This analysis of the origins of the Second World War in Europe challenges several key ideas of the historiography: the ‘thirty years war’ thesis, the notion of a European civil war, and the stereotyping of the 1930s as a seemingly unstoppable rush to war after the internationalism of the 1920s. There was no sharp contrast between decades—the period only makes sense as a whole. Churchill’s ‘unnecessary war’ was preventable. Alternatives to appeasement existed. Though the study of war origins starts with Hitler, his policies were decisively shaped by the actions of others and the instability of an international system, heavily impacted by the Great Depression and ideology. Miscalculation rather than design explains the war of 1939. The outbreak of war should not obscure the significance of the 1930s as a laboratory for ideas and institutions that came to fruition after 1945 and which continue to shape international society.
D. W. Ellwood
The First World War cost Europe the leadership of the world. But the United States of Woodrow Wilson was not ready to take its place. The 1920s brought Europe to a crossroads where mass democracy, mass production, and mass communications—the latter two dominated by American innovations— transformed ideas of sovereignty, modernity, and identity everywhere. The financial crash of 1929 destroyed illusions about the United States as the land of the future, and helped legitimize the totalitarians. European democrats looked to the 1930s New Deal as their last best hope. During the Second World War Roosevelt rebuilt the global order, with the United Nations and other new institutions. But the United States was now looking to ‘retire’ Europe from the world scene, and build a new universe based on America’s experience of the link between mass prosperity and democratic stability.
Common characteristics and objectives united the Axis alliance, composed of Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and imperial Japan. All three were ‘latecomers’ to the great power rivalries of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and all attacked the Wilsonian-inspired global order enshrined after the First World War. Hostile to liberalism, ‘open door’ capitalism, socialism, and communism, the Axis championed authoritarianism, autarky, and a variant of capitalism that integrated state management and investment. Finally, Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and imperial Japan sought empires as essential to eliminating social divisions. Although wary of the power of their enemies, they accepted that only war would accomplish that aim. Unable to match the resources of the Allies, the Axis powers resorted to murderous occupation practices that contributed to their defeat.
Did Europe’s ‘age of catastrophe’ (1914–1945) represent a break with the past or did it amplify the tensions of the preceding era? Was it a ‘parenthesis’ or a ‘revelation’? Historians have usually taken the latter view and have dismissed popular nostalgia for the period before 1914 as mere hindsight. Yet Europeans had good reason to be nostalgic. The period 1900–1914 had its moments of crisis and ominous trends (e.g. anti-Semitism), but it was essentially defined by stability, democratization, and significant improvements in social conditions. Nor should one exaggerate the desire for war in society or among Europe’s political elites. Prior to the July Crisis, a great Continental war seemed neither inevitable nor likely, all of which has implications for our understanding of Europe’s later descent into barbarism. Simply put, the dynamics of violence and instability that characterized the ‘age of catastrophe’ were largely generated during that period.
Anne E. Gorsuch
Focusing on the transnational flow and exchange of ideas, rather than on divisions and borders, this chapter emphasizes the ways in which early debates about ‘Sovietness’ related to multiple imaginings, understandings, and experiences of the ‘West’. This perspective builds on work that has reconsidered the history of the Soviet Union within the larger framework of European and North American modernity. ‘Being Soviet’ in the formative years of Bolshevism included ideas, technologies, and cultures that were ‘Western’. Some were openly and positively identified as such; others were covert or unacknowledged. The relationship was deeply ambivalent. But the resultant heterodoxy was notably different from Cold War concepts of the Soviet Union as rigid and impermeable.
How could the Bolsheviks exert control over Russia between October 1917 and 1921 when the Provisional Government had failed to do so after the February Revolution? This chapter reassesses those turbulent years through the prism of centre-periphery conflict and state-building, arguing that the process of civil war served to extend Soviet control through the elimination of armed rivals and the suppression of the centrifugal social forces accentuated by revolution in 1917. If the Provisional Government sought to govern at a time when state sovereignty was disintegrating, the civil war was, to a large extent, a struggle for re-integration—a struggle characterized by the projection of armed force and the exercise of violence against civilians. Military domination of the countryside proved a necessary condition for the medium-term socialization of formerly insurgent populations who initially harboured strong grievances against the new Soviet state.
This chapter examines the evolution of business and industry in Ireland since the eighteenth century. Manufacturing industry, together with financial services, is discussed alongside some key contributions to historiography. The geographically wide spread of industrial activity in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and the subsequent increasing localization up to 1914 is then noted. While Dublin and Cork led Belfast in the earlier period, Belfast emerged as Ireland’s premier industrial and commercial city from the mid nineteenth century, with a strong unionist element among its business leaders. The economic problems of post-partition Ireland, both north and south, led to more interventionist action by the Belfast and Dublin governments to support manufacturing industry and in the second half of the twentieth century there was more emphasis on attracting new foreign firms. The financial crisis and austerity measures of the early twenty-first century generated unprecedented uncertainty for Irish business, especially in the Republic.
This chapter attempts a broad historical and historiographical survey of relations between Irish history and that of the British Empire—both of Ireland as subject to English, then British conquest and colonization, and Irish roles in British imperial expansion, plus Irish people’s ambivalent place in the formation of what many historians now call the ‘British World’. It concludes that, whilst there has been a remarkable and welcome recent expansion in our knowledge of all these themes, and whilst debate on them is less polarized than was once the case, there remains much to be discovered.
The 1640s and 1650s were defining decades in Irish history. The 1641 rebellion played a crucial role in shaping the triple Stuart monarchy during the seventeenth century and triggered a decade of civil war in Ireland. Though Catholic Ireland failed to win lasting political autonomy, the 1640s was the only time before 1922 that Ireland enjoyed legislative independence and Catholics worshipped freely. By contrast, during the 1650s England dramatically reasserted control over Ireland. Cromwellian military victory after 1649, followed by English reconquest, paved the way for another round of expropriation. This chapter draws on the wealth of scholarship that has been produced since the mid-1990s, especially on the 1641 rebellion, the civil wars and the Cromwellian land settlement, and suggests avenues for future research. A chronological approach is taken but this should not obscure the forces of continuity which transcend a period otherwise characterized by intense change and upheaval.
Following defeat in the civil war of 1922–23, Irish republicans formed a new political party, Fianna Fáil, in 1926. By 1932, Fianna Fáil, under the leadership of Eamon de Valera, achieved power and remained in office from 1932 to1948 and from 1957 to 1973, being temporarily replaced by coalition governments between 1948–51 and 1954–57. De Valera remained leader of the party until 1959. This article assesses the impact of Fianna Fáil’s domination during these decades; the enduring personal appeal of de Valera, the efforts to increase the sovereignty of the state, and the significance of domestic and foreign policy initiatives, including neutrality during the Second World War. It also examines social and economic issues and conditions, censorship, the moral climate, the impact of the 1937 constitution, emigration, class and gender tensions, and the successes and failures of Irish governance during this formative period for the southern Irish state.