World War I
The First World War marked a turning point in the history of Europe and the world. The technological advances of the Second Industrial Revolution had created the ability to inflict massive casualties on enemies, and the productive power of the countries involved ensured a long, drawn out conflict. For four years, the major European powers slugged it out, fighting and dying in numbers never before seen in human history.
In many ways, this period changed Europe from its traditional faith in human progress into a more skeptical, disillusioned reality. Communism appeared for the first time in Russia. Ruling families that had been in power for centuries lost their thrones. And an entire generation of young men was decimated on the battlefield.
In the end, the peace treaty, like so many before it, was an exercise in futility. The terms of the peace ensured that another conflict would occur.
Europe between the Wars
After the Versailles Treaty was signed and the devastation of the Great War came to an end, Europeans were left to pick up the pieces. What ensued was a search for ways to punish the losers of the war while still searching for ways to maintain peace. The 1920s in Europe witnessed numerous diplomatic efforts to limit the factors that led to the war.
Germany was left in economic shambles. Russia, later the Soviet Union, struggled to establish a stable communist society, and the rest of Europe worked to deal with the aftermath of war. And just when things seemed to be getting better, the world plunged into the Great Depression.
As so often in human history, desperate times led to desperate solutions. Totalitarian dictatorships arose throughout Europe (but most notably in Italy, Germany, and the Soviet Union) that promised an end to the Depression and a return to past glory. Those regimes would solidify their hold on power in the 1930s and would eventually drag the world into a second, more deadly war.
World War II
The Cold War