation. The unsuccessful rising of Ahmad Orabi in 1882 had aimed at liberating Egypt from its unpopular khedives and their European associates. The British put down the movement and continued the dynasty in power under their control. The reforms of British High Commissioner Lord Cromer mostly benefited the small middle and elite classes and foreign merchants. Rural landlords (ayan) also gained significantly at the expense of the mass rural population. Resistance to the system grew among urban business and professional families. Unlike India, journalists and not lawyers were predominant. In the 1890s, several nationalist political parties formed, all without a mass base. The British often utilized harsh techniques against protesters. The extent of the population’s hostility toward the British was demonstrated in the Dinshawi Incident of 1906. A small clash, with limited fatalities, demonstrated British racial arrogance and undermined support for their presence in Egypt. By 1913 the British recognized the rising nationalism by granting a constitution and an indirectly elected parliament. World War I temporally halted nationalist agitation.
War and Nationalist Movements in the Middle East. After World War I opposition to European domination spread widely. The Ottoman Empire had joined the central powers and did not survive their defeat. Mustafa Kemal, or Ataturk, led a resistance against efforts to conquer the Turkish homeland; by 1923 an independent republic emerged. Ataturk introduced extensive reforms, many based on Western precedents: a Latin alphabet, female suffrage, rejection of the veil. France and Britain did not honor the promises of independence made to the former Arab subjects of the Ottomans. They occupied the former Turkish lands, as the League of Nations mandates. Further Arab anger came from conflicting British promises to Arabs and Jews concerning Palestine. The Balfour Declaration fed Jewish aspirations for a return to their original homeland. Nineteenth-century eastern European pogroms had convinced some Jews that acceptance in Europe was impossible. Zionist organizations formed to promote a Jewish state. Theodore Herzl of the World Zionist Organization was unconcerned with the presence of Palestine’s Arab inhabitants. Arab opposition to Jewish emigration led the British to restrict the pledges made to the Zionists, but did not stem them from building up their local position. Nothing was done by the British to encourage the development of a strong Palestinian leadership able to promote its own interests.
Revolt in Egypt, 1919. Egypt had been made a British protectorate in 1914. When World War I began, martial law was declared to ensure protection of the Suez Canal. The many troops stationed in Egypt drained local food supplies, while forced labor and inflation made conditions of life even harsher. When a delegation of Egyptian leaders was refused permission to present their case for self-determination to the conference at Versailles, unexpected mass demonstrations erupted. The British repressed the movement but recognized the necessity to listen to Egyptian opinion. The Wafd Party of Sa’d Zaghlul provided a unified nationalist base for Egyptian demands. After negotiations, the British agreed to a gradual move to independence beginning in 1922 and ending with withdrawal from the Suez Canal zone in 1936. The khedival regime remained and Britain reserved the power to reoccupy Egypt if it was threatened by a foreign power. Egyptian political parties after 1922 did little to increase the welfare of the majority of the population. Politicians used their positions to enrich themselves while they quarreled about control of the government. The utter social bankruptcy of the regime prepared the way for revolution in 1952 under Gamal Abdul Nasser.
In Depth: Women in Asian and African Nationalist Movements. The educational establishments of colonial rulers and missionaries produced a group of articulate and politically active women. Many women received education that allowed them to share in the lives of their educated husbands. Women, especially in the upper social classes, found the colonial presence a liberating experience. They participated in both peaceful and violent nationalist movements. Educated women also challenged their own male-dominated societies. Although their activities helped women to gain basic civil rights, once independence came, full equality had not arrived.
The Beginnings of the Liberation Struggle in Africa. Most Western-educated Africans remained loyal to their colonial rulers during World War I. Along with traditional African rulers, they gained local authority as the Europeans drew upon their lands for men and resources. The war disrupted colonial life because of reaction to recruitment of soldiers and laborers and interruption of export crops. The failure of Europeans after the war to keep promises of further reform, and the effects of the Great Depression contributed to unrest. Western-educated politicians began to organize during the 1920s; some were influenced by African American leaders, such as Marcus Garvey or W.E.B. Du Bois, and the pan-African movement. By the mid-1920s, nationalist leaders from the British and French colonies were on separate paths. French subjects focused on Paris and the Négritude movement, formed by such writers as Léopold Sédar Senghor, Aimé Césaire, and Léon Damas. Africans, except in settler colonies, had greater opportunities to organize politically. They were allowed representation in advisory councils and developed the beginnings of true political parties. By the 1930s, new and vigorous leaders came forward and made the first efforts to gain a mass following.
GLOBAL CONNECTIONS: World War and Global Upheavals. Western war losses undermined European global dominance. The United States, the Soviet Union, and Japan emerged as major rivals. The hardships imposed on colonies and the rulers’ unfulfilled promises stimulated resistance that eventually ended European colonial regimes.
KEY TERMS Archduke Ferdinand: Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne assassinated at Sarajevo in 1914; precipitated World War I.
Western Front: war line between Belgium and Switzerland during World War I; featured trench warfare and massive casualties among combatants.
Eastern Front: war zone from the Baltic to the Balkans where Germans, Austro-Hungarians, Russians, and Balkan nations fought.
Nicholas II: Russian tsar; (r. 1894–1917); executed 1918.
Gallipoli: World War I battle, 1915; unsuccessful attempt in defense of the Dardanelles.
Italian Front: war line between Italy and Austria-Hungary; also produced trench warfare.
Armenian genocide: launched by Young Turk leaders in 1915; claimed up to one million lives.
Submarine warfare: a major part of the German naval effort against the Allies during World War I; when employed against the United States it precipitated American participation in the war.
Armistice: November 11, 1918 agreement by Germans to suspend hostilities.
Georges Clemenceau: French premier desiring harsher peace terms for Germans.
David Lloyd George: British prime minister; attempted to mediate at peace conference between Clemenceau and Wilson.
Woodrow Wilson: American president who called for self-determination and the League of Nations.
Treaty of Versailles: ended World War I; punished Germany with loss of territory and payment of reparations; did not satisfy any of the signatories.
League of Nations: international organization of nations created after World War I; designed to preserve world peace; the United States never joined.
Indian National Congress: political party that grew from regional associations of Western-educated Indians in 1885; dominated by elites; was the principal party throughout the colonial period and after independence.
B.G. Tilak: first populist leader in India; believed that Indian nationalism should be grounded in the Hindu majority; exiled by the British.
Morley-Minto Reforms (1909): provided Indians with expanded opportunities to elect and serve on local and national legislative councils.
Montagu-Chelmsford reforms (1919): increased national powers of Indian legislators and placed provincial administrations under ministries controlled by Indian-elected legislatures.
Rowlatt Act (1919): placed severe restrictions on Indian civil rights; undercut impact of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms.
M.K. Gandhi: Western-educated Indian lawyer and nationalist politician with many attributes of an Indian holy man; stressed nonviolent tactics and headed the movement for Indian independence.
Satyagraha: “truth force”; Gandhi’s policy of nonviolent opposition to British rule.
Lord Cromer: British advisor to the Egyptian government; his reform program benefited the elite and foreign merchants, not the mass of Egyptians.
Mustafa Kemal, Ataturk: president of Turkey, (r. 1923–1938); responsible for Westernization of Turkey.
Effendi: prosperous business and professional urban Egyptian families; generally favored independence.
Dinshawi incident: 1906 fracas between British soldiers and Egyptian villagers that resulted in an accidental Egyptian death; Egyptian protest led to harsh repression that stimulated nationalist sentiment.
Hussein: sherif of Mecca; supports British in World War I for promise of independence following the war.
Mandates: governments entrusted to victorious European World War I nations over the colonies of the defeated powers.
Balfour Declaration (1917): British promise of support for the establishment of Jewish settlement in Palestine.
Zionism: European Jewish movement of the 1860s and 1870s that argued that Jews return to their Holy Land; eventually identified with settlement in Palestine.
Leon Pinsker: European Zionist who believed that Jewish acceptance in Christian nations was impossible; argued for a return to the Jewish Holy Land.
Theodor Hertzl: Austrian Zionist; formed World Zionist Organization in 1897; was
unsympathetic to Arabs and promoted Jewish immigration into Palestine to form a Jewish state.
Alfred Dreyfus: (1859–1935); French Jew, falsely accused of treason in 1894; acquitted 1906; his false conviction fueled Zionism.
Wafd Party: Egyptian nationalist party founded after World War I; led by Sa’d Zaghlul; participated in the negotiations that led to limited Egyptian independence in 1922.
W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey: African American leaders with major impact on rising African nationalists.
Négritude: literary movement among African Americans and Africans; sought to combat unfavorable stereotypes of African culture and to celebrate African achievements; influenced early African nationalist movements.
Léopold S. Senghor, Aimé Césaire, and Léon Damas: African and African American Négriture movement writers.