Modern European Essay Number Two

Modern European Essay Number Two - To rise, Phoenix-like...

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To rise, Phoenix-like from the ashes, or to perpetuate status quo: Europe in the Post War Period During the 1950’s Oxford professor, J.R.R Tolkien wrote a fantasy tale about a group of heroes who embarked upon a crusade to prevent evil from prevailing in their society. Many believe Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy represented events of WWII and the early Cold War period, but Tolkien adamantly insisted his books were fictional narratives which should be read for pleasure 1 . In a poem included in the beginning of the trilogy 2 , the heroes were shown what could come from a successful journey: “From the ashes a fire shall be woken,/ a light from the shadows shall spring;/ renewed shall be blade that was broken,/ the crownless again shall be king 3 .” This quote, which described how societies in peril one day could restore their greatness, can be applied to Europe in the post-war period. This period is known as a time when European countries emerged from the ashes of wartime, and developed bold policy initiatives to restructure, rebuild, and reorganize all aspects of their societies. The Second World War was a long, expensive, grueling conflict which forever changed the politics, economics and cultures of many 1 Tolkien Biography , The Tolkien Library, 2 J.R.R Tolkien The Fellowship of the Ring 3 J.R.R. Tolkein, “All That is Gold Does Not Glitter”, lines 5-8,
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Historian Tony Judt argued WWII was longer and impacted more people than WWI 4 , “No other conflict in recorded human history killed so many people so short a time 5 ”. Six years of intense combat left European countries deeply indebted, with millions dead, wounded, or permanently traumatized. In France, Germany and Benelux regions hundreds of villages were destroyed and left without roads, railways or reliable infrastructure 6 . To make matters worse, Soviet troops, many of who’d never traveled beyond their impoverished peasant roots, advanced into Western Europe and saw pleasures it offered –electricity, consumer goods, and vulnerable women. Historians chronicle how many Soviet soldiers couldn’t curb their enthusiasm, and made off with as much of Western culture as they could carry, Judt described this frenzy and said, “On its route west the Red Army raped and pillaged in Hungry, Romania, Slovakia and Yugoslavia; but German suffered by far the worst. Between 150,000 and 200,000 ‘Russian babies were born in the Soviet-occupied zone of Germany in 1945-6 7 . The situation immediately following the end of combat was harsh for many, but by 1948 a strange phenomenon began to happen; European countries, particularly West Germany began to see high economic growth. Professor Barry Eichengreen covered the period of post-war economic expansion and wrote, “By 4 Tony Judt, Post War
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This note was uploaded on 05/25/2011 for the course HISTORY 136 taught by Professor Schultheiss during the Spring '11 term at GWU.

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Modern European Essay Number Two - To rise, Phoenix-like...

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