The impact of the war was extraordinarily wide-ranging, which was not surprising given that it was the first ‘total war’ in history. This means that it involved not just armies and navies but entire populations, and it was the first big conflict between modern, industrialized nations. New methods of warfare and new weapons were introduced – tanks, submarines, bombers, machine-guns, heavy artillery and mustard gas. With so many men away in the armed forces, women had to take their places in factories and in other jobs which had previously been carried out by men. In the Central Powers and in Russia, the civilian populations suffered severe hardships caused by the blockades.
In all the European states involved in the war, governments organized ordinary people as never before, so that the entire country was geared up to the war effort. The conflict caused a decline in Europe’s prestige in the eyes of the rest of the world. The fact that the region which had been thought of as the centre of civilization could have allowed itself to experience such a sign of the beginning of the end of European appalling carnage and destruction v domination of the rest of the world.
- In Germany, hardship and defeat caused a revolution: the Kaiser Wilhelm II was compelled to abdicate and a republic was declared. Over the next few years the Weimar Republic (as it became known) experienced severe economic, political and social problems. In 1933 it was brought to an end when Hitler became German Chancellor.
- The Habsburg Empire collapsed completely. The last emperor, Karl I, was forced to abdicate (November 1918) and the various nationalities declared themselves independent; Austria and Hungary split into two separate states.
- Although Italy was on the winning side, the war had been a drain on her resources and she was heavily in debt. Mussolini took advantage of the government’s unpop ¬ ularity, to take over control-Italy was the first European state after the war to allow itself to fall under a fascist dictatorship.
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