Industrial Revolution Causes of World War I and II, the Consequences of Versailles

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Causes of World War I


  • The French revolution gave birth to the feeling of nationalism which saw a fast development after Vienna congress. Nationalism inspired in formation of new states but also led to form of violent nationalism causing mutual differences among various states. The growing feeling of distorted patriotism caused hatred and malice among the nations and made nationalism aggressive.
  • This tendency towards nationalism demanded redrawing of European map on the principle of ‘one nation one state’ . The feeling of nationalism made all the countries of the world eager to clash with each other.


  • Violent nationalism, economic competition and international tension led to the growth of militarism, helped by the jealous and suspicious outlook of each state with other. Military strength became synonymous with national prestige and every state began to increase her military power. E. g. when Germany began to strengthen its naval power, it became challenge for England and thus leading to naval competition between the two.
  • Even though military preparation were being made for self-defence, it gave rise to race for armaments, leading to fear, apprehension and mutual hatred. Militarism in European states affected the internal and foreign policies of the states, with a belief that international problems could be solved only through militarism.


  • The European powers had taken part in a great burst of imperialist expansion in the years after 1880.
  • The industrialized states to earn more money required to procure more markets so as to sell their products, leading to an economic competition. In these countries economic competition was allied with imperialism. To meet their economic needs, they needed more and more colonies. England, America and Germany were prominent among them.
  • The underlying causes of the war were the rivalries and conflict among the imperialistic countries. The imperialistic conquest of Asia and Africa were accompanied with conflicts accompanied with conflicts between imperialistic countries. In earlier period the imperialists were able to have peaceful settlements and agreed on division of Asian and African colonies not resulting into war, but at the end of 19th century the situation changed. Most of the Asia and Africa had been divided and further conquest could be possible only by disposing the imperialistic countries from their colonies. The last decade of nineteenth century saw the attempts to redivide the world, creating conditions of war.
  • Germany achieved tremendous progress after its unification. By 1914, it had left Britain and France far behind in production of iron and steel and in manufactures. It had entered the shipping trade in a big way. Both Britain and France were alarmed at the expansion of German manufactures as they considered it a serious threat to their position. Even Germany could not grab many colonies, having arrived late on the scene. Most of Asia and Africa had already been occupied by the older imperialist powers. The German imperialists therefore wished to expand in the east with an ambition of controlling the declining economy of Ottoman Empire. For this purpose, they planned the construction of a railway from Berlin to Bagdad. This plan created a fear in Britain, France and Russia as the completion of the Berlin-Bagdad railway would endanger their imperialistic ambitions in the Ottoman Empire. The Germans had imperialistic ambitions elsewhere to, including Africa.

Diplomatic Treaties/Formation of Alliance

  • Diplomacy is not cause of any war, but it often produces conditions conducive to war. The conflicts within Europe and the conflict over colonies created a tense situation in Europe from last decade of 19th century. It led to formation of opposing groups among the European countries. The opposing groups of countries of alliance that were formed in Europe not only added to the danger of war, but also made it inevitable that when the war broke out it would assume a worldwide magnitude. European countries had been forming and reforming alliances since the nineteenth century. Finally, in the first decade of the twentieth century, two groups of countries or alliances, emerged and faced each other with their armed might. In 1882 Triple alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy was formed. Italy՚s loyalty was uncertain as its main aim was to gain territories in Europe from Austria- Hungary and in conquering Tripoli with French support. As Opposed to this, emerged the Triple Entente (meaning ‘an understanding’ ) comprising France, Russia and Britain in 1907, a loose group based on mutual understanding.
  • As the aims of the countries in these camps included the extension of their colonial possessions, an all- European war almost certainly would become a world war. The formation of these hostile camps was accompanied with a race to build more and more deadly weapons and have larger armies and navies.
  • A series of crises took place during the years preceding the war. These crises added to the bitterness and tension in Europe and endangered national chauvinism. European countries also entered into secret treaties to gain territories at the expense of others. Often these secret treaties leaked out and fear and suspicion grew in each country about such treaties. These fears and suspicions brought the danger of the war near.

More Causes of Friction, Threatening the Peace of Europe

  • Naval rivalry between the Britain and Germany
  • French resentment at the loss of Alsace- Lorraine to Germany at the end of the Franco Prussian war (1871)
  • The Germans accused Britain, Russia and France of Trying to ′ Encircle ″ them
  • Russians were Suspicious of Austrian ambitions in the Balkans:
    • Serbian nationalism was probably the most dangerous cause of friction. Serbia had ambitions of uniting all Serbs and Croats, many of whom lived inside the Habsburg Empire, into a south Slav kingdom (Yugoslavia) . This would involve taking certain areas from Austria- Hungary, and threatened to cause the collapse of the ramshackle Habsburg Empire which contained people of many different nationalities. There were Germans, Hungarians, Magyars, Czechs, Slovaks, Italians, Poles, Romanians and Slovenes, as well as Serbs and Croats. If the Serbs and Croats left the fold, many of the others would demand their independence as well, and the Habsburg Empire would break up. Consequently, many Austrians were Keen for what they called a ‘Preventive War’ to destroy Serbia before she became strong enough to destroy Austria- Hungry.
    • Arising from all these resentments and tensions came up a series of events which culminated in the outbreak of war in late July 1914.

The Consequences of Versailles

  • The Treaty seemed to satisfy the “Big Three” as in their eyes it was a just peace as it kept Germany weak yet strong enough to stop the spread of communism; kept the French border with Germany safe from another German attack and created the organization, the League of Nations that would end warfare throughout the world.
  • However, it left a mood of anger throughout Germany as it was felt that as a nation Germany had been unfairly treated.
  • Above all else, Germany hated the clause blaming her for the cause of the war and the resultant financial penalties the treaty was bound to impose on Germany. Those who signed it (though effectively they had no choice) became known as the “November Criminals” .
  • Many German citizens felt that they were being punished for the mistakes of the German government in August 1914 as it was the government that had declared war not the people.

World War II


  • In September 1939, Europe was drawn again into a general war. The peace of 1919 - 1920 proved to be no more than an armistice; once more millions of people were locked in a conflict whose devastation surpassed any that had occurred before. As had happened in 1914 - 1918, the new struggle soon became worldwide. Although the Second World War was not merely a continuation of, or a sequel to, the first, the similarity in causes and characteristics was more than superficial. Both were precipitated by threats to balance of power, and both were conflicts between peoples, entire nations, rather than between governments.
  • On the other hand, there were notable differences between the two conflicts. The methods of warfare in the Second World War had little in common with those of the earlier conflict, Trench warfare was superseded by bombing and by sudden Ariel (blitzkrieg) attacks, with highly mobile armies, on both civilian populations and military installations.
  • Because so many were now vulnerable to the ravages of warfare, the distinction between those on the battlefield and those at home was completely obliterated in the Second World War than it had been in first. Finally, this war was not greeted with almost universal, naïve enthusiasm that had marked the outbreak of the other. Men and women still remembered the horrors of the First World War. They entered the second with determination, but also with a keen appreciation of frightful devastation that war could bring than predecessors had possessed.

Consequences of Second World War

  • The Aftermath of World War II was the beginning of a new era. It was defined by the decline of the old great powers and the rise of two superpowers; the Soviet Union (USSR) and the United States of America (US) creating a bipolar world.
  • At the end of the war, millions of people were homeless, the European economy had collapsed, and much of the European industrial infrastructure had been destroyed. The Soviet Union, too, had been heavily affected. In response, in 1947, U. S. Secretary of State George Marshall devised the “European Recovery Program” , which became known as the Marshall Plan.
  • By the end of the war, the European economy had collapsed with 70 % of the industrial infrastructure destroyed. The property damage in the Soviet Union consisted of complete or partial destruction of 1,710 cities and towns, 70,000 villages/hamlets, and 31,850 industrial establishments. The strength of the economic recovery following the war varied throughout the world, though in general it was quite robust. In Europe, West Germany, after having continued to decline economically during the first years of the Allied occupation, later experienced a remarkable recovery, and had by the end of the 1950s doubled production from its pre-war levels. Italy came out of the war in poor economic condition, but by 1950s, the Italian economy was marked by stability and high growth. France rebounded quickly and enjoyed rapid economic growth and modernization under the Monnet Plan. The UK, by contrast, was in a state of economic ruin after the war and continued to experience relative economic decline for decades to follow.
  • The Soviet Union also experienced a rapid increase in production in the immediate post-war era. Japan experienced rapid economic growth, becoming one of the most powerful economies in the world by the 1980s. China, following the conclusion of its civil war, was essentially bankrupt. By 1953, economic restoration seemed fairly successful as production had resumed pre-war levels. This growth rate mostly persisted, though it was interrupted by economic experiments during the disastrous Great Leap Forward.
  • At the end of the war, the United States produced roughly half of the world՚s industrial output. This dominance had lessened significantly by the early 1970s.
  • Many new weapons of destruction were devised and used in the Second World War. The most dreadful of these was the atom bomb. The two bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killed millions of people almost instantaneously and completely wiped out large part of two cities. The effect of these bombs on the health of those who survived and, on their children, continues this day. Within a few years after the Second World War, some other countries also developed atomic weapons. Also, other nuclear weapons thousands of times more destructive than the ones used against Japan, were developed which, if used, can completely destroy all human life on earth.
  • As a consequence of the war, the Allies created the United Nations, a new global organization for international cooperation and diplomacy. The United Nations agreed to outlaw wars of aggression in an attempt to avoid a third world war.
  • Temporarily allied during World War II, the US and the USSR became competitors on the world stage and engaged in what became known as the Cold War, so called because it never boiled over into open war between the two powers but was focused on espionage, political subversion and proxy wars. Western Europe and Japan was rebuilt through the American Marshall Plan whereas Eastern Europe was in the Soviet sphere of influence and was excluded from the Marshall Plan. The world was divided into an US-led Western Bloc and a Soviet-led Eastern Bloc with some nations trying to stay out of the Cold War through the Non-Aligned Movement.