World War I
The World War I had an international character, because involved imperial poker: Germany and Austro-Hungarian on one side an British and France on other. When in 1914 a Serbian nationalist killed the Austrian archduke, the World War I officially started. The new features of the world were the mobilization of masses of conscripted soldiers and a great advance in military technology. In 1917 the US entered the conflict and exhausting Germany’s supplies and willpower. The conflict became unlimited in part because the expansions of Western powers had led to the complete fusion of politics with economics. In war, as in business, the aim became that of destroying the competition and gaining total dominance. At the end, only US hadn’t negative consequences from the world, in fact the other powers were politically and economically destroyed. With the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, the Allied powers aimed at preventing Germany from building up its military machine again.
The Russian Revolution
Imperial Russia, which was also involved in the fight against the German-Austro Hungarian alliance, saw the eruption of the most significant revolution of the century, when the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917, led by Lenin, forced Tsar Nicholas II’s regime to abdicate and established a communist government in its place. The early years of revolution represented for Russia’ s oppressed (and starved) masses a period of construction, hope and new art experimentation. Successful Lenin’s successor Stalin established a reign of terror that led to the death or imprisonment of millions of Russian’s.
The cost of war and the desire for peace
In 1916 after the loss of 20,000 British soldiers on the first day of the battle of the Somme most people in Britain like in all the combatant nations wanted the war to end as soon as possible. Antiwar feeling spread throughout other sectors of the population who believed that the League of Nations could become an instrument of world prevention. The fragile unity between the different elements anti-war movement was successful broke by the Nazi-regime born in Germany in spite of the support of intellectuals to anti-war movement.
Steps to independence
During the inter-war years Ireland took important steps towards independence. In 1918 Sinn Fein set up an Irish parliament in Dublin and proclaimed an Irish Republic. In 1919 the IRA was created and in 1920 a civil war exploded. The war ended with the establishment of the Irish Free State, while Ulster remained part of the UK. In the Britain’s overseas colonies, most notably in India, thanks to Gandhi, begin to arise movement based on the principles of non-violence and civil disobedience, whose aim was the Indian independence. The Indian’s independence, however, is reached much later than previously thought, on account of the country’s profound internal religious divisions.
The interwar years
The interwar years were characterized by a dark and ominous time. In fact there had been numerous industrial disputes and for this were introduced further reforms for a more just and equal society. This included in 1918 the Education Act, which made the obligation to attend school up to the age of 14, the possibility to continue also in secondary school and by Minister of Health, the health and national insurance services. Until 1929 had been established a Conservative government under Baldwin. In the following period had a greater successful the Labour Party, concurrently to a weakening of British economy and to a increasing unemployment and poverty, also new conflict arose between classes. In the European landscape, the World War I had resolved nothing: the values of liberal democracy were in crisis and the fear of the spread of communism prompted Conservatives government to ally themselves with the new Fascist parties of Hitler and Mussolini, believing there was a need for an authoritarian “new order”. An attempt was made to establish a balance of power with the formation of the League of Nations in 1919, which had the aims to secure the peaceful settlement against aggression, but it proved almost completely ineffectual as it lacked the backing of the US. Now the America was in fact the most powerful Nation thanks to the massive sums of money lent to the Nations, like Britain and France, economically in crisis for the war. A crucial moment was the Wall-Street-Crush which caused a world-wide depression, affecting in particular the Germany, in which Hitler was gaining rapidly popularity. He began to rebuilt the army, navy and air force, regained the territories Germany that had been confiscated at the Treaty of Versailles, and maintained momentarily a policy of appeasement towards Germany. But on 1939 Hitler invaded Poland and after two days Britain and France declared war to Germany.
Mass communication and the dream factory
New mass communications technology, in particular radio, created a new way of communication and diffusion of news, creating a social cohesion and community. So both radio and film also represented incomparably powerful tools of mass information and propaganda, a new way for vehicular public opinion. At the same time the cinema and newsreel made that the real direct experience was supplanted by represented experience. Cinema became popular especially during the years of the Great Depression, when cinema tickets were cheaper and movies, mostly products of the Hollywood “dream factory”, distracted people from the poverty and unemployment. Besides the chance for leisure and the enjoyment of life, the mass culture it was also a sign of an increasingly impersonal and potentially destructive reality, in fact favored the rise of Fascism in Germany and in Italy.