Chapter 8 - Chapter 8: The Cold War and Decolonization,...

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Chapter 8: The Cold War and Decolonization, 1945-1960 Overview The second world war proved to be the culmination of events that transformed the place of Europe in the world. From a position of pre-eminence in 1914, the nations of Europe over the course of the next thirty years fought what amounted to a great civil war, during which they lost their economic, financial, military, political, and diplomatic supremacy to the United States and the Soviet Union, till the continent emerged from World War II divided and in ruins. A new world had dawned, and it looked markedly different from that of Europe’s heyday. The contours of this new world reflected dramatic changes in the balance of power that had taken place between 1890 and 1945. The second industrial revolution and the transformation in social systems it spawned; new imperialism; the incredible social, political, and economic dislocations of the Great War; the rise of the United States and the USSR during the 1920s and ‘30s: all these developments helped to create a new world characterized by the dominance of two antagonistic superpowers over a European continent no longer comprised of national units so much as regional blocs. The Cold War While the Great War concluded with the Treaty of Versailles, which assessed responsibility for the war and allocated the territorial spoils to the victors, no such definitive agreement settled World War II. Instead, a series of meetings held in 1941, 1943, and 1945 among the allies to hash out the prosecution of the war provided the terms along which postwar agreements might be reached. Many of the provisions undertaken by the allied powers did become reality in the postwar period, but others were trumped by the facts on the ground as Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union established their presence and occupied the territories of eastern and central Europe taken from Germany. In 1941, before the US had even entered the war, Roosevelt and Churchill had met off the Newfoundland coast and had issued the Atlantic Charter, a document declaring that upon cessation of hostilities, all sovereign rights would be restored to those countries that had lost them to invading powers. The charter further proclaimed that all nations would have equal access to world trade and world resources, and that all nations would work cooperatively to improve living standards and achieve economic security for all peoples. In 1943, in Casablanca, the allies asserted that Germany must surrender unconditionally, a demand rendered moot by Hitler’s determination to fight to the bitter end; in Teheran that same year, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin discussed arrangements for the occupation and demilitarization of Germany, and began to plan for the creation of a League of Nations-like organization that would facilitate better international relations and help to prevent world war. By the time the allies met again in Yalta in February 1945, they were nearing victory over
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Chapter 8 - Chapter 8: The Cold War and Decolonization,...

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