In chapters 1-5 of A Short History of World War II Stokesbury describes 5 aspects of the interwar period that may have acted as preludes to World War II.

In chapters 1-5 of A Short History of World War II Stokesbury describes 5 aspects of the interwar period that may have acted as preludes to World War II. The lectures describe two more. Choose four of the following seven to analyze. In a paragraph for each, describe the situation in the 1920’s and 1930’s and examine how the element could have but was not foredoomed to lead to war. In a fifth paragraph critique how each element could have led to war.

It is important to note in your analyses that war was not a necessary outcome of any of these. Alliances built up in the 1920’s, for instance, were meant to balance power in a way that kept Europe peaceful. Disarmament treaties were meant to deter war by keeping weapons to wage war at a low level. Depressions do not always lead to dictatorships or dictatorships to war.

Some historians have found “lessons of history” in the events of the interwar period like disarmament is easily violated and invites aggression, strong stances against aggression is a better deterrence to war than isolation and appeasement, economically and politically disabling the losers of a war is counterproductive to keeping the peace (note the US policy toward Japan and Germany after World War II which tried to restore the economies of the vanquished) and so on. Other historians see that there are no “lessons” since every historical situation is different, the policies of the interwar period would have worked if it were not for the Hitlers, Stalins, Tojos and Mussolinis of the world which were aberrations, and most people don’t know enough history to learn from it. What are your thoughts? Are there lessons from the interwar period?

Chapter 1 describes the recreation of an alliance system and disarmament attempts in order to prevent future wars and aggression. What disarmament agreements were signed and what rearmament occurred despite them? How might this have led to World War II? What alliances were signed that reflect a continuing wish to secure the home front by building defensive alliances?

Chapter 2 analyzes why France and Britain failed to build barriers to the likes of a Hitler when he rose to power in Germany in the 1930’s. Why were they cautious in taking action, weak in maintaining military strength, isolationist and pacifist in mood and absorbed by economic issues? How might this have led to war (the annexation of Austria by Germany, for instance.)

Chapter 3 describes the myriads of weak new nations that were created after World War I. This was a product of <link is hidden> President Wilson’s idea that dictatorial empires should be dismantled and new democratic states created on the basis of national self-determination. Thus out of the German, Russian and Ottoman empires small states like Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia, Syria, Jordan etc. were created. None of them could defend themselves. They were not self-sufficient economically, and many wanted to “revise” their borders in the pursuit of settlement of old grudges against neighbors, ethnic grievances and power. The Spanish Civil War and invasion of Ethiopia are examples. When Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin came along they were easy prey. Cite some of these examples. How might weak new nations and revisionist territorial aspirations have led to World War II?

Chapter 4 describes how not knowing how Russia and the United States would act in the face of growing dictatorships in Germany and Japan, led to appeasement and isolation rather than action in the face growing aggression. What were Hitler’s and Hirohito’s calculations about the willingness of the <link is hidden> and Russia to act against them? What acts of appeasement (giving in to avoid war) occurred? How might this have led to war?

Chapter 5 reviews a series of crisis in Europe in the 1930’s involving Czechoslovakia and Poland that led Europe to the brink of another great war. How might this have led to World War II?

6. “Continual Warfare” The first lecture describes the continual warfare that engaged many countries throughout the world during the interwar period 1920-1939. How could this situation have led to a second world war?

7. “The Depression”. There were actually two depressions in the interwar period. One was in the early 1920’s when reparations, material destruction and destroyed trade networks brought economic life to a halt. During the 1920’s this depression gave way to recovery and prosperity. The second one in the 1930’s led to a resumed world war. How did this happen?

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