Results of World War One

Past Questions:
  • Analyse (a) the short-term results, and (b) the long-term results up to 1935, of the First World War. (May 2009)
  • Analyse the results of either the First World War or the Second World War. (May 2007)
  • Compare and contrast the results of the First World War and the Second World War. (May 2006)
  • Analyse the results of either the First World War or the Second World War. (May 2005)
  • Analyse the results of two wars, each chosen from a different region.(May 2004)


  • After 4 years of fighting an armistice was signed on November 11th 1918 to end the war. Germany surrendered hoping to secure a peace treaty on the basis of Wilson’s 14 points, leaving the Allies (chiefly Britain, France, USA and Italy as victors) as victors, and the Central Powers the defeated (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey). When the Allies met for the Paris Peace Settlements in 1919, to try and create a lasting peace and resolve the issues behind the war, they were facing a vastly changed Europe from that of 1914.

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Key political results of the war, domestically and internationally:
  • Political map of Europe re-drawn: collapse of four great empires in central and Eastern Europe (Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire). Following the Paris settlement, 9 new successor states emerged, including Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Yugoslavia. This meant the traditional balance of power was destroyed, replaced by a power vacuum of new unstable states undermined by ethnic rivalry within them.

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  • Collapse of imperial monarchy and rise of republicanism: Historian Niall Ferguson argues that the war saw a loss of faith in the monarchy in many states and “a triumph of republicanism undreamt of even in the 1790s”. Furthermore, the traditional assumption that traditional governing elites ‘knew best’ and had a ‘natural right’ to govern was shattered forever. Key examples of the effects this could have is the rise of radical fascist political movements in Germany and Italy in the interwar years.

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  • Continuity: surprising fact is the amount that the war did not change - i.e. Britain and France kept their empires and continued with colonial policies; and nationalism remained a powerful force in European politics.

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  • League of Nations set up as attempt to reform international relations: as part of the Paris Peace Settlements, and a central part of Wilson’s vision for a more ethical system of diplomacy than that which had contributed to war in 1914, a new international organization was set up in 1920 with its headquarters in Geneva.

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Key economic results of the war:
  • Massive economic cost: perhaps the greatest impact of the war was economic, given its huge cost of £34,000 million. This shattered the previous century’s economic progress. All powers had paid for the war though loans, and the need to repay these after the war created a difficult economic situation in the 1920s, especially in Germany where inflation quickly destroyed the currency and the savings of many middle-class Germans.

  • Physical damage caused by the war: also had a negative impact on the European economy, as large amounts of land and industry had been destroyed where the war was fought. This meant that manufacturing output decline dramatically. Taken together with the loss of trade and foreign investments over 4 years this left Europe facing economic crisis in 1919.
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  • Decline of Europe, rise of America: the European powers were indebted to America, who saw her share of world trade increase significantly in this period. This signified the decline of Britain and France as Great Powers, and the gradual emergence of USA as the world’s economic superpower.

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Key social results of the war:
  • Human cost and the ‘lost generation’: 8 million dead soldiers left a huge legacy of dependents (widows, children, war-wounded) that had to be supported by the state through pensions. Furthermore, in difficult conditions at the end of the war 5 million civilians died from disease, and 15 million died from a flu epidemic in 1918-9 in Europe as a whole.

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  • Improved position of trade unions and workers: given the government’s dependence upon industry for military production during the war, workers and organized labour (ie. trade unions) were able to seek greater social and political power. This led to improved pay and conditions, and in Britian various social legislation after the war, including social insurance benefits for unemployed workers and their families.

  • Improved position and social status of women: the demands of a ‘war economy’ brought women new employment opportunities in traditionally male-dominated roles, such as industry, engineering and transport - in Britain, an extra 1.5 million women entered the workforce. Though the war’s end and the return of the men meant that women were often forced back into the home, these new experiences increased their confidence and led to increasing demands for more opportunities in the future. Women also gained greater rights in society largely as a result of their contribution in the First World War - in Britain women were now allowed to train for new professions such as architects and lawyers, while in many counties women were given a political voice through receiving the vote.

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Morris and Murphy, pp. 182 - 184.
Morris and Murphy, pp. 182 - 184.

Rogers and Thomas, pp. 68-70, 85 - 86.
Rogers and Thomas, pp. 68-70, 85 - 86.