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11-08-2015, 17:16

HISTORIANS' RETROSPECTIVE

Some historians, among them George Kennan, see the war as the source from which flowed all of the violent calamities of the twentieth century. It helped produce the Russian Revolution and the prolonged separation of the greatest power in eastern Europe from the rest of the continent. It embittered the German people, opening the way for Adolf Hitler's rise to power and thus making World War II virtually inevitable. It shattered the political and economic stability of eastern Europe, creating a battleground for both the Nazi regime of Hitler and the Communist dictatorship of Joseph Stalin. i Economic historian Patrick O'Brien adds the quieter but likewise painful consequence of chaos in the world's markets and stagnation or decline in the prosperity of nations. "The war and its aftermath," he notes, "seriously disrupted a highly successful liberal international order that took about three decades to put together again."2 John Steele Gordon puts the same catastrophic story in a larger scheme. He calls the war one of the great discontinuities in world history, devastating European culture and destroying any sense of confidence in the future. It split the eras before and after it in a way comparable only to such sweeping calamities as "the volcanic explosion that destroyed Minoan civilization on the island of Crete about 1500 B.C. or the sudden arrival of the conquistadors in the New World three thousand years later." To that doleful list, Arthur Marwick has added another large element. For decades after the Armistice, the war "bulked large in everyone's minds as the inescapable universal analogue. The war provided both precept and practice." Thus, not only fascists and communists used the lessons the war taught about how entire countries could be reorganized in time of real or ostensible emergency. Democratic governments could tap the same vein of experience in crises like the Great Depression of the 1930s.

 

 

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