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World War I and Its Impact on the Life of Europe

World War I, also known as the Great War, was an unprecedented military conflict. The catalyst for the dispute that primarily took place across Europe was Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination in Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914 (Payk 811). However, the primary reason for the dispute was the anarchic system and the absence of international law regulating the conduct of sovereign states (Payk 810). Although the issues leading to the Great War were addressed during the Paris Peace Conference, it can be argued that the conference, specifically the Versailles treaty, set the stage for the Second World War in 1939.

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The Paris Peace Conference and the signing of the Versailles treaty indicated the end of World War I and became the inevitable facilitator of World War II. The accord was agreed upon and signed on June 28th, 1919, 5 years after the start of the conflict (Payk 815). The treatment of Germany in the agreement can be viewed as the primary reason for the events that unfolded in 1939. The Versailles treaty incorporated the League of Nations’ Covenant, which bound the members to uphold peace and lawful international conduct (Erpelding 18). Germany was initially denied membership in the League of Nations, being viewed as the sole responsible party for the beginning of World War I (Payk 816).

The omission of Germany from the covenant demonstrated the general attitude towards the country among other European nations and effectively excluded it from “the community of the law-abiding and civilized states” (Payk 816). Overall, the initial marginalization of Germany after the Great War can be viewed as one of the facilitators of its role in the Second World War.

There are many other stipulations in the Versailles treaty that can be viewed as predictors of Germany’s actions in 1939. The country was widely believed to be the sole responsible party for the Great War, and many conditions of the agreement included and documented the required reparations towards the affected states. Thus, the accord required the creation of multilateral commissions that would oversee the disarmament of the country to respect France’s security concerns as a neighboring country (Payk 817). Furthermore, Germany suffered territorial concessions and economic constraints to contain its growing power in Europe (Payk 814). Overall, the Versailles treaty substantially reduced Germany’s territory and its military and economic powers.

The strict provisions regarding Germany in the Versailles treaty resulted in the country’s invasion of Poland in 1939 and the beginning of the Second World War. The strict economic and political measures imposed by the agreement lead to an eventual crisis and Adolf Hitler’s rise as a political leader (Jamieson). Hitler used the created situation to promote the agenda of returning the country to the global empire it was before the treaty. Overall, it can be argued that the Second World War could have been avoided if the accord was more lenient towards Germany and did not enforce debilitating reparations payments that led to a crisis.

In summary, the Versailles treaty signified the end of World War I but set the stage for World War II. The agreement led to the creation of the League of Nations to uphold international laws that excluded Germany, positioning it as an uncivilized state. Furthermore, reparations, disarmament, and territorial concessions facilitated a political and economic crisis in the country that resulted in the rise of Hitler.

World War I was one of the most significant events of the first half of the 20th century, and it continued to control European cultural, social, and political life in the following decades. The conflict and the agreements reached after its conclusion have substantially affected all the involved parties, including both defeated nations and states of the Allied powers. This essay will discuss the most significant impact the Great War had on Europe and how it influenced its political, cultural, and social life.

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The greatest consequence of the conflict was the geopolitical transformation of Europe and the emergence of new, independent, democratic countries. By the end of the war, the Ottoman, German, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian empires, the leading political powers in Europe, dissolved, giving way to new nation-states with their individual political agendas (Cabanes et al.). Thus, the conflict led to the re-emergence of Poland, several Central European countries, and such Eastern European nation-states as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Czechoslovakia (Cebula 118). In addition, the former empires lost control of their colonies and the political influence over many non-European territories (Cabanes et al.). The Great War drastically changed the geopolitical landscape of Europe, leading to the rise of new states and the formation of new political connections.

The geopolitical reshuffle also profoundly impacted the societies, both of the newly emerged nations and those whose borders were left unchanged. European. The dissolution of several Empires led to the forced migration of thousands of people who effectively became refugees after their countries seized to exist (Bessel). Many people were also dislocated due to financial reasons as Europe experienced a shift from a war economy to a peacetime one, leading to mass unemployment (Bessel). In addition, soldiers returning from battlefields were often left unemployed due to the lack of work in their countries. The conflict also led to inflation and the housing market deficit, as many of the existing homes were destroyed in the conflict (Bessel). Overall, after World War I, European social life was marked by an economic depression, unemployment, and housing crisis.

The cultural life of Europeans was also affected by the Great War. The dispute resulted in the art trying to capture the strife experienced by Europeans during the conflict and to give people an escape from their everyday lives. Dada and Surrealist movements are the most notable examples of new artistic waves emerging after the end of the war (Jannette 84). Many artists focused on the production of art that reflected the European people’s post-war experiences and the horrors of military conflict. For instance, Imre Pérely’s lithograph, Five Million Widows, depicts the gaunt, dark faces of several women wrapped in black clothing to signify the immense loss of male lives after the war (Pérely). Thus, every aspect of the European societies’ cultural life was influenced by World War I in the decades after its conclusion.

In summary, the Great War affected every aspect of life in Europe. The conflict led to a substantial geopolitical reshuffle, the dissolution of several empires, and the emergence of new nation-states. Furthermore, the shift to a peacetime economy led to inflation and employment as dislocated migrants and returning soldiers struggled to find work in the new market. The art aimed to reflect all those changes, often focusing on the depiction of the aftermath of the war in such works as Five Million Widows.

Works Cited

Bessel, Richard. “Post-war Societies.International Encyclopedia of the First World War. 2017. Web.

Cabanes, Bruno, et al. “The Long Legacy of World War I.” Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective, 2017. Web.

Cebula, Adam. “The Legacy and Consequences of World War I.” Journal of Military Ethics, vol. 19, no. 2, 2020, pp. 118-120. Web.

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Erpelding, Michel. “Introduction: Versailles and the Broadening of ‘Peace Through Law’.” Peace Through Law, edited by Michel Erpelding, Burkhard Hess, and Hélène Ruiz Fabri, Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG., 2019.

Jamieson, Alastair. “Seven Ways the Treaty of Versailles Changed the World.” Euronews, 2019. Web.

Jannette, Lauren. “From Horrors Past to Horrors Future: Pacifist War Art (1919–1939).” Arts, vol. 9, no. 3, 2020, pp. 80-103.

Payk, Marcus M. “‘What We Seek Is the Reign of Law’: The Legalism of the Paris Peace Settlement after the Great War.” European Journal of International Law, vol. 29, no. 3, 2018, pp. 809-824.

Pérely, Imre. Five Million Widows. 1931. Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Web.

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