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World War One was the most consequential social event in centuries. 10 million soldiers died, creating 3 million widows and 10 million orphans. Many Europeans felt disillusionment and even anger about the war. They questioned earlier notions of honor, duty, and bravery. Europe lost its economic centrality. New York replaced London as the financial capital of the world., and the US and the USSR emerged as proto-superpowers. But positive changes happened. The notion of what roles women could take on changed. Women proved themselves capable of doing much of what men came. Four empires were gone. Many new smaller nations were created from the Empires’ former territories.

  1. Economic and Geographic Legacy

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    1. Europe lost its economic centrality. It lost markets and took on great amounts of debt.

    2. New York replaced London as the financial capital of the world.

    3. The European landscape was scarred by leftover trenches, shell craters, destroyed towns and villages, unexploded shells, and human and animal remains. Hundreds of thousands of bodies lay under the earth, many not in formal graves. Human remains continue to be found, right down to the present.

  1. War Dead

    1. 3 million widows and 10 million orphans were created. Nearly everyone in Europe lost a friend or relative.

    2. Many Europeans felt their best and brightest young men had been taken. This led to the idea of the “Lost Generation.”

    3. Including civilian casualties, deaths by nation are as follows:

      1. Great Britain: 1.3 million (3% of population)

      2. France: 1.9 million (5% of population)

      3. Italy: 1.2 million (3%)

      4. Russia: 2.5 million? (1.6% of population)

      5. The U. S.: 117,000 (0.1% of population)

      6. Austria-Hungary: 1.9 million (3.5 %)

      7. Germany: 2.7 million (4%)

      8. Turkey: 2.3 million (13%!!)

    4. In all, about 10 million died in combat, and another 10 million civilians died. About 20 million more soldiers were wounded.

    5. Many who were wounded were scarred for life, either physically or psychologically.

  1. Women’s Roles

    1. The notion of what roles women could take on changed. Women proved themselves capable of doing much of what men came.

    2. This, in turn led to women gaining the right to vote in many countries.

  1. The Role of Government

    1. Government’s role and power expanded and stayed big. People expected government to play a greater role in their lives.

    2. Politics became (to an extent) militarized.

  1. Changes to Nations

    1. Four empires were gone: Austria-Hungary, Russia, Germany and the Ottoman Empire. All but Germany were greatly reduced in size. Many new smaller nations were created from the Empires’ former territories. Germany became a democratic republic.

    2. Germany actually emerged more powerful in Europe than before the war: Before the war, Germany had been one of 5 European Great Powers. After the war, it was the strongest of the remaining 3. But it was not stable.

    3. A true national identity emerged among Australians, New Zealanders, and Canadians.

    4. Many nations resented the loss of territory and/or their failure to gain desired territory. This led to “irrendentism.” Irredentism in turn helped lay the foundation for World War II.

    5. Within Germany, the “Stab in the Back” legend arose. Many Germans felt they didn’t really lose the war; rather, they were betrayed from within. This idea may have been caused by shame over desertion (which many German soldiers did). Hindenburg (among others) promoted this idea.

  1. Mass Psychological Effects

    1. Many Europeans felt disillusionment and even anger about the war. They questioned earlier notions of honor, duty, and bravery. (Although these ideas took some time to develop; they were not always immediately present after the war).

    2. The feeling of disillusionment is reflected in art and literature that came out after the war. (Examples: All Quiet on the Western Front and Goodbye to All That, both from 1929)

    3. There seemed to be a hardening of the spirit, and a desensitization to violence.

    4. Some thinkers went as far as to call the war a “Civil War of Western Civilization”

  1. Ideological Changes

    1. The US and the USSR emerged as proto-superpowers. They presented two totally different models for how to structure government and society. One person at the time said each nation needed to make a choice between Woodrow Wilson and Vladimir Lenin. (Liulevicius). The foundation for the Cold War was laid.

    2. Total, industrial war became the new norm for war.

  1. Further Conflicts

    1. Russian Civil War

    2. Greco-Turkish War (with forced relocations)

    3. Polish-Soviet War (Polish victory; Kept Soviets from dominating Poland)

    4. Communist revolutions in Hungary and Bavaria.

    5. Ukraine was fighting with Poland and Romania

    6. The Spanish Flu (20 million dead)

Cite This Article
"How Did WW1 Affect the World Today?" History on the Net
© 2000-2020, Salem Media.
November 28, 2020 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/how-did-ww1-affect-the-world-today>
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