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World Wars and Depression Review for AP World History (page 2)

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Mar 4, 2011

The Peace Settlements

Several peace treaties were signed following the war's end in November 1918; the most well known was the Treaty of Versailles between most of the Allied nations and Germany. As a result of the Treaty of Versailles:

  • A war guilt clause placed total blame for the war on Germany.
  • Germany was assigned reparations payments of $33 billion.
  • Germany lost its colonies.
  • Alsace and Lorraine were returned to France.
  • Germany's military power was severely limited.
  • The coal-rich Rhineland was demilitarized.
  • A League of Nations was established to work for international peace. The dream of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, the League's future impact was weakened when the United States refused to join. (The United States later signed a separate peace treaty with Germany.) Also, Germany and Russia were forbidden to join the League.

Other Outcomes of World War I

Because of World War I:

  • An entire generation of young European men was almost wiped out.
  • Italy and Japan were angered at not receiving additional territory.
  • The Ottoman Empire was reduced to the area of present-day Turkey.
  • China lost territory to Japan and became a virtual Japanese protectorate.
  • The Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved.
  • The new nations of Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia were formed from Austria- Hungary. All three nations contained within their borders a variety of ethnic groups with their own nationalist aspirations.
  • Russia lost territory to Romania and Poland. Finland, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania gained their independence.
  • Poland was restored to the European map. A Polish Corridor was created to give Poland an outlet to the Baltic Sea.
  • The Ottoman Empire was divided into mandates with Great Britain controlling Iraq and Pakistan, and France acquiring Syria and Lebanon.

The Great Depression

The cost of war in Europe devastated the economies of European nations on both sides of the conflict. When Germany announced it was unable to make its reparations payments to the former Allies, Great Britain and France were unable to fully honor repayment of their war debts to the United States. The agricultural sector in Europe and the United States suffered from overproduction that resulted in a decline in farm prices. Farmers in Western Europe and the United States borrowed to purchase expensive farm equipment. Overproduction also resulted in lower prices on plantation-grown crops in Africa and Latin America.

As the economic situation in Europe worsened, banks began to fail. In 1929, when the economy and banking systems in the United States also crashed, the United States was unable to continue its loans to European nations. Global trade diminished, creating massive unemployment not only in Europe and the United States but also in Japan and Latin America.

The economic distress of the Great Depression created various reactions in the political arena. In the West, new social welfare programs broadened the role of government. In Italy and Germany, fascist governments developed. Japan's search for new markets was accompanied by increased imperial expansion.

World War II

Prelude to War

The fragmented political order that was the legacy of World War I combined with the economic distress of the Great Depression created the second global conflict of the twentieth century. Fascist governments (nationalist, one-party authoritarian regimes) arose in Germany and Italy. The Nationalist Socialist (Nazi) Party of Adolph Hitler sought to redress the humiliation Germany had suffered in the Treaty of Versailles and to expand German territory. Fascism in Italy under Benito Mussolini hoped to restore the lost glories of the state. In Japan, competition among extreme nationalists led to the rise of military rule in the 1930s.

Military expansionist policies during the depression created the stage for war:

  • In 1931, the Japanese invaded Manchuria. The goal was to create a buffer zone between the Soviet Union and the Japanese and to make Manchuria's coal and iron deposits available to resource-poor Japan.
  • In 1935, Hitler began to rearm Germany.
  • In 1935, Mussolini invaded Ethiopia.
  • In 1936–1939, the Spanish Civil War brought into power the fascist regime of Francisco Franco. It served as a dress rehearsal for World War II, as Germany and Italy aided Franco, while the Soviet Union sent supplies and advisers to his republican opponents.
  • In 1937, the Japanese invaded China, whose opposition was a threat to their presence in Manchuria. The event signaled the beginning of World War II in Asia.
  • In 1938, Hitler proclaimed Anschluss, or the unification of Austria with Germany.
  • In 1938, Hitler annexed the Sudetenland, the German-speaking Western portion of Czechoslovakia.
  • In 1938, the Munich Conference followed a policy of appeasement, in which Great Britain and France accepted Hitler's pledge to not take any further territory.
  • In 1939, Hitler annexed all of Czechoslovakia.
  • In 1939, Hitler signed a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union.
  • On September 1, 1939, Hitler attacked Poland, marking the beginning of World War II in Europe.
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