Was the Second World War Inevitable?

2454 words (10 pages) Essay in History

08/02/20 History Reference this

Disclaimer: This work has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work produced by our Essay Writing Service. You can view samples of our professional work here.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.

‘The Second World War was inevitable from the moment World War One ended’.  

When discussing the links between the end of World War One and the beginning of World War Two, it is key to call into question its inevitability, or indeed its unlikeliness. This essay will outline and discuss the issues arising in the time separating the two events, and if these affected the occurrence of The Second World War.

To a modern audience, we recognise World War One as a total war, which caused immense devastation not only in terms of the amount of lives lost, but also to the land and the psychosis of those involved and those at home. H.A Clement describes the aftermath of World War One,

Nearly a million men from the British Empire alone had lost their lives; the causalities of France, Russia, Germany, and Austria were considerably more. This loss of a generation, with the aftermath of disease, starvation, and homelessness, was the real cost of war[1]

When looking at these horrifying results of a horrifying war, it is easy to call into question why this would be repeated. Despite these results, in many ways, another war did seem inevitable. The period immediately following the conclusion of World War One was like a pot slowly boiling. The end of World War One heated up the ensuing atmosphere.

Therefore, the Treaty of Versailles is, if not one of the most important factors when discussing the outbreak of World War Two. It was a watershed in that it was one of the main and dominating treaties enacted after the war concluded and H.A Clement confirms this saying , ‘it was the most important of the whole group (of treaties)’.[2] It had the most lasting effects on the post war world. Due to its being a diktat, it was not well received by Germany. There were many reasons for Germany’s discontent at not only the bill, but at the actual organisation of the Peace Settlement itself. An early touch of contempt for the treaty was in the simple fact that, ‘The Germans were not allowed to attend the meetings’.[3] Each member present had their own individual aims and desires to come from the treaty, which was ‘the work mainly of three men’, these three men being, Woodrow Wilson, George Clemenceau, and David Lloyd-George. [4] John Martell tells us that ‘The different outlooks of these men, together with the practical difficulties they faced, contributed to the nature of the treaty’s terms’.[5]

Despite Germany’s disgust at the treaty, Dr Ruth Henig argues that it wasn’t the worst treaty to be enacted during this period. ‘Compared to the treaties which Germany had imposed on defeated Russia and Romania in 1918, the Treaty of Versailles was quite moderate’. [6] Notwithstanding Dr Ruth Henig’s argument, she also claims that many Germans were ‘incensed’ [7] not only with the treaty, but at the surprise of the German defeat, ‘since the German army, though ultimately defeated in the west, had been victorious on the eastern front’.[8] Despite the aims of Woodrow Wilson in his desire for ‘world peace’,[9] we could argue that his aims, although, in theory far reaching and positive, the allies became aware that it ‘proved impossible to frame a treaty which would satisfy the demands of the French and British populations for a punitive treaty and comply with German conceptions of a fair and ‘Wilsonian’ peace’.[10] Through the articles of the treaty Germany lost colonies, land, armed forces and was forced to pay reparations, however there was one part of the treaty which was hated most of all, clause 231, or the ‘War Guilt Clause’. Dr Ruth Henig tells us that, ‘

In the frenzied post-war atmosphere, politicians from all (German) parties agreed that the treaty, and in particular its despised “War Guilt” clause, was vindictive, unfair and impossible to execute. They portrayed it as an unjust peace, and appealed to progressive forces across Europe to help them revise it[11]

This led to the breakdown of the coalition which had defeated Germany and ‘Within a year, the United States Senate had rejected the Treaty of Versailles and signed a separate peace with Germany, leaving Britain and France bitterly opposed over how to proceed’.[12] With Britain following a conciliatory route, France stuck to their desire to crush Germany, therefore strictly keeping to the terms of the treaty.

In terms of the Treaty of Versailles moreover, we could clearly argue that it was a major factor in the outbreak of World War Two as it not only made Germany bitter and determined to reassert herself, it also divided the main powers over its terms. John Martell relates to us that, ‘Marshal Foch prophesied accurately when he said that the Treaty of Versailles represented nothing more than an armistice for twenty years’. [13]

Although in the years following the First World War there was growth and some return to prosperity, ‘This recovery, however, was precarious and depended mainly on loans from the United States’.[14] However this state of growth, however unstable, was not to last. Between 1929 and 1933 the economic depression hit and wrecked any kind of recovery and the ‘international atmosphere was poisoned by events in Germany’.[15] This economic slump did nothing to improve confidence or livelihoods and increased the ‘disillusionment with democracy’[16] as seen in the many movements towards authoritarian governments and Britain and France were the only major states in which democracy continued to exist.

The diplomacy of the Western powers after World War One had failed to prevent aggression and discontent following 1918. During the late twenties the relationship between France and Germany began to strengthen through their two respective leaders during this period, Briand and Stresemann. With the Locarno in 1925 and the Kellogg-Briand Pact in 1928, John Martell tells us that for a brief period during the late twenties that ‘the Great War had really been the war to end all wars’.[17]

Although the actions of France and Britain in their decision to appease, politically and economically the ‘aggressive actions of Germany’[18] may have been seen as weak, we could argue that this was an attempt to prevent ‘the horror of war’[19] reoccurring again. Therefore both Germany and Italy had a free hand to achieve their territorial ambitions due to this lack of action by the international powers. Also, due to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which were viewed as harsh and unjustified by the majority, many felt that Germany’s claims to these expansions were justified and that ‘to fight against them would be merely to defend an unjust treaty’.[20] The lack of contact with Russia did also not help matters during this period, whose policy to Europe was rather hostile during this interwar period, although they made a favourable step in joining the League of Nations and making an alliance with France in 1935.

In spite of these brewing tensions, we could argue that the most significant failure of the Powers was the subsequent failure of the League of Nations.

With its failures in terms of its, ineffectiveness in Abyssinia, appeasement, the Hoare-Laval proposals, by 1938 the weakness of the organisation was clear. ‘By 1937 the three major dictatorships, Germany, Japan, and Italy had left the League’.[21]

With the ineffectiveness of the League and the growing power of Germany under the Hitler it seemed inevitable that some form of conflict was inevitable. One factor that could have possibly stopped the occurrence of war would have been the ending of Hitler’s aggressive demands on Poland, as it was certain that the allies would rush to her defence if Poland was attacked.

Therefore it is easy to argue that the effects following World War One and the tensions between the interwar period, caused the pot of tensions to boil over into World War Two. However, historians differ in the interpretations on the causes of the war as there are many that could be sited. The cause could be placed on the Treaty of Versailles, in that their harsh terms made the German desire to change them, be seen as justifiable. The western policy of appeasement towards Germany and Hitler could also be blamed. France and Britain could also be blamed for their lack of effort to improve relations with Russia. Their lack of response to Russia’s calls for collective security not only created a feeling of mistrust, but also a fear of communism, this caused the Nazi- Soviet Pact, which R.D Cornwell argues, ‘precipitated the war’. Hitler as an individual is often blamed, R.D Cornwell comes down on this side of the argument, ‘It was his unscrupulous, ruthless and aggressive policies which plunged the world into six years of devastating warfare’.[22]

With all these pressures presenting themselves so early after the devastating First World War it is hardly surprising that the second conflict came in being. If we look at it another way, some analysts and historians would argue that it was inevitable because of human nature. E. O Wilson believes in this theory, he claims that, ‘Human evolution has been defined by conflict. War is embedded in our very nature’.[23]

Despite these theories, it is easy to argue the inevitability of World War Two not only by the snowball effect of the turmoil following World War One, but also due to the actions of individuals, or indeed, lack of action.

Bibliography

Primary

  • Cornwell, R.D. World History in the Twentieth Century. Essex: Longman House 1969
  • Martell, John. The Twentieth- Century World. London: Harrap London 1969
  • Clement, H.A. British History 1865-1965. London: Harrap London 1966

Secondary

  • Fawcett, Bill. You Said What? Lies and Propaganda Throughout History. New York : Harper 2007

Internet Sources

Primary

Secondary


[1] H.A Clement, British History 1865-1965 (London: Harrap London 1966) 101-102

[2] H.A Clement, British History 1865-1965 (London: Harrap London 1966) 102

[3] H.A Clement, British History 1865-1965 (London: Harrap London 1966) 102

[4] H.A Clement, British History 1865-1965 (London: Harrap London 1966) 102

[5] John Matell, The Twentieth-Century World (London: Harrap London 1969) 37

[6] BBC History, “BBC History – World War One – Negotiations Begin,” BBC Online, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwone/versailles_01.shtml (accessed 30/10/13)

[7] BBC History, “BBC History – World War One – Germany Incensed,” BBC Online, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwone/versailles_01.shtml (accessed 30/10/13)

[8] BBC History, “BBC History – World War One – Germany Incensed,” BBC Online, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwone/versailles_01.shtml (accessed 30/10/13)

[9] H.A Clement, British History 1865-1965 (London: Harrap London 1966) 102

[10] BBC History, “BBC History – World War One – Negotiations Begin,” BBC Online, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwone/versailles_01.shtml (accessed 30/10/13)

[11] BBC History, “BBC History – World War One – Negotiations Begin,” BBC Online, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwone/versailles_01.shtml (accessed 30/10/13)

[12] BBC History, “BBC History – World War One – A Stab in the Back,” BBC Online, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwone/versailles_01.shtml (accessed 30/10/13)

[13] John Martell, The Twentieth-Century World (London: Harrap London 1969) 160

[14] R.D Cornwell, World History in the Twentieth Century (Essex: Longman Group 1969) 29

[15] R.D Cornwell, World History in the Twentieth Century (Essex: Longman Group 1969) 29

[16] R.D Cornwell, World History in the Twentieth Century (Essex: Longman Group 1969) 30

[17] John Martell, The Twentieth-Century World (London: Harrap London 1969) 160

[18] John Martell, The Twentieth-Century World (London: Harrap London 1969) 161

[19] John Martell, The Twentieth-Century World (London: Harrap London 1969) 161

[20] John Martell, The Twentieth-Century World (London: Harrap London 1969) 161

[21] John Martell, The Twentieth-Century World (London: Harrap London 1969) 163

[22] R.D Cornwell, World History in the Twentieth Century (Essex: Longman Group 1969) 56

[23] Discover Magazine, “Discover Magazine: Is War Inevitable?” Discover Magazine 2012 Articles, http://discovermagazine.com/2012/jun/07-is-war-inevitable-by-e-o-wilson (accessed 30/10/13)

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Find out more

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have the essay published on the UK Essays website then please:

McAfee SECURE sites help keep you safe from identity theft, credit card fraud, spyware, spam, viruses and online scams Prices from
£124

Undergraduate 2:2 • 1000 words • 7 day delivery

Order now

Delivered on-time or your money back

Rated 4.6 out of 5 by
Reviews.co.uk Logo (188 Reviews)