World War II was a global tragedy on a massive scale. That conflict lasted for six years and led to numerous losses, atrocities, and political and ideological shifts across the world. Still, like all events, it has its causes and effects, shaping the world to become the place that it is in modern days. As such, it would be beneficial to track down what has caused that conflict and what consequences it has brought.
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Origins and Effects of the Second World War
The Treaty of Versailles was probably the most significant amongst all of the causes for World War II. Through this treaty, leaders of Entente and their allies tried to make sure that Germany would never become a threat again (Sharp 42). As such, it contained humiliating and harsh penalties and reparations for Germany, effectively breaking the economy of the country. One of those was the disbandment of the German military and fleet along with the prohibition of its rearmament, turning Germany into a disarmed country (Sharp 44).
Reparations were another harsh punishment for post-war Germany, as they hindered its potential to rebuild the country and had put it into deep debt to the Entente. In addition to that, Germany has lost sizeable and developed territories, including Alsace-Lorraine and Frankfurt to France, Upper Silesia to Czechoslovakia and Poland, Danzig and Poznan to Poland, Memel to the Allies (Sharp 87). Germany also ceded all of its colonies to the League of Nations (Sharp 88).
All of that, along with the War Guilt Clause putting all of the blame for the First World War on the Central Powers, especially Germany, caused a deep resentment along with revanchism among the population. Those feelings, in turn, led to the rising popularity of politicians who promised to return Germany to its former glory, opening a road to power for Hitler.
Other factors led to the Second World War, such as the growing expansionism of Japan and Italy. The Empire of Japan, being among the Allies in World War I, was planning to become a major power in South-East Asia, starting with former German colonies (Sharp 87). However, those were instead transferred to the mandate of the League of Nations, leaving the Japanese dissatisfied with the results of World War I. The United States also blocked their attempts to expand in the territory of Russia that was in the midst of civil war, which led the Japanese to mark the USA as their primary political rival in the region (Sharp 90).
Similar proceedings have happened to Italy, as it switched sides on the promise of dividing the territories of the Ottoman Empire. However, it was left out of the process as Syria, Egypt, and Iraq were shared between France and Great Britain (Sharp 96). All of that, along with the emergence of the Soviet Union and the weakening of Great Britain, France, and the USA from the economic crisis, had led the world to the volatile situation when World War II became imminent.
Among all the consequences of the Second World War, three are the most prominent. First is the loss of life and widespread destruction across the world. World War II, unlike the First World War, was a global conflict, and almost every country suffered human losses (Lowe 380). Although the exact numbers are still unknown, modern history counts almost sixty-five million casualties, including the victims of ethnic cleansings conducted by Nazis (Lowe 382).
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The results are varying for different countries, with Eastern Europe suffering the heaviest losses, leading to demographic problems. Although the cost is tremendous, the war also led to some positive outcomes, as jobs previously unavailable for women were opened due to the lack of a workforce, strengthening the feminist movements in democratic countries.
The second consequence is that of the political and national shift. As the remaining colonial empires were weakened by the war, their colonies strengthened their fight for independence. Scenarios of such have varied, from the peaceful decolonization of India to the Indochina wars between Viet Minh and France. However, in the end, most of the colonies have achieved independence, changing the political landscape of the Earth and giving the start to the new batch of conflicts that continue to this day (Lowe 275).
The third and probably the most important consequence was that the ending of the Second World War and following events led directly to the Cold War, which started to develop as early as 1947. During World War II, the Allies formed a pact of necessity with the Soviet Union to defeat the Third Reich and its allies (Steil 12). When that goal was achieved with the end of the war, it left these two political blocks competing against each other for influence over the world (Steil 36).
The confrontation between two emerging superpowers has created a new political situation in the world, as the development of weapons of mass destruction both heightened and suppressed the tensions during the Cold War, making a new conventional World War impossible (Steil 478).
In conclusion, it should be said that while World War II ended more than seventy-five years ago, processes that it has caused are still felt all over the world. Its aftermath has laid a foundation for the modern state of global society, as both positive and negative outcomes were born out of it. As such, it should be noted that the effects of the Second World War are still not complete and should be investigated further.
Lowe, Keith. The Fear and the Freedom: How the Second World War Changed Us. St. Martin’s Press, 2017.
Sharp, Allan. The Consequences of the Peace: The Versailles Settlement: Aftermath and Legacy 1919-2015. 2nd ed., Haus Publishing, 2015.
Steil, Benn. The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War. Oxford University Press, 2018.