Europe, 1885-1945

A Time of Imperialism, Nationalism, and War


Berlin Conference


Following the expansion of imperialist movement into Africa by European powers, the leaders of countries met in Berlin in order to make the competition more peaceful by dividing up Africa into areas of control. The borders which were created were relatively arbitrary, not taking into account the indigenous peoples, but lessened the chances of conflict between the European powers.

McKay, 814

New Imperialism

1885 - 1900

While Imperialism was prevalent before and after this period, this time frame is when European powers were most focused on spreading their influence throughout Africa and Asia. Imperialism, and the idea that the country with the most world influence was greatest, led to increased national pride.

McKay, 814-816

Questioning the Economics of Imperialism


This document by English economist J.A Hobson calls into question the actual economic benefits of imperialism for the home countries. He argues that the military is one of the few industries profiting from the practice, leading to its increase, which would contribute to the losses suffered in the upcoming years.

J.A. Hobson, Imperialism, Sources for Western Society, 399

World War 1

June 28, 1914 - November 11, 1918

A global conflict that resulted from strong feelings of nationalism and established alliances. It was one of the first examples of total war, where all efforts, including those at home, were intended to help support the war effort.

McKay, Chapter 25

A Defeated Germany Contemplates the Peace Treaty


Following their defeat at the hands of Western Allies, Germany found itself blamed for starting World War I. This document, a transcript of a meeting of the National Assembly of the Germany Republic, highlights the overall feelings regarding this and other sanctions: primarily that they went to far and would only result in further troubles for the already struggling country.

Sources for Western Society, 418

The Great Depression

1929 - 1939

Following the stock market crash that took place in the United States the effects were felt around the world. AS unemployment rose and GDP declined, countries shut each other out in order to try to manage their own crises. The downturn would not be reversed until WWII.

McKay, 892-895

World War II

September 3, 1939 - August 14, 1945

A global conflict which came about as a result of the aggressive expansion and invasion of other countries by Nazi Germany under the leadership of Adolf Hitler. Another example of total war, WWII is often viewed as a war between democracy and fascism.

McKay, 922-936


The White Man's Burden


Based on the ideas of Social Darwinism, this poem by British author Rudyard Kipling supported imperialism, pushing the idea that it was the duty of Europeans to help civilize the "less-developed" cultures in Africa and Asia.

Rudyard Kipling, McKay, 818

Baron Manfred von Tichthofen


This photograph of Baron Manfred, better known as the Red Baron, is an example of the side of World War I that the general public was exposed to, one of war heroes and sacrifices made for the greater good of the country. Photos like these strengthened feelings a national pride, one of the driving forces behind the Great War.

Sources for Western Society, 407

Existentialism, Dadaism, and Sureralism

1920 - 1925

Following the Great War, philosophy and art shifted to reflect the general feelings of the time. Existentialist thinkers searched for usable moral values in a world of anxiety and uncertainty. Dadaist artwork reflected the idea that the world was meaningless, and surrealism was influenced by unconscious mind.

McKay, 871, 877

Mein Kampf: The Art of Propaganda


In his autobiography, written while in prison for a failed coup attempt, Adolf Hitler looks back at World War I and addressed the idea that Germany was defeated as a result of a misuse of propaganda. This would come into play later, once he was ruling Germany, as propaganda was used by all sides to glorify themselves and demonize their enemies.

Adolf Hitler, Sources for Western Society, 445

I Speak for the Silent


In this document, Vladimir Tchernavin, a scientist in Stalin-era Russia, gives an insiders look into the methods that Communist leaders used in order to control the population. In this example, interrogation and fear are used in order to weed out anyone looking to change the established order.

Vladimir Tchernavin, Sources for Western Society, 442-444

Soviet Propaganda Posters


Posters like these were used during World War II in order to rally the citizens of a country around a common cause. This might have involved invoking feelings of national pride or showing off enemies as being less than human.

Sources for Western Society, 446-447

Individual and Collective Rights

King Leopold's Soliloquy


In this piece of satire by author Mark Twain, he takes the point of view of King Leopold of Belgium, addressing the atrocities that took place in the Belgian Congo. "King Leopold" complains about how easy it is for evidence of the mistreatment of the native population to spread around the world.

Mark Twain, Sources for Western Society, 397

World War I Alters the Role of Women


During World War I (and later during World War II) women found themselves in the positions that had once been filled by men. This expansion of the role of women in society helped to change attitudes about proper gender roles and gave some strength to the women's right movement.

McKay, 845

The Nuremberg Laws: The Centerpiece of Nazi Radical Legislation


Viewing Jews as the cause of all its past problems, Nazi Germany used these laws as the basis of their persecution of anyone of Jewish descent. This document outlines what constitutes Jewish descent and lists a number of the laws which limited the rights of Jews under the regime.

Sources for Western Society, 450