8.1 Context of 20th Century Global Conflicts

3 min readjanuary 18, 2023

Bretnea Turner

Bretnea Turner


Isabela Padilha Vilela

AP European History 🇪🇺

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Contextualizing the Unit 

The breakdown of the Concert of Europe allowed for territorial rivalries among European nations to arise and culminate in the world’s most deadly global conflicts. 19th century conflicts among European nations over imperialist goals created new rivalries and rekindled old ones. These rivalries spiraled into larger issues:
  • Nationalism began to divide empires
  • The Industrial Revolution spurred an arms race
  • Conflicts around Europe culminated in nations calling on their allies for war
Alliances divided Europe between the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance until the Russian Revolution forced them to revoke their involvement in the Triple Entente. After understanding the void left by Russia, the United States joined the war to aid the British and the French forces against Germany. The fresh forces, supplies, and aid of the US military ended WWI only a year later. The Paris Peace Conference severely punished the German government for its role in WWI, created the League of Nations to keep regional conflicts from erupting into global ones, and forced Germany into extreme debt.
Authoritarian dictators began consolidating power that had been previously dispersed from absolutist leadership by newly formed parliaments, constitutions, and other reforms. These dictators used the force of military, grand rhetoric in speeches, and played on the fears of others to come to power and enforce strict societal changes.
Leaders such as Francisco Franco in Spain, Benito Mussolini in Italy, and Adolf Hitler in Germany began stripping certain citizens of their rights, and effectively created a police state in each nation. Specifically, Hitler in Germany used the Great Depression to unify the German people, all the while mounting formidable alliances and rebuilding the German military to bring Germany back to its greatness before WWI.
Word War II, caused mainly by the unresolved issues of the Treaty of Versailles and the rise of Hitler in Germany, is the deadliest conflict in global history. Not only were there countless casualties of the war, the rise of fascism also saw the genocide of the Holocaust. The ruthless leadership of European leaders resulted in thousands of deaths. WWII ended after strategic Allied invasions of France and Italy, the deaths of both Mussolini and Hitler, and the US used atomic weapons to force a Japanese surrender.

Outcomes of WWII

In post-WWII, there was an intense ideological battle that was enhanced by the stresses of economic collapse and engendered conflicts between the European states. The failure of the League of Nations led to the creation of the United Nations 🇺🇳 and its main goal was to avoid future wars and promote cooperation. Economic hardship impacted Europe after WWII, and many nations saw themselves indebted to the United States, but many were unable to pay their loans completely.
There was an intense transformation in the European demographics after the conflict, which occurred due to a change in tradition and social patterns. Besides the tremendous suffering brought forward from WWI and WWII, the overall standard of living of European individuals improved in the 20th Century.

Main Events

1914: Outbreak of WWI
1917: Russian Revolution
1917: US joins WWI
1919: Paris Peace Conference, end of WWI
1925: Benito Mussolini comes to power in Italy
1927: Joseph Stalin comes to power in the Soviet Union 
1929: US stock market crash
1932: Franklin Roosevelt is elected US President
1933: Adolf Hitler becomes German Chancellor 
1935: Nuremberg Laws passed in Germany
1939: Spanish Civil War ends, Francisco Franco becomes dictator
1939: Germany and Soviet Union invade Poland, WWII begins
1940: Winston Churchill is re-appointed Prime Minister of Great Britain 
1941: Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, US joins WWII
1943: Battle of Stalingrad
1944: D-Day Invasion
1945: Atomic bombs are dropped in Japan, WWII ends
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