Chapter 6 - Chapter 6 War Revolution and Depression...

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Chapter 6 War, Revolution, and Depression, 1914-1939 Overview In 1914 the Great War broke out in Europe. Expected to be a short conflict, it lasted four long, agonizing years, devastating the economies of the countries involved, re-drawing the map of Europe, and setting off revolution and depression in its aftermath. Some ten million people lost their lives in the most terrible war Europeans had seen up to that time. The first total war, in which civilian populations could not remain separate from the fighting taking place on the various frontlines, it was also a war unprecedented in its prosecution: this was not a war of cavalry officers on horseback leading infantrymen armed with bayoneted rifles but one of industrial onslaught against an immobile foe. The victor would be determined not by the brilliance of his strategy or the effective implementation of his plan, but by the number of enemies he could kill before his own forces were destroyed. This was a war of attrition, in which battles fought for months at a time at the expense of millions of casualties yielded little advance. Its awfulness would haunt its belligerents for decades to come. For the Great War was one of those rare events that transformed the course of history: without it, the Russian Revolution would not have occurred the way it did; the Great Depression of the 1930s would likely have been avoided; fascism would not have prevailed in Germany and Italy; the Holocaust could not have taken place; and World War II would not have engulfed the nations of the globe. The Coming of the Great War Bismarckian Diplomacy During his tenure as imperial chancellor, Bismarck raised Germany to a position of pre-eminence in Europe. Presiding like a sort of “secular Zeus” over German and European politics he acted in such a way as to convince the other great powers of the unselfish and pacific aims of German foreign policy. At home his authority in foreign affairs was uncontested; abroad, his skill as a statesman was unrivalled. In all the European capitals he was considered indispensable to the political stability of the continent and was respected accordingly. Bismarck was acutely aware that Germany’s new-found strength after 1871 alarmed the other great powers and he set out on a course designed to calm their fears. Having made tremendous territorial gains in the three wars leading to unification, Germany, Bismarck believed, was satiated. Further European or colonial expansion would serve only to threaten and provoke the other powers against it. In order to consolidate its position and take advantage of its remarkable economic growth, the European peace must be maintained. The obstacles to that aim—a drastically altered balance of power on the continent, and a vengeful France looking for the recovery of Alsace and Lorraine—could be overcome by shrewd diplomatic maneuvering. The first Bismarck managed to eliminate by convincing Europe of Germany’s pacific intentions. His aims in regard to
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This note was uploaded on 03/18/2009 for the course HIST 1020 taught by Professor Vavara during the Fall '07 term at Colorado.

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Chapter 6 - Chapter 6 War Revolution and Depression...

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