The period 1914 to 1945 was the bloodiest and most destructive in European history. The period was characterized by wars, confrontations, and rivalry among nations.
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This rivalry led to World War I and World War II. Many people lost their lives during this period as nations rose against each other, property worth millions destroyed, and Europe’s hegemony lost (Heyman 32). The once mighty Europe was divided into two influential spheres. There emerged “Soviet” and Western spheres of influence, each pursuing different ideologies.
The period 1914 to 1945 is the bloodiest in the history of Europe since it is the period in which World War I and World War II occurred. World War II alone claimed approximated 22 million military and 40 million civilians, the highest number of casualties ever (Kirk 46). There are many reasons that drove Europe to war and brutal killings. Some of the reasons were misunderstandings among leaders that had lasted for decades, while others were a result of spontaneous reaction to aggression from other nations.
Though it is not possible to point a single reason for the aggression witnessed in Europe around 1914 to 1945, the following factors must have contributed greatly to the war. Formation of alliances by the countries played a great role in triggering the bloody war. Tension among European countries had long existed.
However, the rise of nationalism and imperialism furthered the tension among states forcing them to seek alliance with states considered friendly for fear of attack. Other countries soon “joined the race and formed alliances” to further their interests too (Martel 78). Germany first joined Austria-Hungary and were later joined Italy to form the Triple Alliance. Russia soon joined France to work together and protect each other if attacked. The Triple Entente Alliance was finally formed in 1904 when Britain joined France and Russia.
With support from alliance members, the countries were definitely craving for war. It was not long when the war begun pitting the Triple Alliance against the Triple Entente Alliance. Frankly, if the alliances never existed, the war could have been avoided. The tension that existed that eventually led to the European wars was also a result of imperialism. Imperialism pushed countries to colonize other countries and to form political empires that acted as overseas states for raw materials and market for finished products.
From the 15th century, European countries had begun colonizing other countries for industrial inputs and markets. However, the main contest came in 1870 when Britain, France, Italy and Germany almost clashed in the scramble for North American territory (Heyman 38). The same problem reoccurred in Africa as the scramble for partition continued. Many countries were discontent with their possessions while other like British had conquered too much for it to control.
This led to a bad feeling among the nations, which also contributed to the war. Rise of nationalism in the states was another reason for the war. People who spoke the same language, had a common historical origin, and cultural beliefs, viewed each other as family. This “family” feeling bonded them together and made them support their nation faithfully. Lee states that, “Leaders, in their bid to unite their people to join war, used nationalism to generate and consolidate their support” (113).
Nationalism was particularly popular in Germany, Italy, and Japan. It is worth noting that nationalism in Japan had been widespread as people diligently served their leaders without complaint. However, the German leader Bismarck, in his attempt to unite the Germans used their passion and love for war to his advantage. The rise of dictators to power in many countries in Europe was also another possible cause of the war.
The period of 1914-1945 saw the rise of dictators such as Stalin of Russia, Benito Mussolini of Italy, and Adolf Hitler of Germany. These leaders ruled with iron feast and wanted to assert their authority in the entire European region. This made them recruit many soldiers to help in conquering new lands and extending their territories. Eventually, this greed and desire for fame and control brought them to conflict with other European nations. In 1937, Japan invaded and subdued the republic of China, which angered many European nations.
In 1939, German’s aggressive behavior eventually brought all European nations against each other when she attacked Poland and Soviet Russia. Officially, the declaration of World War II followed the two aggressive attacks that lead to great destruction of property. Arms race among the nations was also a direct cause of the war that led to the brutal killings in Europe. By 1914, Britain was the largest empire by both size and wealth (Martel 78).
The German king of the time, Kaiser William II, was not impressed with Britain’s superiority. He invested heavily in building of warships to rival Britain. This made Britain to build even more ships and to increase her navy to remain superior arms wise. The result was a competition that only increased tension and readiness for war. With such developed weapons, the countries were ready to go to war at the slightest instigation.
The attempt to stop the rise of communism by Central and Western European powers also sparked the war. In November 1917, radical Bolsheviks rose to power in Russia. Further, they moved to topple other regimes like Hungary and Bavaria, which they occupied briefly. Seeing the activities of this violent communist group rising and rising, the central and western European countries had to move in to stop them for they feared that the revolutions would move to their countries.
The decision was a grave mistake as other militia groups and nations joined the race. The immediate cause of European countries conflict was the assassination of Franz Ferdinand by G. Principe. What followed the assassination was retaliation and war that lasted for years. The assassination easily sparked war since the countries had been in tension for some time. The tension among nations was a time bomb waiting to explode.
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The arms race provided weapons while the colonies provided capital, seriously fueling the war and increasing the number of casualties. The result was a brutal, ruthless and bloody killing of innocent people. In conclusion, it is evident that the civil war that engulfed Europe in the period 1914 to 1945 was surely divesting. The war was especially notable for the political rift it created between nations.
Thousands of people, both soldiers and civilians, lost their lives. Despite the effort made after 1945 to unite the European nations, the damage done could not be repaired. For centuries, it will still be bitter memories for the descendants of those who perished in the war. Some of the effects of that war still exist especially in Japan where the United States of America dropped bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Heyman, Neil M. World War I. London: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1997. Print.
Kirk, D. Europe’s Population in the Interwar Years. New York: Taylor & Francis, 1969. Print.
Lee, Stephen J. European dictatorships, 1918-1945. 2nd. London: Routledge, 2000. Print.
Martel, Gordon. A Companion to Europe 1900-1945. 10th. Califonia: John Wiley and Sons, 2010. Print.