What Was The Impact Of World War I?
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World War I (1914–18), also called the Great War, caused social and economic disruptions. Throughout the world people tried to recover from the tremendous loss of life and destruction of communities that had taken place during the worldwide conflict. More than 10,000,000 soldiers had died during the war, and some 20,000,000 were injured. A worldwide influenza epidemic in 1918 and 1919 cost 500,000 more lives.
In general, the decade of the 1920s was a time of peace. After World War I, many nations created an organization called the League of Nations, whose purpose was to solve disputes among nations in a peaceful fashion. In 1928 representatives of fifteen nations (not including the United States) signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact (also called the Pact of Paris), agreeing to solve disputes through diplomacy, not military force.
In the United States, the 1920s became known as the "Roaring Twenties." It was a time of prosperity and frivolity, even though Congress had ratified the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibited the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages (this era was also called Prohibition). The prosperity and high spirits of the Roaring Twenties ended with the stock market crash in October 1929. Too many people had purchased too much on credit, and factories had produced too many products and were overstocked. As the United States struggled during a severe and long-lasting economic crisis called the Great Depression, other industrialized nations suffered similar economic downturns. In many countries unemployment reached record highs. Sustained drought in the south-central United States forced farmers off their land. To make matters worse, at this time no social service programs existed to help the poor, unemployed, or homeless.
As a result of this social and economic crisis, peace did not last. In 1931 Japan invaded Manchuria (China); in 1936 Italy conquered Ethiopia; between 1936 and 1939, civil war raged in Spain; and Indian nationalists protested British control of India. In Germany the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nazi Party), led by Adolf Hitler (1889–1945), rose to power. By 1933 Germany had become a dictatorship known as the Third Reich. In 1936 Germany, Italy, and Japan formed an alliance called the Axis Powers. Two years later the Nazi army marched into Austria, setting the stage for World War II (1939–45).
Further Information: Burg, David F. The Great Depression. New York: Facts On File, 1996; Farrell, Jacqueline. The Great Depression. San Diego: Lucent, 1996; Freeman, David K. The Great Depression in American History. Springfield, NJ: Enslow, 1997; King, David C., ed. The Roaring Twenties. Carlisle, MA, Discovery, 1997; Nardo, Don. Great Depression, San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1998.
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