At the end of the Second World War, the United States of America emerged as the wealthiest society in human history. The contrast from the 1930s was stark; Britain, France and Germany had emerged from the great depression between 1933 and 1934, whereas mass unemployment was still prevalent in America in 1939. New industries, massive government help in the guise of the GI Bill for returning servicemen and a youthful population that had been unique across the world in actually experiencing rising living standards during the war all created the conditions for an enormous post war boom. America’s competitors in Europe and Asia were either physically devastated or, like Britain, mired in debt. The fact that America also emerged as a creditor nation meant that the post war generation would be fortunate to benefit from decades of prosperity. Many who had lived through the depression did not see it that way and there were fears of a return to depression once the war had ended and government orders for armaments dried up. By 1948, when no downturn had occurred, a shift in public attitudes was recorded and consumer confidence lifted America into a consumer boom, buoyed by cheap oil and credit that eventually fell away into recession in the 1970s.
This is a quick post for history students focusing on Nazi Germany. I’ve created some
notes to download on the origins of the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei), the Nazi Secret State Police. Secret political police forces in Germany existed before Hitler came to power and were amalgamated into the Gestapo, which fell under the auspices of the the SS by the mid 1930s. The Gestapo is a much mythologised institution, it was relatively small compared to the population it had to police and would not have been able to operate effectively without German citizens ready to denounce each other. You can download study notes by clicking on the link below:
In the three years before the First World War, the Liberal Government, which had swept to power on a platform of social reform in 1906, faced unprecedented challenges and unrest. Foreign commentators saw the problems of Ireland, trade union militancy and the suffrage movement and assumed Britain might well be sliding towards a civil war. The First World War gave the Liberals a stay of execution, but the machinations of Chancellor David Lloyd George against the weak and indecisive Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, combined with the pressures that conscription and the Defence of the Realm Act placed on the basic beliefs of Edwardian Liberals left the party in tatters by 1918. For more on this watch the video below:
Throughout the Second World War, Winston Churchill favoured a ‘Mediterranean Strategy’, believing that the ‘soft underbelly’ of Hitler’s Europe was Italy, Greece and the Balkans. By 1945, as the German occupiers of Greece withdrew in the face of a possible Red Army invasion Winston Churchill prioritised a British occupation of Greece to ensure that there was no possibility of a communist takeover. He had agreed with Stalin that Greece would fall into a British sphere of influence when the two leaders met in Moscow in 1944. Stalin had little interest in Greece and was happy to keep to the agreement, knowing that dominating Poland was a far greater prize.
The Watergate Scandal is the first thing most people think of when Richard Nixon’s name is mentioned. Whilst this was the defining point of his presidency, the shadow it casts blots out other important aspects of the years from 1968 to 1974. Nixon’s very own Cardinal Wolsey, Henry Kissinger, came to exert an enormous amount of power in the White House. He was able to bypass the normal channels of American diplomacy and attempted, with immense violence across much of Asia, to dig the USA out of a series of foreign policy quagmires. The Cold War was in deadlock, America was bogged down in Vietnam and Kissinger had to deliver to his master a foreign policy triumph, even though Nixon was for the most part disinterested in the art of diplomacy.
There had possibly been no president in American history as untested and unsure as Harry Truman. The death of Franklin D. Roosevelt came at a critical moment in the final stages of the Second World War and the emerging Cold War with the USSR. It also came as Roosevelt’s dream of a world organisation to regulate international affairs, the UN, was coming to fruition. Truman had virtually no experience in diplomacy, which Roosevelt himself had lived and breathed, but this didn’t mean that the new president had no understanding of how to deal with the USSR. His brusque, abrupt and uncompromising attitude was a welcome breath of fresh air to many in the White House who believed that the Soviets had been appeased by Roosevelt for too long.
The October Revolution of 1917 was at once a break with the past, a new beginning and an end of history, three ideas encapsulated within the dialectic of Marxism and the Hegelian eschatology that Marx’s ideas were based upon. A revolution staged by a radical intelligentsia who claimed to have correctly interpreted the processes of history itself was unprecedented, and because of this it would present specific philosophical and aesthetic challenges to the revolution’s heirs who set about building a new society on the ruins of the old.
The revolution of October 1917 had been a based around what its practitioners believed was a scientific analysis of the laws of history. Lenin was focused in his 1902 treatise on revolution ‘What is to be done’, on where Russia stood in its historical development, where exactly in history she was. The conclusion that he reached was that Russia was mired in here own backward peasant past and that a historical ‘short cut’ was necessary to jolt her into the future[i]. This short cut would be the coup of October 1917 and the state built thereafter would construct socialism, thus ushering in the final phase of human existence, Communism.
The First World War had pushed British rule in India close to collapse and had arguably made home rule or dominion status only a matter of time. During the Second World War the Quit India campaign manifested itself as open rebellion against Britain and the subsequent famine in Bengal discredited Churchill’s wartime government in the eyes of much of the population. By 1945 the pressures that Japan’s war against Britain’s Asian Empire had placed on the colonial rulers had made the end of empire an inevitability. Not only had the British failed to show their martial prowess against Japan, but the war had revolutionised Indian society, seen the development of a huge war industry and a powerful Indian army of over a million men had been primarily responsible for taking the fight to the Japanese. The consequences of this for British rule were catastrophic. Listen to the podcast here for more: