W CS 15

Achievements and Crises (1900-1945)

The first half of the 20th century was one of rapid technological advances. It was a period when the tensions between industrialized nations resulted in World War I and set the stage for World War II. While World War II transformed the balance of world power, it was the most destructive and costly war in terms of human casualties and material resources expended.

Content Statement

15. The consequences of World War I and the worldwide depression set the stage for the Russian Revolution, the rise of totalitarianism, aggressive Axis expansion and the policy of appeasement, which in turn led to World War II.

Content Elaborations

The hard toll of World War I on Russia fueled the Bolshevik Revolution and ushered in the ideology of state-sponsored communism.

Following World War I, the Treaty of Versailles forever changed the political and social organizations of Europe. Its harsh terms for the defeated countries caused anger and created a climate for retribution. It also contributed to a worldwide depression.

The German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires collapsed and their former lands were carved up into new states and nations.

Financial losses, battlefield deaths and the destruction of towns, cities and infrastructure weakened European powers. Facing economic troubles, some countries found themselves easy prey to nationalistic and militaristic political parties that, in order to gain political power, were quick to point out the failure of democratic governments for their own gain. Totalitarian regimes found wide bases of support in several European countries, including Germany, Spain and Italy.

As a consequence of the devastation resulting from World War I, Great Britain and France were reluctant to challenge Nazi Germany’s expansion efforts in the 1930s. Their efforts to avoid war resulted in a policy of appeasement.

The aggressive expansion of Germany, Italy and Japan, the failures of the League of Nations and the policy of appeasement by Great Britain and France led to World War II.

Expectations for Learning

Explain how the consequences of World War I and the worldwide depression set the stage for the Russian Revolution, the rise of totalitarianism, aggressive Axis expansion and the policy of appeasement, which, in turn, led to World War II.