AP Euro Period 4 Review (1914-Present)

8 min readdecember 20, 2021

AP European History 🇪🇺

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Period 4: Total War, Cold War, & Realignment  (1914-present)

In AP European History, period 4 spans from 1914 to the present. The following guide will be updated periodically with hyperlinks to excellent resources. As you are reviewing for this era, focus on the key concepts!


STUDY TIP: You will never be asked specifically to identify a date. However, knowing the order of events will help immensely with cause and effect. For this reason, we have identified the most important dates to know.
1914-1918 - World War I
1917 - Russian Revolution
1918 - Treaty of Versailles ends WWI
1929 - Stock market crashes, Great Depression begins
1939-1945 - World War II in Europe
1945 - UN established
1949 - NATO formed
1957 - Sputnik launched
1961 - Berlin Wall built
1962 - Second Vatican Council
1968 - Prague Spring
1989 - Collapse of Berlin Wall
1991 - Breakup of Soviet Union
1992 - Maastricht Treaty created European Union
1999 - European currency introduced (the Euro)
2000 - Putin elected President of Russia

Past Essay Questions from Period 4

STUDY TIP: Content from the this era has appeared on the essays nineteen times since 2010. Take a look at these questions before you review the key concepts & vocabulary below to get a sense of how you will be assessed. Then, come back to these later and practice writing as many as you can!
*The AP European History exam was significantly revised in 2016, so any questions from before then are not representative of the current exam format. You can still use prior questions to practice, however DBQs will have more than 7 documents, the LEQ prompts are worded differently, and the rubrics are completely different. All prompts from 1999-2015 can be found here.


*The following outline was adapted from the AP European History Course Description as published by College Board in 2019 found here. This outline reflects the most recent revisions to the course.

4.1. Political evolution of the 20th century

1. World War I was caused by complex factors and resulted in immense loses.
  1. Causes for WWI included militarism, webs of alliances, nationalism, and imperialism.
  2. New military technologies led to trench warfare and massive casualties (machine gun, barbed wire, submarine, airplane, poison gas, tanks).
  3. Prolonged stalemate, national mobilization, & total war led to protest & insurrection.
  4. WWI in Europe spread to non-European theaters (Armenian Genocide).
  5. European global power shifted after WWI with the emergence of the US as a world power and the collapse of European empires.
2. Post-WWI negotiations attempted to balance global peace with desire for retribution.
  1. Idealism and revenge clashed at Versailles.
  2. The League of Nations was created to prevent future wars, but was weak.
  3. Treaty of Versailles assigned guilt and heavy reparations  to Germany
3. Between the wars, fascism, nationalism, and racism resulted in WWII.
  1. Fascist states rearmed and expanded as they exploited deep distrust between nations, American isolationism, fears of another war.
  2. The Axis powers had early victories with Germany’s blitzkrieg and Japan’s attacks.
  3. The Allies were eventually victorious through innovation, cooperation, strong leadership, and resistance of civilians.
  4. Nazi Germany attempts to establish a “new racial order” culminated in the Holocaust.
4. The Cold War between the democratic West and communist East lasted from 1945-1991.
  1. Europe was divided by the “iron curtain’.
  2. The Cold War involved propaganda, proxy wars, covert actions.
  3. The US exerted strong influences in western Europe leading to the creation of global economic and political systems (NATO, IMF, World Bank, WTO, GATT).
  4. Countries in the east came under domination of the Soviet Union.
  5. The Cold War ended when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and capitalist economies were established across Eastern Europe.
5. Europe has been relatively peaceful since WWI with some exceptions.
  1. Nationalist violence (Ireland, Chechnya), separatist movements (Basque, Flemish), and ethnic cleansing (Bosnian Muslims).
6. Decolonization through diplomacy and military action ended European rule globally.
  1. Principles of self-determination after WWI influenced non-Europeans.
  2. German and Ottoman colonies in the Middle East were distributed to France and Great Britain through the Mandate System, which had lasting consequences.
  3. Many territories remained under European control until the mid-20th century despite nationalist movements (India, Vietnam, Indonesia).

4.2. Conflicts within European states

1. The Russian Revolution
  1. WWI exacerbated long-term problems in Russia, which created support for change.
  2. Lenin’s Bolshevik Revolution established a communist state.
  3. Civil War broke out between communist and non-communist forces.
  4. Lenin established a communist economy with some free-market principles, but Stalin’s program of rapid economic modernization had severe repercussions.
  5. Stalin established an oppressive political system with a devastating famine.
2. Rise of Fascism & Dictatorships
  1. Dictators used technology and charismatic propaganda to promote and glorify war.
  2. Mussolini and Hitler came to power by manipulating democracy, state terror, and exploiting post-war frustrations with political and economic instability.
  3. Franco came to power through Civil War and strong alliances with Mussolini & Hitler.
  4. Authoritarian dictatorships took power in central and eastern Europe.
3. The Great Depression weakened international trade and undermined western democracy.
  1. Economies worldwide were weakened by debt, tariffs, inflation, and overproduction.
  2. Dependence on American investment backfired when the US stock market crashed.
  3. Western democracies failed to overcome the depression through liberal policies.
4. After WWII, the welfare state expanded.
  1. The Marshall Plan financed the rebuilding of Western and Central Europe after WWII.
  2. Social welfare programs expanded after WWII, but became a contentious issue.
5. Eastern European states were repressed until after the fall of the Soviet Union.
  1. The populations of the Soviet bloc experienced central planning, suppression of freedoms, and constraints of emigration.
  2. Revolts around Eastern Europe in the 1950s and 1960s strengthened repressive totalitarian regimes.
  3. Gorbachev attempted to save the Soviet Union with political and economic reforms in the 1980s, but they failed to prevent its collapse.
  4. Most countries in the Soviet bloc experienced peaceful revolution in the 1980s and 1990s, with the exception of war and genocide in the Balkans.

4.3. Intellectual and cultural movements of the 20th century

1. Effects of anxiety after WWI
  1. Europeans were confident in their science and technologies before WWI.
  2. Effects of WWI and depression undermined confidence leading to postmodernism.
2. Science and technology had impressive benefits and disastrous consequences.
  1. Scientists challenged norms in every field, leading to nuclear power.
  2. Medicinal advancements extended life, but posed social and moral questions.
  3. Military technologies made total war, genocide, and the risk of nuclear war possible.
3. Organized religion continued to play a role, despite modern secularism.
  1. Christian churches responded in different ways to totalitarianism and communism.
  2. Reform in the Catholic Church redefined the church’s doctrine and relations with other religious communities.
  3. Increased immigration to Europe changed its religious makeup.

4.4. European society during the 20th Century

1. The 20th century was characterized by large-scale suffering and tremendous improvements.
  1. The Lost Generation after WWI fostered disillusionment and cynicism.
  2. WWII decimated an entire generation of Russian and German Men, destroyed European Jewry, and resulted in the mass murder of others targeted by the Nazis.
  3. Consumer culture improved standards of living on the back of mass production.
  4. New communication and transportation led to globalized culture (Internet).
2. Women in the 20th Century
  1. During the world wars, women became more involved in military, politics, and the labor force.
  2. Women finally gained suffrage and greater educational access.
  3. Economic recovery after WWII triggered the baby boom.
  4. Women had more options because of rights in marriage, divorce, and reproduction.
  5. Some women reached high political office and representation in legislative bodies.
3. New voices in political, intellectual, and social discourse.
  1. Green parties encouraged sustainable development to protect the environment.
  2. Social movements for women, gay liberation, and others worked for civil rights.
  3. Students reacted against materialism and authority through revolts.
  4. Anti-immigration policies spread as more people migrated to Europe after WWII.
4. Transnational unions grew in size in the second half of the 20th century.
  1. Europe became more integrated economically through the EEC then the EU.
  2. EU members continue to question sovereignty with economic union.


STUDY TIP: These are the concepts and vocabulary from period 4 that most commonly appear on the exam. Create a quizlet deck to make sure you are familiar with these terms!
  • Abstract Expressionism
  • Adolf Hitler
  • alliance system
  • Americanization
  • appeasement
  • arms race
  • Auschwitz
  • authoritarianism
  • baby boom
  • Balkan Genocide
  • Bauhaus modernism
  • Benito Mussolini
  • blitzkrieg
  • Bolshevik Revolution
  • Civil Rights Movements
  • Cold War
  • communism
  • consumer culture
  • Cubism
  • Dadaism
  • decolonization
  • De-Stalinization
  • economic central planning
  • ethnic cleansing
  • eugenics
  • European Economic Community
  • European Union
  • existentialism
  • fascism
  • February/March Revolution
  • feminism
  • Five Year Plan
  • Francisco Franco
  • Franz Kafka
  • Futurism
  • genocide
  • German Reunification
  • glasnost
  • globalization
  • Great Depression
  • Great Purge
  • Green Parties
  • guest workers
  • Gulags
  • Ho Chi Minh
  • Holocaust
  • Hungarian Revolution
  • IMF
  • Iron Curtain
  • John Maynard Keynes
  • Joseph Stalin
  • Korean War
  • Kulaks
  • League of Nations
  • Lost Generation
  • Mandate System
  • Margaret Thatcher
  • Marshall Plan
  • mass production
  • Mikhail Gorbachev
  • Munich Agreement
  • NATO
  • Nazi Germany
  • Nikita Khrushchev
  • nuclear proliferation
  • overproduction
  • Palestine
  • Paris Peace Conference
  • perestroika
  • pop art
  • Pope John Paul II
  • Popular Front (France)
  • postmodernism
  • proxy wars
  • purges
  • Russian Revolution of 1905
  • Schlieffen Plan
  • Second Vatican Council
  • self-determination
  • separatist movements
  • social welfare
  • Soviets
  • Spanish Civil War
  • Stock Market Crash
  • Surrealism
  • totalitarianism
  • total war
  • Treaty of Versailles
  • Ukrainian Famine
  • Vietnam War
  • Virginia Woolf
  • Vladimir Lenin
  • Wannsee Conference
  • War Guilt Clause
  • Warsaw Pact
  • Weimar Republic
  • Wilsonian idealism
  • World Bank
  • World War I

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🎨Unit 1 – Renaissance & Exploration
⛪️Unit 2 – Reformation
👑Unit 3 – Absolutism & Constitutionalism
🤔Unit 4 – Scientific, Philosophical, & Political Developments
🥖Unit 5 – Conflict, Crisis, & Reaction in the Late 18th Century
🚂Unit 6 – Industrialization & Its Effects
Unit 7 – 19th Century Perspectives & Political Developments
💣Unit 8 – 20th Century Global Conflicts
🥶Unit 9 – Cold War & Contemporary Europe
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