The First World War
The First World War was fought between 1914 and 1918 with catastrophic results to the countries that were involved and the rest of the world in general. The war took place in Europe, its colonies and the surrounding seas placing a heavy toll on human lives in that 8 million perished while scores of others were injured in the fight. The majority of the victims were innocent civilians who were caught up in cross or massacred by the enemy forces. Besides causing gross human suffering, the war caused heavy damage to infrastructure and opened new wounds among the involved countries. It also dramatically altered the political, economical, social, and cultural settings in Europe.
Effects of the war
The war led to the emergence of the United States as the new world superpower replacing the traditional orders that were dominated by Britain and Russia. The latter two were highly affected by the war and had to rely heavily on the United States to rebuild their economies. The French economy was heavily crippled by the war especially after the German invasion. Furthermore, during the war, they sourced most of the weapons from America and helped it establish financial clout as an economic superpower.
In addition, age-old empires collapsed during and after the war. Such empires included; the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the remaining enclaves of The Holy Roman Empire, and Germany was split into two. Some territorial maps of Eastern Europe and Middle East Asia were redrawn causing anxiety between the countries hence planting the seed of discord leading to the 2nd world war.
As a result of the war, the League of Nations was formed to solve potential conflicts and to avert future confrontations. However, the organization failed in its mandate hence laying the foundation for the 2nd world war. It became the predecessor of the United Nations Organization which emerged later after the 2nd war. Many nations were promoted to solve their international disputes through the league. Socialism emerged as an alternative to Western imperialism which was losing its place in society. The emergence of socialism was brought out by the change of guard in Russia that came with it radical sweeping changes. These changes heralded a period of political changes in the world with countries being divided between the western block and the eastern block. The Western block led by America subscribed to capitalism ideology while the eastern block stood for communism.
An arms race began with each power rushing to stockpile its armaments in readiness for any potential threat. During and after the war, new technological innovations in the production of arms emerged with highly lethal weapons being produced on large scale. The previous industrial revolution was replaced with a robust military industry with civilian factories being converted to produce armaments.
At the close of the war, Germany was made to pay reparations to the aggrieved countries a move that caused Germany a series of economic damage. This caused discord among the citizenry who saw the move as malicious and too punitive. The growing discord laid the foundation for the 2nd world war and also led to the overthrow of the government and the rise of Adolf Hitler to power.
The Russian revolution
The Russian revolution is also commonly referred to as the Bolshevik revolution. The 1917 revolution occurred in two phases: In the first phase, The Tsarist regime was replaced with the provisional government. In the 2nd phase, the provisional government was deposed by the Bolsheviks in the nth month of October 1917. The revolution marked an important stage in history and also in the Eastern European countries. The Baltic countries took advantage of the situation to demand their independence from the Russian authority (Wade para.2). These bore some fruits for a while between 1918 and 1940.
The position of the Baltic territories in Russia fueled the commencement of the revolution. Most of the Baltic natives who included Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians were deprived of land by successful regimes which caused discontent amongst them.
In addition to these causes, Tsar Nicholas 2 popularity was waning in Russia especially after the defeat by Japanese naval forces. The last nail on his coffin was the massacre of hundreds of demonstrators in cold blood in St. Petersburg in 1905. This sparked off a wave of revolts across the country. His harsh reaction through the execution of the captured demonstrators only acted to cement the solidarity movement and empowered the people to forge a unified front against the regime. In 1917, the Baltic territories finally joined forces with the Bolsheviks to overthrow Tsar Nicholas 2’s government.
By 1917, Russians were losing ground to Germans due to lack of a modern industry capable of supporting the war and also due to lack of comprehensive rail system to provide supplies to the army as Wade (para.8) notes. This further decreased the support of the Tsar hence weakening his authority. This combined with hunger; high inflation and unemployment led to a military and civilian uprising that deposed him from power in February 1917 with the coming of the provisional government.
The Great depression
The Great Depression was an economic downturn that mainly affected North America, Europe, and industrialized nations of the world in beginning from 1929 to 1939. It was the longest and the most catastrophic depression ever experienced by the world. It was mainly characterized by the slump of stock markets prices in the New York stock exchange from the year 1929 while others were affected in equal measure as Kelly (para.4) observes. By the fall of 1932, the stock prices had gone down by 20% of their book value in 1929. Mostly affected were financial establishments that largely held stocks in their asset portfolios. The resulting consequence was a fall of 11000 of 25000 American banks leading the financial market to grind to an abrupt halt. The dramatic insolvency of the financial institution and the resultant loss of confidence in the economy sparked off a wave of a downward spiral in consumer expenditure and the aggregate demand which in turn hampered production as the manufactures responded by cutting down their output which went down by 54%. This sparked off a stream of losses in employment.
Prior t0o the depression, America had established strong ties with Europe as the main financial; and creditor after the devastating effects of the first world war which ripped off their economy and their infrastructure. Great Britain, France, and Germany heavily relied upon this credit to rebuild back their economies. But the major victims hit nations were the highly indebted Great Britain and Germany whose economies had been crippled by the effects of War. The economic boom and speculative tendencies of the 1920s coupled with the poorly regulated mortgage market set and massive corruption in the financial market set the stage for the great depression (Kelly para.5).
One of the most conspicuous effects of the Great Depression was the significant shift in people’s lifestyles as a result of the depressed incomes and the massive unemployment which forced consumers to adopt cost-cutting measures to remain afloat. There was also a marked decline in the housing sector. As I pointed out earlier, the speculative effect coupled with the poor regulatory structures in the industry accelerated the slide towards depression. The speculative tendencies and the boom psychology acted as an incentive e for borrowers to borrow heavily leading to excessive liquidity in the market.economy of the United States.
The rate of unemployment across the globe shot up at an alarming rate with more and more Americans filing for unemployment benefits. By 1932, an estimated 25 to 30% of the total workforce had lost employment in the United States. The case was similar in other nations especially Germany where almost an equal proportion of the workforce at 30% was left with no jobs as a result of the fall in the manufacturing sector. This had adverse effects on the economic and political structure of the country. The liberal democrats lost popularity leading to the rise of Adolph Hitler to power fin 1933. He led the country out of depression with the introduction of sweeping changes in the economy that led to the conversion of industries from the production of civilian goods to armaments. Equally, there was a change of guard in the United States with the election of Fredrick Roosevelt to the presidency in 1932. He introduces several radical changes in the economy which achieved modest results in the initial, stages but bore fruits towards the beginning 2nd world war which marked the end of the depression.
The global economic meltdown can thus be attribut4d to many of the changes in the world that occurred between the period 1929 to 1939 worldwide.
Kelly, M. Top 5 Causes of the Great Depression.
Wade, R. The Russian Revolution. Web.