Impacts of the First World War was the most destructive war ever fought in human history. The World War of 1914 was the most disastrous event in the world. In a real sense, it was a great war in all aspects. Around thirty-six nations took part in it. More than sixty-five million soldiers fought in the war from both sides.
Also, the war kills about thirteen million people, twenty-two million wounded and about seven million lost their limbs. In fact, the world war was the first time in world history with many new modern weapons, submarines and poisonous gases were massively utilize. Although war came to an end, it has tremendous impacts.
The Economic Impacts of the First World War
The economic impact is one of the major impacts of the First World War. The First World War will always be famous for economic loss, wastage, and destruction. Near about ten billion rupees were directly spent over the war and nobody can estimate the indirect expenses undergone. The great economists of the world have opined that the average daily war expenses of England alone amounted to about 15 lakh pounds up to March 1915. Subsequently, it increases rapidly and reached the figure of forty lakh pounds in 1915-16, about fifty live lakh in 1916-17 and sixty-five lakh pounds in the year 1917-18,
By the end of the war, the national debt of England had increased very rapidly. The debt amounted to 74350 lakh pounds. In the same way, the national debt of France had totaled 1474720 lakh Francs. While the debt of Germany had been estimated at 1606000 lakh marks at the end of the war. Besides this, there were some other states like Northern France, Belgium, Northern Italy, Russian, Poland, Serbia, Austrian Galicia, etc. which were under the domination of big countries, and were completely ruined by the enemies financially. These figures are direct evidence to show that a lot of money was spent over the war from both sides. As a result of the War, the European countries had to taste the consequences of this financial loss.
Some important impacts of the economic destruction are:
1. As the governments of all nations directed all their attention to the war and invested all money in the war. As a result of their investment in the war, they could not improve their industries, trade, agriculture, and commerce. Thus, it led to a decrease in production to a considerable extent. In order to meet the requirements of the people, the governments of all the nations had to import the essential items from abroad.
2. The prices of all goods and commodities shot up considerably due to the decrease in production. It caused many complications and economic problems for the people. They had to live from hand to mouth.
3. Owing to the heavy amount of loans, the countries had to issue new paper currencies on a large scale. It led to the inflation of money. The value of money decreased and the prices rose. In this way, the economic policy adopted by the governments of different nations aggravated the problems and sufferings of the people.
4. In order to meet the financial requirements, the governments of different countries imposed taxes of different types. It was an overwhelming burden upon the people who were already suffering from many terrible economic privations. Owing to the heavy taxes, the financial condition of the people deteriorated further. It led to the beginning of a wave of discontent among the people.
Social Impacts of the First World War
Another impact of the First World War was the social changes. The World War produced some profound effects in the social field also.
Its Social Impacts are:
1. During the course of the war, the demand for soldiers to fight on the battlefield and to work, in the industries producing war material gradually increased. As a result of this increasing demand for human labor, many people from each country left their jobs and joined the army.
The women came out of their homes and began to work in factories, mills, and offices. Thus, it improves the conditions of the women and it helps them to realize their importance. They worked a lot for the economic development of their country. Also, they took an active part in political movements. The feelings of self-confidence, self-determination, and courage grew in them. As a consequence of this change, the women demanded equal status with men.
Besides, women demand from the government those facilities and rights should be as par with men. In this way, there came about a revolutionary change in the lives of the women. As a result, it improves the social status of women.
2. The World War played an important role in removing the racial bitterness also. Before 1914, all the countries were in the grip of evils of racial superiority and color complex. The people of Great Britain hated the people of India and Africa due to the difference in color. The Germans and the French thought themselves to be superior to the peoples of other countries on the basis of their race. But the situation changed after the war. The war takes place on the world level in which the people of almost all the races participate on a large scale. The soldiers of India and Africa fought on the side of the British. Naturally, they gained the sympathy of the latter. Therefore, the differences and racial bitterness among them went on decreasing day by day.
3. The laborers had also played an important role in the war. They had made many weapons and other war materials of different kinds. By their efforts, they had achieved a prominent position in the politics of their countries. After the end of the war, they put their demands before the governments to provide them with the necessary facilities of life. Although the trade union movement starts before the war, yet the laborers direct their full energies in making this movement successful after the war.
Through the trade unions, the laborer’s demands that their role should be determined in the business administration, as well as, in the administration of the country. Thus, the reawakening of the labor class was also an important impact of the World War. 1918 after four and a half years, it had far-reaching consequences that affected the political, economic, and social structures of nations.
The Political Impacts of the First World War
There were many consequences of the war which changed the political scene in each country.
1. End of the Monarchial Form of Governments
The First World War proved itself as the death warrant of the autocratic and monarchial forms of governments in the countries of Europe as well as of other continents. As a result of this war, the three old and great dynasties-the Hohenzollern of Prussia (Germany), the Hapsburg of Austria, and the Romanovs of Russia came to an end. In 1923 A.D., the Sultan of Turkey also had to surrender and abdicate the throne. In this way, it finishes the Usmani dynasty of Turkey. Besides, the autocratic governments of Poland, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Finland also came to an end.
Although, the French Revolutions of 1830 and 1848 was a lesson against the monarchy to the people of Europe, yet there were many big countries where the monarchy still remain. The First World War uprooted the autocracy and monarchy from almost all the countries of Europe. But, there was the monarchy’s who could not be uprooted.
In fact, nobody can deny that the governments of these countries could not preserve the tone of the monarchy in the real sense and the democratization of the governments began just after the world war. In this way, the great revolution came after the world war, which compelled the autocratic rulers to abdicate.
2. Development of the Feeling of Democracy
Another impact of the First World War in the political field was the growth and development of the feeling of democracy all over the continent. At the time of the beginning of the war, England declares that her aim was to protect and preserve democracy. Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) the President of the United States had also made it clear that the aim of America in declaring “war against the natural foe to liberty“. He also aims towards the improvement of peace and justice and makes the world safe for democracy. Besides, he was against selfish and autocratic power.
The declaration of the Allies against the Central Powers highly inspired the peoples with a feeling for democracy. After the end of the war, the monarchy came to an end in almost all countries of Europe. The democratic form of Government replaces the monarchy form of Government. Thus, the three old, great and famous dynasties Russia, Austria, and Germany were fully uprooted and they were succeeded by the republican governments.
As a result, William Kaiser II, the Emperor of Germany and the last of the Hohenzollerns, who was the most powerful monarch in the world, had to abdicate the throne of Germany and fled for refuge in an automobile to Holland due to the people’s feeling for democracy.
Besides, the people of Germany who were highly excited and inspired by democratic feelings declared the end of the monarchy and established the republic in their country, which was the first republican government established after the formation and unification of Germany. Other countries also followed the path of the Germans and they, too, established republican governments.
The names of the new republics which were established after the world war were Russia, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Austria, Poland, Lithuania, Finland, Turkey, etc. In this way, the democracies of the West won the War. At the end of the war, the three great military monarchies of Eastern and Central Europe had disappeared.
3. Development of the Feeling of Nationalism
After the end of World War, there was a great emphasis on the conception of nationalism. Everywhere in Europe, there was a growth and rise of nationalism.
In other words, the impacts of the First World War develop the concept of nationalism rapidly throughout the continent. That is why, Wilson, the President of the United States laid great emphasis upon the principle of self-decision and self-determination in the Paris Peace Conference (I946). He clearly declared through his Fourteen Points Programme that every nation should be given the right of self-determination.
Although, the selfish members of the Conference did not accept the concept of Wilson. But they could not avoid the concept of nationalism fully. On the basis of this concept, it forms eight new states in the wake of the Paris Peace Conference, namely, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Poland, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia.
In spite of the growth and rise of the concept of nationalism, there were many states where this concept could not be implemented. In such states, the will of the minorities was ignored and they were fully left to the mercy of the majorities. Since the feeling of nationalism had developed in other countries, it was natural that discontent would be generated in those states and the minorities would rise against the majorities in order to carve out a different state for themselves. In this way, the concept and feeling of nationalism developed and reached its climax after the First World War.
4. Changes in Social Set up and Setback to Education
Another important impact of the First World War was the changes in the social setup of the continent and the great setback to education. Owing to the increasing demand for the soldiers to fight at the battlefields, many students joined the army. The military training became compulsory to all. It adversely affects the progress of education. Most of the educational institutions remain closed down due to the decreasing number of students. Thus, war adversely affects the education system.
The Rise of Socialism
The concept of socialism was also the gift of the war. It includes the nationalization of industries and the control of the state over them. As a consequence of the concept, the interference of the state in the industrial matters increased than before. It also increases the significance of the labor class. Consequently, the state provides the facilities of housing, medical care, and education. The state also accepts the right of forming trade unions and laborers strike. Thus, the concept of socialism unfurls considerably in all the countries of Europe.
Impacts on Science
The last but not the least important impact of the First World War was the progress in the field of Science and Culture. The destructive aspect of the scientific inventions was openly demonstrated in the war by the great scientists of the world. It was the first war in which poisonous gases, bombs, tanks, airplanes, and submarines were utilizing for the first time.
Also, the war introduces many inventions in the field of science. A feeling of competition arose among all countries to make new inventions of science. In this way, there was immense progress in science after the war.
Impacts on Culture
The impacts of the First World War were destructive from the cultural point of view also. Owing to the compulsory military training and compulsory military service, the students had to leave their educational institutions en masse. It led to a considerable decrease in education. Many scholars, poets, scientists, and others lost their lives in the war. Also, the war destroys many beautiful buildings and eminent places from a cultural point of view. In this way, the world war caused an immense loss to world culture.
Thus, it is clear from the above description, that the impacts of the First World War were a turning point, not only in the history of Europe but also in the history of the whole world. It put to an end for the era of the supremacy of Europe on the world stage. It led to important and profound consequences in the political, economic, social, cultural, and scientific fields.
In this World War, both the victors and the vanquished had to suffer terrible loss in terms of money as well as human life. The victors were not satisfied with the compensation decided in the treaty of Paris. On the other hand, the vanquished were forced to accept the decisions, and therefore, they planned to avenge the defeat in war. In this way, the peace could not be made permanent and the world was yet to suffer the trauma of the Second World War after twenty years only.
Source: Md. Rafi Komol & O. Jnanendra.
A Guide to History of Modern Europe 1789-1945.
Imphal, Khumanthem Babudhon, 2018,