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World War I

Aftermath and Reckoning

World War I and the resulting peace treaties (see Versailles, Treaty of; Saint-Germain, Treaty of; Trianon, Treaty of; Neuilly, Treaty of; Sèvres, Treaty of) radically changed the face of Europe and precipitated political, social, and economic changes. By the Treaty of Versailles Germany was forced to acknowledge guilt for the war. Later, prompted by the Bolshevik publication of the secret diplomacy of the czarist Russian government, the warring powers gradually released their own state papers, and the long historical debate on war guilt began. It has with some justice been claimed that the conditions of the peace treaties were partially responsible for World War II. Yet when World War I ended, the immense suffering it had caused gave rise to a general revulsion to any kind of war, and a large part of mankind placed its hopes in the newly created League of Nations.

To calculate the total losses caused by the war is impossible. About 10 million dead and 20 million wounded is a conservative estimate. Starvation and epidemics raised the total in the immediate postwar years. Warfare itself had been revolutionized by the conflict (see air forces; chemical warfare; mechanized warfare; tank).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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