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Category: World History (Page 1 of 2)




  • In the short period from August 1988 to December 1991 communism in Eastern Europe was swept away. In the beginning of 1980s few western experts on the communist world could have believed that the peoples of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were about to enter a new phases of their destiny and engage in changes unmatched in scope and scale since the 1940s. All that then could be safely predicted was that communist countries would go on finding it more and more difficult to maintain even the modest growth rates they had so far attained. Not all western ‘experts’ would have risked going even so far as that, though it should at least have been clear that comparison with the market economies of the non-communist would had become more and more unfavorable to the command economies. Yet even if that was conceded, no possible challenge to the verdict of 1945, and those hardly less resounding of 1953, 1956 and 1968, seemed possible in 1980. Soviet power still seemed to hold Eastern Europe in its grip as firmly as ever.
  • In the European countries which were liberated by soviet troops, communist parties and their supporters had established their exclusive control. These countries were allied to the Soviet Union as members of the Warsaw pact. They were often described as ‘satellites’ of the Soviet Union. The latter frequently imposed its will, sometimes with the use of armed forces, on the communist parties and government of these countries.
  • These countries did not receive the benefits of the European recovery programme and had to rely mostly on their own resources. The Soviet Union was in no position to provide the kind of massive aid which the US had given to Western Europe. The kind of socialism that was sought to be built in these countries was based on the soviet model. The economies of the latter. Most of these countries had been backward agricultural economies. Although the level of their economic development was not comparable to that of the advanced west European countries, the industrialization of these countries was a significant development. The evils associated with the concentration of economic power in private hands were avoided and the hold of the old ruling classes and big landlords eliminated in these countries. But the Communism as it existed in Eastern Europe was a failure economically. It simply did not produce the standard of living which should have been possible, given the vast resources available. The economic systems were inefficient; over- centralized and subject to too many restrictions. All the states, for example, were expected to do most of their trading within the communist bloc only. Because of all these factors by the mid-1980s severe economic problems cropped up everywhere.
  • The political developments in USSR during 1985-90 also influenced the developments in Eastern European countries. Mikhail Gorbachev, who became leader of the USSR in March 1985, recognized the failings of the Communist system. He hoped to save communism by revitalizing and modernizing it. He introduced new policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (economic and social reform). Criticism of the system was encouraged in the drive for improvement, provided nobody criticized the communist part. He also helped to engineer the overthrow of the old-fashioned, hard-core communist leaders in Czechoslovakia, and he was probably involved in plotting the overthrow of the East German, Romanian and Bulgarian leaders. His hope was that more progressive leaders would increase the chances of saving communism in Russia’s satellite states.
  • The communist leaderships in the satellite states found it difficult to adapt to the new situation of having a leader in Moscow who was more progressive than they were. The critics became more daring as they realized that Gorbachev would not send soviet troops in to fire on them. With no help to be expected from Moscow, when it came to the crisis, none of the communist government was prepared to use sufficient force against the demonstrators (except in Romania). When they came, the rebellions were too widespread, and it would have needed a huge commitment of tanks and troops to hold down the whole of Eastern Europe simultaneously. Having only just succeeded in withdrawing from Afghanistan, Gorbachev had no desire for an even greater involvement. In the end it was a triumph of people power’ demonstrator deliberately defied the threat of violence in such huge numbers that troops would have had to shoot a large proportion of the population in the big cities to keep control. Poland was the first to reject communism, closely followed by Hungary and East Germany and the rest, until by the end of 1991 even Russia had ceased to be communist after seventy four years.


Changes in Poland

  • General Jaruzelski became leader of Poland in 1981. He was prepared to take a tough line. When Solidarity (the new Trade Union movement) demanded a referendum to demonstrate the strength of its support, Jaruzelski declared martial law, banned solidarity and arrested thousands of activists. The army obeyed his orders because everybody was still afraid of Russian military intervention. By July 1983 the government was in firm control. Jaruzelski felt it safe to lift martial law and Solidarity members were gradually released. But the underlying problem was still there; all attempts to improve the economy had failed. In 1988 when Jaruzelski tried to economize by cutting government subsidies, protest and strikes broke out because the changes sent food prices up. This time Jaruzelski decided not to risk using force, he knew that he would not be having any backing from Moscow, and that he needed opposition support to deal with the economic crisis. Talks opened in February 1989 between the communist government and Solidarity and other opposition groups. By April 1989 following sensational changes in the constitution were agreed-
  1. Solidarity was allowed to become a political party.
  2. There were to be two houses of parliament, a lower house and a Senate.
  3. In the lower house, 65 per cent of the seats had to be communist seats.
  4. The Senate was to be freely elected with no guaranteed communist seats.
  5. The two houses voting together would elect a President, who would then choose a prime minister.
  • In the elections f June 1989 Solidarity won 92 out of the 100 sears in the senate and 160 out of the 161 seats which they could fight in the lower house. A compromise deal was worked out when it came to forming a government; Jaruzelski was narrowly elected president, thanks to all the guaranteed communist seats in the lower house, but he chose a Solidarity supporter, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, as Prime Minister, the first non-communist leader in the Eastern bloc. Mazowiecki chose a mixed government of communists and solidarity supporters.
  • The new constitution proved to be only transitional. After the collapse of communism in the other East European states, further changes in Poland removed the guaranteed communist seats, and in the elections of December 1990, Lech Walesa, the Solidarity leader, was elected President. With this the peaceful revolution in Poland was completed.
  • In Poland the first four years of non communist rule were hard for ordinary people as the government pushed ahead with its reorganization of the economy. By 1994 there were clear signs of recovery, but many people were bitterly disappointed with their new democratic government. In the presidential election of December 1995 Lech Walesa was defeated by a former communist party member Aleksander Kwaniewski.


Changes in Hungary

  • Once the Poles had thrown off communism without interference from the USSR, it was only a matter of time before the rest of Eastern Europe tried to follow suit. In Hungary also the living standards had fallen over the previous five years till 1985. This economic crisis was the result of poor management, poor organization and outdated machinery and equipment in the state sector of industry. The Hungarian government announced new measures of decentralization such as company councils and elected works managers. By 1987 there was conflict in the communist party between those who wanted more reform and those who wanted a return to strict central control. This reached a climax in May 1988. When, amid dramatic scenes at the party conference, President Janos Kadar and eight of his supporters were voted off the politburo, leaving the progressives in control.
  • But as in the USSR, progress was not drastic for many people. Two large opposition parties became increasingly active. These were the Liberal Alliance of Free Democrats and the Democratic Forum, which stood for the interests of farmers and peasants. The Hungarian communist leadership, following the example of the Poles, decided to go peacefully. Free elections were held in March 1990, and in spite of a change of name to Hungarian Socialist Party, the communists suffered a crushing defeat. The election was won by the Democratic Forum, whose leader Jozsef Antall, became the Prime Minister of Hungary.


Re-Unification of Germany

  • Like other communists countries of Eastern Europe, East Germany was also passing through a serious economic problems. Erich Honecker was the leader of East Germany since 1971. He had refused all the demands of reforms and intended to stand firm, along with Czechoslovakia, Romania and the other East European countries to keep communism in place.
  • Desperate to get financial help for the USSR from West Germany, Gorbachev paid a visit to chancellor Kohl in Bonn in June 1989 and promised to help to bring an end to the divided Germany in return for German economic aid. He was secretly promising freedom for East Germany. During August and September 1989 thousands of East Germans began to escape to the west via Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, when Hungary opened its front with Austria. The protestant Church in East Germany became the focus of an opposition party called New Forum which campaigned to bring an end to the repressive and atheistic communist regime. In October 1989 there was a wave of demonstrations all over East Germany demanding freedom and an end to communism.
  • Honecker wanted to order the army to open fire on the demonstrators, but other leading communities were not prepared to cause widespread bloodshed. They dropped Honecker and his successor Egon Krenz and made concessions. The Berlin Wall was opened on 9th November 1989 and free elections were promised.
  • When the great powers began to drop hints that they would not stand in the way of a reunited Germany, the West German political parties moved into the East. Chancellor Kohl staged an election tour, and the East German version of his party (CDU) won an overwhelming victory in March 1990. The East German CDU leader Luther de Maiziere became prime minister. He was hoping for gradual moves towards reunification but again the pressure of people power carried all before it. Nearly everybody in East Germany seemed to want immediate union.
  • The USSR and the USA agreed that reunification could take place; Gorbachev promised that all Russian troops would be withdrawn from East Germany by 1994. France and British, who were less happy about German reunification, felt bound to go along with the flow. Germany was formally reunited at midnight of 3rd October 1990. In December 1990 elections were held for whole of Germany and the conservative CDU/CSU alliance, together with their liberal FDP supporters, won a comfortable majority over the socialist SPD. The communists, renamed as the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), won only 17 of the 662 seats in the Bundestag (lower house of Parliament). Helmut Kohl became the first Chancellor of United Germany.


Changes in Czechoslovakia

  • Czechoslovakia had one of the most successful economies of Eastern Europe. She traded extensively with the West and her industry and commerce remained buoyant throughout the 1970s. But during the early 1980s the economy ran into trouble; mainly because there had been very little attempt to modernize industry. Husak, who had been in power since 1968, resigned in 1987, but his successor, Milos Jakes, did not have the reputation of a reformer. Then things changed suddenly in a matter of days, in what became known as the Velvet Revolution. On 17 November 1989 there was a huge demonstration in Prague during which many people were injured by police brutality. Charter 77, now led by the famous playwright, Vaclav Havel, organized further opposition and national strike was declared. This was enough to topple the communist regime. Jakes resigned and Havel was elected President on 29th December 1989.
  • Since 1968 she had been a federal republic comprising Czech Republic and Slovak republic. Following the end of the communist party’s rule, the two republics decided to separate and two independent states – the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic – came into being in 1993.

Changes in Romania

  • In Romania the communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu was one of the most brutal and repressive anywhere in the world. He was ruling in Romania since 1965. The Romanian revolution was short and bloody. It began in Timisoara, a town in western Romania, with a demonstration in support of a popular priest who was being harassed by the secret police. This was brutally put down on 17th December 1989 and many people were killed. This caused outrage throughout the country and when four days later Ceausescu and his wife appeared on the balcony of Communist party Headquarters in Bucharest to address a massed rally, they were greeted with boos and shouts of murderers of Timeshare. It seemed as though the entire population of Bucharest now streamed out on to the streets. At first the army fired on the crowds and many were killed and wounded. The following day the crowd came out again; but by now the army was refusing to continue the killing, and the Ceausescu had lost control. Nicolae Ceausescu was arrested, tried by a military tribunal and was shot dead on 25th December 1989.
  • The hated Ceausescu had gone, but many elements of communism remained in Romania. The country had never had democratic government and opposition had been so ruthlessly crushed that there was no equivalent of the Polish Solidarity and Czech Charter 77. When a committee calling itself the National Salvation Front was formed, it was full of former communists, though admittedly they were communists who wanted reform. Ion Iliescu, who had been a member of Ceausescu’s government until 1984, was chosen as President. He won the presidential election of May 1990 and the NSF won the election for a new Parliament. They strongly denied that the new government was really a communist one under a different name and they stayed in control until November 1996, when new elections brought Email Constantinescu, a Christian Democrat, to power at the head of a non-Communist coalition.


Changes in Bulgaria

  • In Bulgaria the communist leader Todor zhivkov had been in power since 1954. He had stubbornly refused all reforms, even when pressurized by Gorbachev. The progressive communists decided to get rid of him. The politburo voted to remove him in December 1989 and in June 1990 free elections were held. The Communists, now calling themselves the Bulgarian Socialist Party, won a comfortable victory over the main opposition party, the Union of Democratic Forces, probably because their propaganda machine told people that the introduction of capitalism would bring economic disaster.


Changes in Albania

  • Albania had been communist since 1945 when the communist resistance movement seized power and set up a republic. Like Yugoslavia, the Russians were not responsible for the introduction of communism there. Since 1946 until his death in 1985 the leader had been Enver Hoxha, who was a great admirer of Stalin and copied his system faithfully. Under its new leader, Ramiz Alia, Albania was still the poorest and the most backward country in Europe.
  • During the winter of 1991 many young Albanians tried to escape from their poverty by crossing the Adriatic Sea to Italy, but most of them were sent back. By this time student demonstrations were breaking out, and statues of Hoxha and Lenin were overturned. Eventually the Communist leadership bowed to the inevitable and allowed free elections. In 1992 the first non-communist President Sali Berisla was elected.


Changes in Yugoslavia

  • A major development in recent years has been the break – up of Yugoslavia and the tragic violence that has accompanied it. It may be recalled that Yugoslavia emerged as an independent state at the end of the First World War. During First World War, the people of Yugoslavia had waged a heroic war of resistance against the Nazi occupation. She became a federation of six republics after the Second World War.
  • Though ruled by the communist party, she had rejected soviet control. Joseph Broz Tito, who had led the Yugoslav resistance against Nazi occupation and subsequently headed the government of Yugoslavia, was, along with Jawaharlal Nehru, Nasser and Sukarno, the pioneer of the Non-Aligned movement. At the end of the 1980s, as in other communist ruled States in Europe, there was a demand for ending the communist party’s exclusive control over the government. By early 1990, non-communist had come to power in most of the republics of Yugoslavia. In the meantime, many republics had started demanding independence. By early 1992, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia and Bosnia – Herzegovina had declared their independence and Serbia and Montenegro together formed the new state of Yugoslavia.




DISINTEGRATION OF History of the Soviet Union

  • The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) also called the Soviet Union was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. Initially established as a union of four Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR grew to contain 15 constituent or “union republics” by 1956. This union got broken up into its constituent Republics in 1991.
  • The Soviet Union’s collapse into independent nations began in earnest in 1985. After years of Soviet military build-up at the expense of domestic development, economic growth was at a standstill. Failed attempts at reform and stagnant economy led to a general feeling of discontent, especially in the Baltic republics and Eastern Europe. Greater political and social freedoms, instituted by the Mikhail Gorbachev, created an atmosphere of open criticism of the Moscow regime. Several Soviet Socialist Republics began resisting central control, and increasing democratization led to a weakening of the central government. The USSR’s trade gap progressively emptied the coffers of union, leading to eventual bankruptcy. The Soviet Union finally collapsed in 1991 when Boris Yeltsin seized power in the aftermath of a failed coup that had attempted to topple reform-minded Gorbachev.

The rise of Gorbachev

  • Mikhail Gorbachev was the most gifted and dynamic leader Russia had seen for many years. He came to power in March 1985. He was determined to transform and revitalize the country after the sterile years following Khrushchev’s fall. He intended to achieve this by modernizing and streamlining the communist party with new policies of glasnost (openness), perestroika (restructuring – which meant economic and social reform) and uskoreniye (speed-up of economic development).
  • Gorbachev did not want to end communism; he wanted to replace the existing system, which was still basically Stalinist with a socialist system which was humane and democratic. Gorbachev believed that the system was too centralized, leaving no room for local individual initiative. It was based almost completely on state ownership and control, and weighted strongly towards defence and heavy industry, leaving consumer goods for ordinary people in short supply.


Reforms of Gorbachev Glasnost

  • Glasnost resulted in greater freedom of speech and the press becoming far less controlled. Gorbachev’s primary goal in undertaking glasnost was to pressurize the conservatives who opposed his policies of economic restructuring, although he also hoped that through different ranges of openness, debate and participation, the Soviet people as a whole would support his reform initiatives.
  • Several – well known dissidents were released, and the Sakharovs were allowed to return to Moscow in December 1986 from internal exile in Gorky. Leaders like Bukharin who had been disgraced and executed during Stalin’s purges of the 1930s were declared innocent of all crimes. Pravda was allowed to print an article criticizing Brezhnev for overreacting against dissidents, and in January 1988 a new law was introduced to prevent dissidents’ form being sent to mental institutions. Important political events like the Nineteenth Party Conference in 1988 and the first session of the new congress of People’s Deputies held in May 1989 were televised.
  • State archives became more accessible, and some social statistics that had been kept secret became open for research and publication on sensitive subjects such as income disparities, crime, suicide, abortion, and infant mortality. The first centre for gender studies was opened within a newly formed Institute for the Socio-economic Study of Human Population.
  • In cultural matters and the media generally, there were some startling developments. In May 1986 both the Union of Soviet Film – makers and the Union of Writers were allowed to sack their reactionary heads and elect more independent – minded leaders. Long – banned anti – Stalin films and novels were shown and published, and preparations were made to publish works by the great poet Osip Mandelstam, who died in a labour camp in 1938.
  • There was a new freedom in news reporting; in April 1986, for example, when a nuclear reactor at Chernobyl in the Ukraine exploded, killing hundreds of people and releasing a massive radioactive cloud which drifted across most of Europe, the disaster was discussed with unprecedented frankness.


Economic reforms

  • In November 1986 Gorbachev announced that 1987 will be the year for broad applications of the new methods of economic management. Small – scale private enterprise such as family restaurants, family businesses making clothes or handicrafts or providing services such as car a TV repairs, painting and decorating and private tuition, were allowed, and so were worker’s co – operatives up to a maximum of fifty workers.
  • One motive behind this reform was to provide competition for the slow and inefficient services provided by the state and another motive was the need to provide alternative employment as patterns of employment changed over the period of time. The responsibility for quality control throughout industry as a whole was taken over by independent state bodies from factory management. The Law on State Enterprises introduced in June 1987 was the most important part of the reforms. This removed the total control of central planners over raw materials, production quotas and trade, and made factories to work as per the orders from customers.


Political reforms

  • These reforms began in January 1987 when Gorbachev announced moves towards democracy within the party. Instead of members of local soviets being appointed by the local communist party, they were to be elected by the people, and there was to be a choice of candidates (though not of parties). There were to be secret elections for top party positions, and elections in factories to choose managers.
  • During 1988 dramatic changes were introduced in central government. The old Parliament (Supreme Soviet) of about 1450 deputies used to meet only for about two weeks each year. Its function was to elect two smaller bodies – the Presidium (33 members) and the Council of Ministers (71 members). It was these two committees which took all important decisions and saw that policies were carried out. Now the Supreme Soviet was to be replaced by a Congress of People’s Deputies (2250 members) whose main function was to elect a new and much smaller Supreme Soviet (450 representatives) which would be a proper working Parliament, sitting for about eight months a year. The chairman of the Supreme Soviet would be head of state.
  • Election went ahead, and the first Congress of People’s Deputies met in May 1989. During the second session (December 1989) it was decided that reserved seats for the communist party should be abolished. On 15th March 1990 Gorbachev was elected President of the Soviet Union with two councils to advise and help him; one contained his own personal advisers, the other contained representatives from the 15 republics. These new bodies completely sidelined the old system.



  • Gorbachev’s efforts to streamline the Communist system offered promise, but ultimately proved uncontrollable and resulted in a cascade of events that eventually concluded with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Initially intended as tools to bolster the Soviet economy, the policies of perestroika and glasnost soon led to many unintended consequences.
  • Relaxation under glasnost resulted in the Communist Party losing its absolute grip on the media. Before long and much to the embarrassment of the authorities, the media began to expose severe social and economic problems the Soviet government had long denied and actively concealed. Problems receiving increased attention included poor housing, alcoholism, drug abuse, pollution, outdated Stalin-era factories, and petty to large-scale corruption, all of which the official media had ignored. Media reports also exposed crimes committed by Stalin and the Soviet regime, such as his treaty with Adolf Hitler and the Great Purges, which had been ignored by the official media. Moreover, the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the mishandling of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster further damaged the credibility of the Soviet government at a time when dissatisfaction was increasing.
  • In all, the very positive view of Soviet life which had long been presented to the public by the official media was being rapidly dismantled and the negative aspects of life in the Soviet Union were brought into the spotlight. This undermined the faith of the public in the Soviet system and eroded the Communist Party’s social power base, threatening the identity and integrity of the Soviet Union itself.
  • The Soviet Union began experiencing upheaval as the political consequences of glasnost reverberated throughout the country. Despite efforts at containment, the upheaval in Eastern Europe inevitably spread to nationalities within the USSR. In elections to the regional assemblies of the Soviet Union’s constituent republics, nationalists as well as radical reformers swept the board. As Gorbachev had weakened the system of internal political repression, the ability of the USSR’s central Moscow government to impose its will on the USSR’s constituent republics had been largely undermined. Massive peaceful protests in the Baltic Republics such as The Baltic Way and the singing Revolution drew international attention and bolstered independent movements in various other regions.
  • The rise of nationalism under glasnost soon reawakened simmering ethnic tensions in various Soviet republics, further discrediting the ideal of a unified Soviet people. One instance occurred in February 1988, when the government in Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic Armenian region in the Azerbaijan SSR, passed a resolution calling for unification with the Armenian SSR. Violence against local Azerbaijanis was reported on Soviet television, provoking massacres of Armenians in the Azerbaijani city of Sumgait.
  • Emboldened by the liberalized atmosphere of glasnost, public dissatisfaction with economic conditions was much more overt than ever before in the Soviet period. Although perestroika was considered bold in the context of Soviet history, Gorbachev’s attempts at economic reform were not radical enough to restart the country’s chronically sluggish economy in the late 1980s. the reforms made some inroads in decentralization, but Gorbachev and his team left intact most of the fundamental elements of the Stalinist system, including price controls, inconvertibility of the Ruble, exclusion of private property ownership, and the government monopoly over most means of production.
  • By 1990 the Soviet government had lost control over economic conditions. Government spending increased sharply as an increasing number of unprofitable enterprises required state support and consumer price subsidies to continue. Tax revenues declined as republic and local governments withheld tax revenues from the central government under the growing spirit of regional autonomy. The anti=alcohol campaign reduced tax revenues as well, which in 1982 accounted for about 12 percent of all state revenue. The elimination of central control over production decisions, especially in the consumer goods sector, led to the breakdown in traditional supplier-producer relationships without contributing to the formation of new ones. Thus, instead of streamlining the system, Gorbachev’s decentralization caused new production bottlenecks.


Dissolution of the USSR

  • On February 7, 1990 the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union agreed to give up its monopoly of power. Over the next several weeks, the 15 constituent republics of the USSR held their first competitive elections. Reformers and ethnic nationalists won many of the seats.
  • The constituent republics began to assert their national sovereignty over Moscow and started a “war of laws” with the central government, wherein the governments of the constituent republics repudiated all-union legislation where it conflicted with local laws, asserting control over their local economies and refusing to pay tax revenue to the central Moscow government. This strife caused economic dislocation as supply lines in the economy were severed, and caused the Soviet economy to decline further.
  • The pro-independence movement in Lithuania, Sajudis, established on June 3, 1988 caused a visit by Gorbachev in January 1990 to the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, which provoked a provoked a pro-independence rally of around 250,000 people.
  • On March 11, 1990 Lithuania, led by Chairman of the Supreme Council Vytautas Landsbergis, declared independence. However, the Soviet Army suppressed the movement. The Soviet Union initiated an economic blockade of Lithuania and kept troops there “to secure the rights of ethnic Russians.”
  • On March 30, 1990 the Estonian Supreme Council declared Soviet power in Estonia since 1940 to have been illegal, and started a process to re-establish Estonia as an independent state. The process of restoration of independence of Latvia began on May 4, 1990 with a Latvian Supreme Council vote stipulating a transitional period to complete independence.
  • On January 13, 1991 Soviet troops, along with KGB’s Alpha Groups, stormed the Vilnius TV Tower in Vilnius, Lithuania to suppress the nationalist media. This ended with 14 unarmed civilians dead and hundreds more injured. Later that month in Georgian SSR, anti-Soviet protesters at Tbilisi demonstrated support for Lithuanian independence.
  • On March 17, 1991 in a Union-wide referendum 78% of all voters voted for the retention of the Soviet Union in a reformed form. The Baltic, Armenia, Georgia and Moldova boycotted the referendum. In each of the other nine republics, a majority of the voters supported the retention of the renewed Soviet Union. Following the results Armenia indicated it wanted to rejoin in Union discussion.
  • On June 12, 1991. Yeltsin won 57% of the popular vote in the democratic elections for the post of president of the Russian SSR, defeating Gorbachev’s preferred candidate, Nikolai Ryzhkov, who won 16% of the vote. In his election campaign, Yeltsin criticized the “dictatorship of the centre”, but did not suggest the introduction of a market economy. Instead, he said that he would put his head on the rail-tracks in the event of increased prices. Yeltsin took office on July 10.
  • On the night of July 31, 1991, Russian soldiers from Riga, the Soviet military headquarters in the Baltic, assaulted the Lithuanian border post in Medininkai and killed seven Lithuanian servicemen. This further weakened the Soviet Union’s position, internationally and domestically.


The August Coup

  • Faced with growing republic separatism, Gorbachev attempted to restructure the Soviet Union into a less centralized state. On August 20, 1991, the Russian SSR was scheduled to sign the New Union Treaty, which was to convert the Soviet Union into a federation of independent republics with a common president, foreign policy and military. The new treaty was strongly supported by the Central Asian republics, which needed the economic power and common Party control over economy and social life. The more radical reformists were increasingly convinced that a rapid transition to a market economy was required, even if the eventual outcome included the disintegration of the Soviet state. Disintegration of the USSR also accorded with the desire of local authorities, such as Yeltsin’s presidency, to establish full power over their territories and get rid of pervasive Moscow ideological control. In contrast to the reformers’ lukewarm approach to the new treaty, the conservatives and remaining patriots of the USSR, still strong within the CPSU and military establishment, were completely opposed to anything which might contribute to the weakening of the Soviet state.
  • On August 19, 1991, Gorbachev’s vice president Gennadi Yanayev, prime minister Valentin Pavlov, defense minister Dmitriy Yazov, KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov, and other senior officials acted to prevent the signing of the union treaty by forming the “State Committee on the State Emergency.” The “Committee” put Gorbachev (vacationing in Foros, Crimea) under house arrest, reintroduced political censorship, and attempted to stop the perestroika. The coup leaders quickly issued an emergency decree suspending political activity and banning most newspapers.
  • While coup organizers expected some popular support for their actions, the public sympathy in large cities and in republics was largely against them. Russian SSR President Boris Yeltsin was quick to condemn the coup and grab popular support for himself.
  • Thousands of people in Moscow came out to defend the “White House” (Yeltsin’s office), then the symbolic seat of Russian sovereignty. The organizers tried but ultimately failed to arrest Yeltsin, who rallied mass opposition to the coup.
  • After three days, on August 21, the coup collapsed, the organizers were detained, and Gorbachev returned as president of the Soviet Union. However, Gorbachev’s powers were now fatally compromised, as neither union nor Russian power structures heeded his commands.


Aftermath of the failed coup

  • Through the autumn of 1991, the Russian government took over the union government, ministry by ministry. In November 1991 Yeltsin issued a decree banning the CPSU throughout the Russian republic. As a result, many former leaders abandoned the Communist Party in favors of positions in new government structures.
  • After the coup, the Soviet republics accelerated their process towards independence, declaring their sovereignty one by one. Their local authorities started to seize property located on their territory. On September 6, 1991 the Soviet government recognized the independence of the three Baltic States, which the western powers had always held to be sovereign. Yet, in the battle of power, on October 18 Gorbachev and the representatives of 8 republics (excluding Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldavia, Ukraine, and the Baltic States) signed an agreement on forming a new economic community.
  • Meanwhile, the Soviet economic situation continued to deteriorate. By December 1991 food shortages in central Russia had prompted food rationing in the Moscow area for the first time since World War II. Amid steady collapse Soviet President Gorbachev and his government continued to oppose rapid market reforms. To break Gorbachev’s opposition, Yeltsin decided to disband the USSR in accordance with the Treaty of the Union of 1922 and thereby remove Gorbachev and the Soviet government from power. This was seen as a forced measure to save the country from complete economic collapse and was at the time widely supported by Russia’s population. The step was also enthusiastically supported by the governments of Ukraine and Belarus, which were parties of the Treaty of 1922 along with Russia.

Formation of the CIS and official end of the USSR

  • The final round of the Soviet Union collapse took place following the Ukrainian popular referendum on December 1, 1991 wherein 90% of voters opted for independence. The leaders of Slavic republics agreed to meet for a discussion of possible forms of relationship, alternative to Gorbachev’s struggle for a union.
  • On December 8, 1991 the leaders of the Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian republics met in Belavezhskaya Pushcha and signed the Belavezha Accords declaring the Soviet Union dissolved and replaced by the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Gorbachev described this as an unconstitutional coup, but it soon became clear that the development could not be halted.
  • On December 12, 1991 Russia’s secession from the Union was sealed, with the Congress of Soviets of Russian SSR formally ratifying the Belavezha Accords and denouncing the 1922 Treaty on the creation of the Soviet Union.
  • On December 17, 1991 alongside 28 European countries, the European Community, and four non-European countries, twelve of the fifteen soviet republics signed the European Energy Charter in The Hague as if they were sovereign states.
  • Doubts remained over the authority of the Belavezha Accords to affect the dissolution of the Soviet Union, since they were signed by only five of the Soviet Republics. However, on December 21, 1991 representatives of all member republics except Georgia signed the Alma Ata Protocol, in which they confirmed the dissolution of the union. That same day, all former-Soviet republics agreed to join the CIS, with the exception of the three, Baltic States. The documents signed at Alma Ata also addressed several issues raised by the Union’s extinction. Notably, Russia was authorized to assume the role of the USSR in the United Nations, which meant inheriting its permanent membership on the Security Council. On December 24, 1991 the Soviet Ambassador to the UN delivered to the Secretary General a letter by Russia’s president, Boris Yeltsin, informing him that, in virtue of that agreement, Russia was the successor state to the USSR for the purposes of UN membership. After being circulated among the other UN member states with no objection raised, the statement was declared accepted on December 31st.
  • On December 25, 1991 Gorbachev, yielding to the inevitable, resigned as president of the USSR, declaring the office extinct and ceding all the powers still vested in it to the president of Russia Boris Yeltsin. On the night of that same day, the Soviet flag was lowered for the last time over the Kremlin. Finally, a day later on December 31, 1991 all official Soviet institutions had ceased operations as individual republics assumed the central government’s role.

Post-Soviet restructuring

  • In order to restructure the Soviet administrative command system and implement transition to a market-based economy, Yeltsin’s shock program was employed within days of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The subsidies to money-losing farms and industries were cut, price controls abolished, and the Ruble moved toward convertibility. New opportunities for Yeltsin’s circle and other entrepreneurs to seize the former state property were created thus restructuring old state-owned economy within a few months. After obtaining power, the vast majority of “idealistic” reformers gained huge possessions of state property using their positions in the government and became business oligarchs in a manner that appeared antithetical to an emerging democracy. Existing institutions were conspicuously abandoned prior to the establishment of new legal structures of the market economy such as those governing private property, overseeing financial markets, and enforcing taxation.
  • Market economists believed that the dismantling of the administrative command system in Russia would raise GDP and living standards by allocating resources more efficiently. They also thought the collapse would create new production possibilities by eliminating central planning, substituting a decentralized market system, eliminating huge macroeconomic and structural distortions through liberalization, and providing incentives through privatization.
  • Since the USSR’s collapse, Russia has faced many problems that free market proponents in 1992 did not expect: among other things, 25% of the population now lives below the poverty line, life expectancy has fallen, birth-rates are low, and the GDP has halved. These problems led to a series of crises in the 1990s, which nearly led to election of Yeltsin’s Communist challenger, Gennady Zyuganov, in the 1996 presidential election. In the recent years, the economy of Russia has begun to improve greatly, due to major investments and business development and also due to high prices of natural resources.

Changes in Eastern-Europe after 1990-91

  • In 1990 after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the former East Germany became part of the European Community as part of a newly reunited Germany. With enlargement toward Eastern Europe on the agenda, the Copenhagen criteria for candidate members to join the European Union were agreed.
  • Austria, Sweden and Finland jointed European Union in 1995. The Amsterdam Treaty in 1997 amended the Maastricht treaty in areas such as democracy and foreign policy. Amsterdam was followed by the Treaty of Nice in 2001, which revised the Rome and Maastricht treaty to allow the EU to cope with further enlargement to the east.
  • In 2002, twelve member states adopted the euro as a single currency. Since then, the Euro zone has increased to encompassing fifteen countries. In 2004, the EU saw its biggest enlargement to date when ten new countries, most of which former parts of the Eastern Bloc, acceded the Union. Three years later, two more joined.



Meaning of Cold War

  • The term cold war refers to the war of ideologies. It signifies distrust, jealousy and a state of active hostility, without actually fighting the war. Cold War involves an arms race and a war of ideological propagandas. The term cold war was used in modern times to describe the tension that prevailed between the two power blocks namely the capitalist bloc headed by USA and the Communist bloc led by Russia. American Bernard Baruch used the term cold war for the first time in the context of the relations between USA and USSR. In a speech in South Carolina on April 16, 1947 Baruch said that “Let us not be deceived; we are today in the midst of a cold war.” After Baruch, the American journalist Walter Lippman used this phrase.
  • The Cold War was the period of conflict, tension and competition between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies from the mid-1940s until the early 1990s. Throughout this period, the rivalry between the two superpowers unfolded in multiple arenas: military coalitions; ideology, psychology, and espionage; sports; military, industrial, and technological developments, including the space race; costly defence spending; a massive conventional and nuclear arms race; and many proxy wars.
  • Several events led to suspicion and distrust between the United States and the Soviet Union; US intervention in Russia supporting the White Army in the Russian Civil War, Russia’s withdrawal from World War I and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany, the Bolsheviks’ challenge to capitalism, the US refusal to recognize the soviet union until 1933. Other events in the period immediately before WWII increased this suspicion and distrust. The British appeasement of Germany and the German-soviet Non-aggression Pact are two notable examples.
  • There was never a direct military engagement between the US and the Soviet Union, but there was half a century of military build-up as well as political battles for support around the world, including significant involvement of allied and satellite nations in proxy wars. Although the US and the Soviet Union had been allied against Nazi Germany, the two sides differed on how to reconstruct the post-war world even before the end of World War II. Over the following decades, the Cold War spread outside Europe to every region of the world, as the US sought the “containment” of communism and forged numerous alliances to this end, particularly in Western Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. There were repeated crises that threatened to escalate into world wars but they never did notably the Berlin Blockade (1948-1949), the Korean War (1950-1953), the Vietnam War (1959-1975), the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), and the Soviet-Afghan War (1979-1989). There were also periods when tension was reduced as both sides sought détente. Direct military attacks on adversaries were deterred by the potential for mutual assured destruction using deliverable nuclear weapons.


Origin of Cold War

  • The basic cause of Cold War lay in the differences of principle between the communist states and the capitalist or liberal democratic states. The communist system of organizing the state and society was based on the ideas of Karl Marx which believed that the wealth of a country should be collectively owned and shared by everybody, the economy should be centrally planned and the interests and well being of the working classes safeguarded by state social policies. The capitalist system on the other hand, operates on the basis of private ownership of a country’s wealth. The driving forces behind capitalism are private enterprise in the pursuit of making profits, and the preservation of the power of private wealth.
  • There is some disagreement over what constitutes the beginning of the Cold War. While most historians say that it began in the period just after World War II, some say that it began towards the end of World War I, though tensions between Russia/USSR and Britain and the United States date back to the middle of the 19th
  • Differences between the political and economic systems of Russia and the West predated the Russian Revolution of 1917. From the neo-Marxist World systems perspective, Russia differed from the West as a result of its late integration into the capitalist world economy in the 19th Struggling to catch up with the industrialized West as of the late 19th century, Russia at the time of the revolution in 1917 was essentially a semi-peripheral or peripheral state whose internal balance of forces, tipped by the domination of the Russian industrial sector by foreign capital, had been such that it suffered a decline in its relative diplomatic power internationally. From this perspective, the Russian Revolution represented a break with a form of dependent industrial development and a radical withdrawal from the capitalist world economy.
  • Other scholars have argued that Russia and the West developed fundamentally different political cultures shaped by Eastern Orthodoxy and rule of the tsar. Others have linked the cold war to the legacy of different heritages of empire-building between the Russians and Americans. From this view, the united states, like the British empire, was fundamentally a maritime power based on trade and commerce, and Russia was a bureaucratic and land-based power that expanded from the centre in a process of territorial accretion.
  • Historians associated with the Wisconsin school see parallels between 19th century western rivalry with Russia and the cold war tensions of the post-world war II period. From this view, western policymakers misinterpreted post-war soviet policy in Europe as expansionism, rather than a policy, like the territorial growth of imperial Russia, motivated by securing vulnerable Russian frontiers.
  • Modern historians trace the origins of the cold war to the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. Ever since the world’s first communist government was set up in Russia (USSR) in 1917, the governments of most capitalist states viewed it with mistrust and were afraid of communism spreading to their countries. When civil war broke out in Russia in 1918 several capitalist states- the USA, Britain, France and Japan- sent troops to Russia to help the anti communist forces. The communists won the war, but Joseph Stalin, who became Russian leader in 1929, was convinced that there would be another attempt by the capitalist powers to destroy communism in Russia. The German invasion of Russian in 1941 proved him right.
  • Stalin suspected that the USA and Britain were still keen to destroy communism; he felt that their delay in launching the invasion of France, the Second Front (which did not take place until June 1944) was deliberately calculated to keep most of the pressure on the Russians and bring them to the point of exhaustions. Nor did they tell Stalin about the existence of the atomic bomb until shortly before its use on Japan, and they rejected his request that Russia should share in the occupation of Japan. The need of self-preservation against Germany and Japan caused the USSR, the USA and Britain to forget their differences and work together, but as soon as the defeat of Germany became clear, both sides and especially Stalin began to plan for the post war period.


Various theories of cold war

  • As soon as the term, “Cold War” was popularized to refer to post-war tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, interpreting the course and origins of the conflict has been a source of heated controversy among historians, political scientists, and journalists. In particular, historians have sharply disagreed as to who was responsible for the breakdown of Soviet-U.S. relations after the Second World War; and whether the conflict between the two superpowers was inevitable, or could have been avoided. Historians have also disagreed on what exactly the Cold War was, what the sources of the conflict were, and how to disentangle patterns of action and reaction between the two sides.
  • While the explanations of the origins of the conflict in academic discussions are complex and diverse, several general schools of thought on the subject can be identified. Historians commonly speak of three differing approaches to the study of the Cold War: “orthodox” accounts, “revisionism,” and “post-revisionism.” Nevertheless, much of the historiography on the Cold War weaves together two or-even all three of these broad categories.


Orthodox Theory

  • The first school of interpretation to emerge in the U.S. was the “orthodox” one. For more than a decade after the end of the Second World War, few U.S. historians challenged the official U.S. interpretation of the beginnings of the Cold War. This “orthodox” school places the responsibility for the Cold War on the Soviet Union and its expansion into Eastern Europe. Thomas A. Bailey, for example, argued in his book “America Faces Russia” (1950) that the breakdown of post-war peace was the result of Soviet expansionism in the immediate post-war years. Bailey argued Stalin violated promises he had made at Yalta, imposed Soviet-dominated regimes on unwilling Eastern European populations, and conspired to spread communism throughout the world. From this view, U.S. officials were forced to respond to Soviet aggression with the Truman Doctrine, plans to contain communist subversion around the world, and the Marshall Plan. During the 1950s, Western historians, such as the American George Kennan blamed Stalin and wrote that his motives were sinister and that he intended to spread communism as widely as possible through Europe and Asia, thus destroying capitalism.
  • This interpretation has been described as the “official” U.S. version of cold war history. Although it lost its dominance as a mode of historical thought in academic discussions in 1960s, it continues to be influential.


Revisionist Theory

  • S. involvement in Vietnam in the 1960s disillusioned many historians with the premise of “containment”, and thus with the assumptions of the “orthodox” approach to understanding the cold war. (49) “Revisionist” accounts emerged in the wake of the Vietnam War, in the context of a larger rethinking of the U.S. role in international affairs, which was seen more in terms of American empire or hegemony.
  • The Wisconsin school of interpretation argues that the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were economic rivals, making them natural adversaries, irrespective of their ideologies. Walter Lafeber, meanwhile, argues the U.S. and Imperial Russia were already rivals by 1900 over the development of Manchuria, Russia, unable to compete industrially with the States, sought to close off parts of East Asia to trade with other colonial powers. Meanwhile, the U.S. demanded open competition for markets.
  • While the new school of thought spanned many differences among individual scholars, the works, comprising it were generally responses in one way or another to William Appleman Williams’ landmark 1959 volume, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy. Williams challenged the long-held assumptions of “orthodox” accounts, arguing that Americans had always been an empire-building people, even while American leaders denied it.
  • Following Williams, “revisionist” writers placed more responsibility for the breakdown of post-war peace on the United States, citing a range of U.S. efforts to isolate and confront the Soviet Union well before the end of World War II. According to Williams and later “revisionist” writers, U.S. policymakers shared an overarching concern with maintaining capitalism domestically. In order to achieve that objective, they pursued an “open door” policy abroad, aimed at increasing access to foreign markets for U.S. business and agriculture. From this perspective, a growing economy domestically went hand-in-hand with the consolidation of U.S. power internationally.
  • “Revisionist” scholars challenged the widely accepted notion that soviet leaders were committed to post-war “expansionism”. They cited evidence that the soviet union’s occupation of Eastern Europe had a defensive rationale, and that soviet leaders saw themselves as attempting to avoid encirclement by the United States and its allies. In this view, the Soviet Union was so weak and devastated after the end of the Second World War as to be unable to pose any serious threat to the United States; moreover, the U.S. maintained a nuclear monopoly until the U.S.S.R. tested its first atomic bomb in August 1949.
  • Revisionist historians have also challenged the assumption that the origins of the Cold War date no further back than the immediate post-war period. Notably, Walter LaFeber, in his landmark study, America, Russia, and the Cold War, first published in 1972, argued that the Cold War had its origins in 19th century conflicts between Russia and America over the opening of East Asia to U.S. trade, markets, and influence. LaFeber argued that the U.S. commitment at the close of World War II to ensuring a world in which every state was open to U.S. influence and trade underpinned many of the conflicts that triggered the beginning of the cold war.
  • Starting with Gar Alperovitz, in his influential Atomic Diplomacy; Hiroshima and Potsdam (1965), “revisionist” scholars have focused on the U.S. decision to use atomic weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the last days of World War II. In their view, the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, in effect, started the cold war. According to Alperovitz, the bombs were not used on an already defeated Japan to win the war, but to intimidate the soviets, signaling that the U.S. would use nuclear weapons to structure a post-war world around U.S. interests as U.S. policymakers saw fit. According to some revisionists, Japan had tried to surrender for several months, but the U.S. wanted to test nuclear weapons in war and most importantly, show its power to the Soviet Union.
  • Joyce and Gabriel Kolko’s the Limits of Power: The World and U.S. foreign Policy, 1945-1954 (1972) has also received considerable attention in the historiography on the Cold War. The Kolkos argued U.S. policy was both reflexively anticommunist and counterrevolutionary. The U.S. was not necessarily fighting soviet influence, but any form of challenge to the U.S. economic and political prerogatives through either covert or military means. In this sense, the cold war is less a story of rivalry between two blocs, and more a story of the ways by which the dominant states within each bloc controlled and disciplined their own populations and clients, and about who supported and stood to benefit from increased arms production and political anxiety over a perceived external enemy.


Post-Revisionist Theory

  • The “revisionist” interpretation produced a critical reaction of its own. Later a third view, known as the post-revisionist interpretation, was put forward by some American historians and this became popular in the 1980s. They had the benefit of being able to look at lots of new documents and visit archives which had not been open to earlier historians. The new evidence suggested that the situation at the end of the war was far more complicated than earlier historians had realized; this led them to take a middle view, arguing that both sides should take some blame for the cold war, they believe that American economic policies such as Marshall aid were deliberately designed to increase US political influence in Europe. With their entrenched position and deep suspicions of each other the USA and the USSR created an atmosphere in which every international act could be interpreted in two ways. What was claimed as necessary for self-defence by one side was taken by the other as evidence of aggressive intent.
  • During the period, “post-revisionism” challenged the “revisionists” by accepting some of their findings but rejecting most of their key claims. Particularly, post-revisionist historians argued that revisionists put too much emphasis on U.S. economic considerations while ignoring domestic politics and perceptions held at the time. Another current attempted to strike a balance between the “orthodox” and “revisionist” camps, identifying areas of responsibility for the origins of the conflict on both sides. Thomas G. Paterson, in Soviet-American Confrontation (1973), for example, viewed Soviet hostility and U.S. efforts to dominate the post-war world as equally responsible for the Cold War.
  • The seminal work of this approach was John Lewis Gaddis’s the United States and the Origins of the cold war. 1941-1947 (1972). The account was immediately hailed as the beginning of a new school of thought on the cold war claiming to synthesize a variety of interpretations. Gaddis then maintained that “neither side can bear sole responsibility for the onset of the Cold War.” He did, however, emphasize the constraints imposed on U.S. policymakers due to the complications of domestic politics. Gaddis has, in addition, criticized some “revisionist” scholars, particularly Williams, for failing to understand the role of Soviet policy in the origins of the cold war.
  • Out of the “post-revisionist” literature emerged a new area of inquiry that was more sensitive to nuances and less interested in the question of who started the conflict than in offering insight into U.S. and Soviet actions and perspectives. From this perspective, the cold war was not so much the responsibility of either side, but rather the result of predictable tensions between two world powers that had been suspicious of one another for nearly a century. For example, Ernest May wrote in a 1984 essay: after the second world war, the united states and the Soviet Union were doomed to be antagonists…. There probably was never any real possibility that the post-1945 relationship could be anything but hostility verging on conflict… traditions, belief systems, propinquity, and convenience…. All combined to stimulate antagonism, and almost no factor operated in either country to hold it back.
  • From this view of “post-revisionism” emerged a line of inquiry that examines how cold war actors perceived various events, and the degree of misperception involved in the failure of the two sides to reach common understandings of their wartime alliance and their disputes.
  • While Gaddis does not hold either side entirely responsible for the onset of the conflict, he argued that the soviets should be held clearly more accountable for the ensuring problems. According to Gaddis, Stalin was in a much better position to compromise than his Western counterparts, given his much broader power within his own regime than Truman, who was often undermined by vociferous political opposition at home. Asking if it were possible to predict that the wartime alliance would fall apart within a matter of months, leaving in its place nearly a half century of cold war, Gaddis wrote in a 1997 essay, we now know: Rethinking Cold War History: Geography, demography, and tradition contributed to this outcome but did not determine it. It took men, responding unpredictably to circumstances, to forge the chain of causation; and it took (Stalin) in particular, responding predictably to his own authoritarian, paranoid, and narcissistic predisposition, to lock it into place.
  • For Stalin, Gaddis continues, “world politics was an extension of Soviet politics, which was in turn an extension of Stalin’s preferred personal environment: a zero-sum game, in which achieving security for one meant depriving everyone else of it.”


Interwar diplomacy (1918-1941)

  • Relations were never particularly good between the two nations in the inter-war period, with limited trade and diplomatic links being established in an atmosphere of extreme suspicion. Memories of US efforts to crush Bolshevism between 1918 and 1920, and Russia’s efforts to spread communism beyond its own borders, further aggravated the tensions. The US refused to recognize the Soviet Union until 1933. After winning the Russian Civil War, the Bolsheviks proclaimed a worldwide challenge to capitalism.
  • Following the post-war Red Scare, many in the U.S. saw the Soviet system as a threat. Differences between the political and economic systems of the United States and the Soviet Union—capitalism versus socialism, models of autarchy versus trade, state planning versus private enterprise—became simplified and refined in national ideologies to represent two ways of life. The atheistic nature of Soviet communism also concerned many Americans. The American ideals of free determination and President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points conflicted with many of the USSR’s policies.
  • Up until the mid-1930s, both British and U.S. policymakers commonly assumed the communist Soviet Union to be a much greater threat than disarmed and democratic Germany and focused most of their intelligence efforts against Moscow. The Union States did not establish relations with the Soviet government until 1933.
  • Even after U.S. recognition of the Soviet Union, each side retained suspicions of the other’s intentions and motives. The Soviets resented Western appeasement of Adolf Hitler after the signing of the Munich Pact in 1938. Following the signing of Munich Pact, Joseph Stalin reached his own settlement with Germany, the August 1939 German-Soviet Non-aggression Pact, which similarly shocked the West.
  • However it has also been stated that in the period between the two wars, the U.S. had little interest in the Soviet Union or its intentions. America, after minimal contribution to World War I and the Russian Civil War, began to favour an isolationist stance when concerned with global politics (something which contributed to its late involvement in the Second World War). An example of this can be seen from its absence in the League of Nations. President Woodrow Wilson was one of the main advocates for the League of Nations; the United States Congress, however, voted against joining. America was enjoying unprecedented economic growth throughout the 1910s and early 20s. However the Wall Street Crash of 1929 plunged America into the Great Depression and was therefore even less inclined to make contributions to the international community when it suffered from serious financial and social problems at home.


Wartime alliance (1941-1945)

  • Following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, the Soviets and the Western Allies were forced to cooperate, despite their past tensions. The U.S. shipped vast quantities of Lend Lease material to the Soviets, Britain and the Soviets signed a formal alliance, but the U.S. did not join until after the attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7,1941.
  • During the war, both sides disagreed on military tactics, especially the question of the opening of a second front against Germany in Western Europe. As early as July 1941, Stalin had asked Britain to invade northern France, but Britain did not carry out such a request. Stalin had asked the Western Allies to open a second front since the early months of the war—which finally occurred on June 6, 1944.
  • The Soviets believed at the time, and charged throughout the Cold War, that the British and Americans intentionally delayed the opening of a second front against Germany in order to intervene only at the last minute so as to influence the peace settlement and dominate Europe. Historians such as John Lewis Gaddis dispute this claim, citing other military and strategic calculations for the timing of the Normandy invasion. In the meantime, the Russians suffered heavy casualties, with as many as twenty million dead. Nevertheless, Soviet perceptions (or misconceptions) of the West and vice versa left a strong undercurrent of tension and hostility between the Allied powers.
  • Both sides, moreover, held very dissimilar ideas regarding the establishment and maintenance of post-war security. The Americans tended to understand security in situational terms, assuming that, if US-style governments and markets were established as widely as possible, countries could resolve their differences peacefully, through international organizations. The key to the US vision of security was a post-war world shaped according to the principles laid out in the 1941 Atlantic Charter—in other words, a liberal international system based on free trade and open markets. This vision would require a rebuilt capitalist Europe, with a healthy Germany at its centre, to serve once more as a hub in global affairs.
  • This would also require US economic and political leadership of the post-war world. Europe needed the USA’s assistance if it was to rebuild its domestic production and finance its international trade. The USA was the only world power not economically devastated by the fighting. By the end of the war, she was producing around fifty percent of the world’s industrial goods.
  • Soviet leaders, however, tended to understand security in terms of space. This reasoning was conditioned by Russia’s historical experiences, given the frequency with which the country had been invaded over the last 150 years. The Second World War experience was particularly traumatic for the Russians: the Soviet Union suffered unprecedented devastation as a result of the Nazi onslaught, and over 20,000,000 Soviet citizens died during the war; tens of thousands of Soviet cities, towns, and villages were leveled; and 30,100 Soviet factories were destroyed. In order to prevent, to dominate the Balkans and to destroy utterly Germany’s capacity to engage in another war. The problem was that Stalin’s strategy risked confrontation with the equally powerful United States, who viewed Stalin’s actions as a flagrant violation of the Yalta agreement.
  • As the war came to an end, it seemed highly likely that cooperation between the Western powers and the USSR would give way to intense rivalry or conflict. This was due primarily to the starkly contrasting economic ideologies of the two superpowers, now quite easily the strongest in the world. Whereas the USA was a liberal, multi-party democracy with an advanced capitalist economy, based on free enterprise and profit-making, the USSR was a one-party Communist dictatorship with a state-controlled economy where private wealth and initiative was all but outlawed. It seemed obvious that, while America would be wholly in favour of a return to democracy for post-war Europe, providing it with allies and important trading partners, Russia (especially under Stalin’s rule) would attempt to take advantage of the chaos and spread communism.


Post 1945 developments

The Yalta Conference (February 1945)

  • At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the Allies attempted to define the framework for a post-war settlement in Europe. This was held in Russia (in the Crimea) and was attended by the three Allied leaders, Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill so that they could plan what was to happen when the war ended. At the time it seemed to be a success, agreement being reached on several points. It was decided that Germany would be divided into three Zones, one each under the Russian, American and British (a French Zone was included later). The German capital Berlin, which happened to be in the middle of the Russian zone, would also be split into corresponding zones. Similar arrangements were to be made for Austria.
  • However, there were differences in opinion about Poland. Russian armies had swept through Poland, driving the German back; they had set up a communist government in Lublin, even though there was already a Polish government in exile in London. It was agreed at Yalta that some members (non-communist) of the London based government should be allowed to join the Lublin government, while in return, Russia would be allowed to keep a strip of eastern Poland which she had annexed in 1939. However, Roosevelt and Churchill were not happy about Stalin’s demands that Poland should be given all German territory east of the rivers Oder and Neisse; no agreement was reached on this point. It was also decided at Yalta that a new organization called, the United Nations, should be set up to replace the failed League of Nations.


The Potsdam Conference (July 1945)

  • Harry S. Truman, Churchill, and Joseph Stalin met at the Potsdam and the Conference started on July 18, 1945. Churchill was replaced by Clement Attlee, the new British Labour prime minister, after Labour’s election victory. This Conference revealed a distinct cooling—off in relations.
  • The war with Germany was over, but no agreement was reached about her long term future. The big question was whether and when the four zones would be allowed to join together to form a united country again. She was to be disarmed, the Nazi party disbanded and its leaders tried as war criminals. It was agreed that the Germans should pay something toward repairing the damage they had caused during the war. Most of these payments (known as reparations) were to go to the USSR, which was to be allowed to take non food goods from their own zone and from the other zones as well, provided the Russians sent food supplies to the western zones of Germany in return.
  • it was over Poland that the main disagreement occurred. Truman and Churchill were annoyed because Germany, east of the Oder-Neisse Line had been occupied by Russian troops and was being run by the pro communist Polish government which expelled some 5 million Germans living in the area; this had not been agreed to at Yalta.
  • Truman did not inform Stalin about the exact nature of the atomic bomb though Churchill was told about it. A few days after the conference closed the two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan and the war ended quickly on 10 August without the need for Russian help (though the Russians declared war on Japan on 8 August and invaded Manchuria). They annexed south Sakhalin as agreed at Yalta, but they were allowed no part in the occupation of Japan. Stalin protested to US officials when Truman offered the Soviets little real influence in occupied Japan.


Communism established in Eastern Europe

  • The establishment of communist government in Eastern Europe caused alarm in the west. In the months following Potsdam, the Russians systematically interfered in the countries of Eastern Europe to set up pro-communist governments. This happened in Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Albania and Romania. In some cases their opponents were imprisoned or murdered, in Hungary for example, the Russians allowed free elections; but although the communists won less than 20 per cent of the seats, they saw to it that a majority of the cabinet were communists.
  • It was in this atmosphere of American anxiety that the Cold War spotlight shifted to Korea, where, in June 1950, troops from communist North Korea invaded non—communist South Korea.
  • Differences over the future of Europe, for example on Poland, had emerged early during the war. Though most of these differences had been sorted out at Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam, the western suspicions of the Soviet Union had persisted. The Soviet victories against Germany in Eastern Europe had created a feeling of unease in the western countries. The British were particularly alarmed at the soviet army’s advance towards Berlin, although Berlin was located within that part of Germany which, by common agreement, had been allocated to the Soviet Union. The communist domination of the governments in Poland aroused British and US indignation at what they considered was Soviet betrayal of promise regarding democratic institutions and free elections. In 1946, the provisional Polish government based in London, was split. In the election which were held later, the two parties which later merged to form the communist party (called the polish united Workers Party) won about 90 percent of the seats. The leaders of the main opposition party alleged that the elections had not been free and that thousands of their workers had been arrested. By the end of 1947 every state in that area with the exception of Czechoslovakia had a fully communist government.
  • The development in Germany further aggravated the difference between the Soviet Union and the western countries. Germany had been divided into four occupation zones each under the Soviet Union, USA, Britain and French. At the Potsdam conference, Germany became divided into two parts – the three zones under USA, Britain and France becoming one, the western part and the Eastern part under USSR. The latter ended the supply of agricultural goods to the former. Each part now had a separate currency. The political and economic policies followed in each part were different. Large landholdings were confiscated and redistributed among peasants, many industries and mines were nationalized and German communists, who had been living in exile since the fascist take over, were encouraged to come back. In the western part, a capitalized type of economy began to develop with massive US aid and political parties and groups which were hostile to communists and the Soviet Union became dominant. The policies followed in the western part were now based on the fear of communism and the Soviet Union. By 1947, Germany had been divided in to two distinct economic and political parts. Later its division was formalized with the setting up to two independent states.


The communist takeover of Czechoslovakia (February 1948)

  • There was a coalition government of communist and other left wing parties which had been freely elected in 1946. The communists had won 38 per cent of the votes and 114 seats in the 300 seat Parliament, and they held a third of the cabinet posts. The Prime Minister, Clement Gottwald, was a communist; president Banes and the Foreign Minister, Jan Masaryk were non-communists. They hoped that Czechoslovakia with its highly developed industries would remain as a bridge between east and west.
  • However, a crisis arose early in 1948. Elections were due in May and all the signs were that the communists would lose ground. The communists decided to act before the elections’ already in control of the unions and the police they seized power in an armed coup. All non communist ministers with the exception of Banes and Masaryk resigned. A few days later Masaryk’s body was found under the windows of his office. His death was officially described as suicide. However, when the archives were opened after the collapse of communism in 1989 documents were found which indicated that he was murdered.
  • Similar developments took place in Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. In Yugoslavia and Albania also communist who had led the national resistance had come to power. Thus seven countries in Europe had governments dominated by communist parties and the Soviet Union was no longer the only country in the world to be ruled by a communist party. Britain and USA were particularly concerned at this development which they viewed as a danger to what they called the free world.


Speech of Stalin

  • Stalin frightened the west further by a widely reported speech in February 1946 in which he said that communism and capitalism could never live peacefully together, and that future wars were inevitable until the final victory of communism was achieved.


Long Telegram and Mr. X

  • In February 1946, George F. Kennan’s “Long Telegram” from Moscow helped articulate the growing hard line against the Soviets. The telegram argued that the Soviet Union was motivated by both traditional Russian imperialism and by Marxist ideology; Soviet behavior was inherently expansionist and paranoid, posing a threat to the United States and its allies. Later writing as “Mr. X” in his article “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” in Foreign Affairs (July 1947), Kennan drafted the classic argument for adopting a policy of “containment” toward the Soviet Union.
  • On September 6, 1946, James F. Byrnes made a speech in Germany, repudiating the Morgenthau Plan and warning the Soviets that the US intended to maintain a military presence in Europe indefinitely. As Byrnes admitted one month later, “The nub of our program was to win the German people (…) it was a battle us and Russia over minds (…)”.


Fulton Speech of Churchill

  • A few weeks after the release of this “Long Telegram”, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made a speech at the University of Fulton. Missouri in the US in March 1946 in the presence of the US president Truman, in which he said, “from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic” an iron curtain has descended across the continent. The iron curtain referred to the division of Europe into the Soviet Union and the countries which in Churchill’s view were under soviet control and the rest. Churchill also appealed for British-US political and military alliance to confront the Soviet Union. “Claiming that the Russians were bent on indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines; he called for a western alliance which would stand firm against the communist threat. The speech helped to widen the rift between east and west. Stalin was able to denounce Churchill as a warmonger; while over a hundred British Labour MPs signed a motion criticizing the conservative leader.


Greece Civil War

  • Another development which brought about the cold war was the civil war in Greece. Communists had been a major force in the resistance against fascist occupation of Greece. However, the British troops which had been sent to Greece wanted to restore the rule of the king who was brought back. This led to the civil war. There were 10,000 British troops who fought against the Greek communists in the civil war. However, Britain decided to withdraw from Greece. She informed the United States that she could no longer bear the burden of supporting the Greek government. This would have almost certainly led to communist victory in the civil war. The US government decided to take the burden of supporting the Greek-government in the civil war upon itself. She also supported Turkey which it was thought, was threatened by the Soviet Union.
  • The US decision to intervene in the Greek civil war may be considered as formally ushering in the cold war. President Truman while asking the congress for $400 million as military and economic aid to the Greek government made a policy statement which has been called the Truman doctrine.


The Truman Doctrine

  • By 1947, Truman’s advisors were worried that time was running out to counter the influence of the Soviet Union. In Europe, post-war economic recovery was faltering, and shortages of food and other essential consumer goods were common. Truman’s advisors feared that the Soviet Union was seeking to weaken the position of the US in a period of post-war confusion and collapse.
  • The event which spurred Truman on to announce formally the US’s adopting the policy of “containment” was the British government’s announcement in February 1947 that it could no longer afford to finance the Greek monarchical military regime in its civil war against communist-led insurgents. Rather than view this war as a civil conflict revolving around domestic issues, US policymakers interpreted it as a Soviet effort; however, the insurgents were helped by Josip Broz Tito’s Yugoslavia, not Moscow. Secretary of State Dean Acheson accused the Soviet Union of conspiracy against the Greek royalists in an effort to “expand” into the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, and in March 1947 the administration unveiled the “Truman Doctrine”. It “must be the policy of the United States,” Truman declared, “to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressures.”
  • The Truman Doctrine proclaimed communism as the treat to the free world which the United States, as the head of the free world, would not allow to succeed anywhere in the world. Every revolution was seen as being the result of  the soviet expansionism which had to be crushed by all the might of the United States. This doctrine became the basis of the foreign policy of the United States for about four decades. Every conflict in the world was seen in terms of a struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union.
  • Immediately anti-communists of Greece received massive amount of arms and other supplies, and by 1949 they defeated the Communists. Turkey, which also seemed under threat, received aid worth about 60 million dollars. The Truman doctrine made it clear that the USA had no intention of returning to isolation as she had after the First World War; she was committed to a policy of containing communism, not just in Europe, but throughout the world, including Korea and Vietnam.


Marshall Plan

  • For US policymakers, threats to Europe’ balance of power were not necessarily military ones, but political and economic challenge. George Kennan helped to summarize the problem at the State Department Planning staff in May 1947: “Communist activities” were not “the root of the difficulties of Western Europe” but rather “the disruptive effects of the war on the economic, political, and social structure of Europe.” According to this view, the Communists were “exploiting the European crisis” to gain power. In June, following the recommendations of the State Department Planning Staff, the Truman Doctrine was complemented by the Marshall Plan, a pledge of economic assistance aimed at rebuilding the Western political-economic system and countering perceived threats to Europe’s balance of power.
  • After lobbying by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Generals Clay and Marshall, the Truman administration finally realized that economic recovery in Europe could not go forward without the reconstruction of the German industrial base on which it had previously been dependent.
  • In July, Truman rescinded, on “national security grounds”, the punitive Morgenthau plan JCS 1067, which had directed the US forces of occupation in Germany to “take no steps looking toward the economic rehabilitation of Germany.” It was replaced by JCS 1779, which stressed instead that “an orderly, prosperous Europe requires the economic contributions of a stable and productive Germany.”
  • The twin policies of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan led to billions in economic and military aid to Western Europe, and Greece and Turkey. With US assistance, the Greek military won its civil war, and the Italian Christian Democrats defeated the powerful Communist-Socialist alliance in the elections of 1948.


The Cominform

  • This was the communist response. Set up by Stalin in September 1947, this was an organization to draw together the various European communist parties. All the satellite states were members, and the French and Italian communist parties were represented. Stalin’s aim was to tighten his grip on the satellites: to be communist was not enough it must be Russian style communism, Eastern Europe was to be industrialized collectivized and centralized: states were members, and all contacts with non-communist countries were discouraged. When Yugoslavia objected, she was expelled from the Cominform (1948) though she remained communist.

Molotov plan

  • In 1949 the Molotov plan was introduced, offering Russian aid to the satellites. Another organization Known as COMECON (Council of Mutual Economic Assistance) was set up to coordinate their economic policies.


The Berlin blockade and airlift (June 1948-May 1949)

  • This brought the Cold War to its first climax. The crisis arose out of disagreements over the treatment of Germany. At the end of the war, as agreed at Yalta and Potsdam, Germany and Berlin were each divided into four zones. While the three western powers did their best to make Germany pay for all the damage inflicted on Russia but Russia treated his zone as a satellite, draining its resources away to Russia.
  • Early in 1948 the three Western zones were merged to form a single economic unit, whose prosperity, thanks to Marshall Aid, was in marked contrast to the poverty of the Russian zone. The west wanted all four zones to be re-united and given self—government as soon as possible; but Stalin had decided that it would be safer for Russia if he kept the Russian zone separate, with its own communist, pro-Russsian government. The prospect of the three Western zones re-uniting was alarming enough to Stalin, because he knew they would be part of the Western bloc.
  • When in June 1948 the West introduced a new-currency and ended price controls in their zone and in West Berlin. The Russians decided that the situation in Berlin had become impossible; already irritated by this island of capitalism a hundred miles inside the communist zone, they felt it impossible to have two different currencies in the same city, and they were embarrassed by the contrast between the prosperity of West Berlin and the poverty of the surrounding area.
  • The Russian response was immediate: all road, rail and canal links between West Berlin and West Germany were closed; their aim was to force the west to withdraw from West Berlin by reducing it to starvation point. The Western powers, convinced that a retreat would be the prelude to a Russian attack on West Germany, were determined to hold on. They decided to fly supplies in, rightly judging that the Russians would not risk shooting down the transport planes. Truman had thoughtfully sent a fleet of B-29 bombers to be positioned on British airfields, over the next ten months 2 million tons of supplies were airlifted to the blockaded city in a remarkable operation which kept the 2.5 million West Berliners fed and warm right through the winter. In May 1949 the Russians admitted failure by lifting the blockade.
  • The affair had important results. The outcome gave a great psychological boost to the Western powers, though it brought relations with Russia to their worst ever. It caused the Western powers to co-ordinate their defences by the formation of NATO. It meant that, since no compromise was possible, Germany was doomed to remain divided for the foreseeable future.


The formation of NATO

  • The Berlin blockade exposed the military unpreparedness and frightened them into making definite preparation. Already in March 1948 Britain, French, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg had signed the Brussels Defence Treaty promising military collaboration in case of war. Now they were joined by the USA, Canada, Portugal, Denmark, Eire, Italy and Norway. All signed the North Atlantic Treaty and the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) took place in April 1949. The NATO countries agreed to regard an attack on any one of them as an attack on them all, and placing their defence forces under a joint NATO command organization which would co-ordinate the defence of the west.
  • This was a highly significant development because the Americans had abandoned their traditional policy of not entangling in alliance and for the first time had pledged them in advance to military action. In most people’s minds, the USSR was the most likely source of any attack. Predictably Stalin took it as a challenge, and tensions remained high.
  • NATO was not just a European organization. It also included the USA and Canada. The Korean War (1950-53) caused the USA to press successfully for the integration of NATO forces under a centralized command; a Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) was established near Paris.
  • Through this alliance the western countries launched a massive programme of rearmament to check what they called Russian expansion in Europe and to contain communism. During the next six years, the United States gave massive military aid to the NATO countries of Europe. In 1952, Greece and turkey were also made members of NATO.


Emergence of the USSR as a nuclear power

  • The United States had emerged as the mightiest military power at end of the Second World War. For four years, she was the only country in the world to have atomic weapons. The monopoly in atomic weapons had given her a sense of unquestionable military supremacy in the world.
  • The US monopoly in atomic weapons was broken when; in 1949 the USSR conducted an atomic test. The USSR announced in September 1949 that, she had tested atomic bomb. US were shocked at the news which was used to exacerbate further the fear of communism. During the next few years’ severe panic developed in USA. The US government leaders, some members of the US congress and sections of the mass media added to the panic by spreading stories of soviet agents subverting US security by infiltrating the US administration.
  • The Soviet Union’s success in developing the US security by infiltrating the US administration. The Soviet Union’s success in developing the atomic bomb was attributed solely to the leaking out of British and US atomic secrets by spies to the Soviet Union. The loyalty of many scientists and others who had been associated with the atomic bomb project was suspected and some of them were tried and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment and even death. Some of the leading scientists of the time held the view that even though there was truth in the charges of espionage and some atomic secrets were leaked out to the Soviet Union, this would have made little material difference to soviet scientists and technological capability in making the atomic bomb as soviet scientists had started working towards it almost at the same time as the scientists in the US. It was also pointed out by many public figures that the US, the Soviet Union and Britain had been allies during the war sharing of secrets with allies could not be held treasonable. The spy scare was, however, whipped up and used to further worsen the climate of fear and hostility to the Soviet Union.

Emergence of China as a Communist power

  • In 1949 Mao’s Red Army defeated the US-backed Kuomintang regime in China. Shortly afterwards, the Soviet Union created an alliance with the newly formed People’s Republic of China. Confronted with the Chinese Revolution and the end of the US atomic monopoly in 1949, the Truman administration quickly moved to escalate and expand the containment policy. In a secret 1950 document, NSC-68, Truman administration officials proposed to reinforce pro-Western alliance systems and quadruple spending on defence.
  • US officials moved thereafter to expand “containment” into Asia, and Latin America. At the same time, revolutionary nationalist movements, often led by Communist parties, were fighting against the restoration of Europe’s colonial empires in South-East Asia. The US formalized an alliance with Japan in the early 1950s, thereby guaranteeing the United States a number of long-term military bases. Truman also brought other states, including Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and the Philippines, into a series of alliances.

Change in US policy from containment to active opposition

The war in Korea (1950-53)

  • The fear of communism led the US to intervene in the affairs of Asian countries and the cold war was brought to Asia. Seeing every issue in terms of the cold war, the United States also came in conflict with anti-colonial nationalist struggles for freedom and with many independent nations which were trying to strengthen their national independence and to assert their independent role in world affairs.
  • The first war in which the US got directly involved was the war in Korea. In June 1950, war broke out between the two, each side blaming the other for the war. It is, however generally agreed that the war was started by North Korea. This was the view of the United Nations Security Council which voted to assist South Korea. However, it may be remembered that the Security Council’s support of South Korea had become possible due to the Soviet Union’s decision at the time to boycott the United Nations for its refusal to admit China. Within two months, the North Korean armies had swept across almost entire South Korea, the South Korean capital, having fallen during the first three days of the war. However, the US army, navy and air force intervened in the war massively and North Korean troops were pushed back. The US forces now carried the war inside North Korea. At this time, the Chinese troops moved in and the US troops were forced back. From mid-1951, the war entered a stalemate. There were negotiations for an armistice in which India played an important role. The armistice was signed in July 1953 which restored the position that existed before the war.
  • The Korean War was the first major war after 1945 and the first one in which the US had taken part in a massive way and had suffered heavy casualties. In spite of the heavy casualties, it may be remembered that the Korean War was a localized war. There was every danger that it might turn into a general war. General Mac Arthur who commanded US troops in the Korean War wanted to invade china. There was also a danger that the US might use atomic weapons in the war. In 1953, the Korean War ended in stalemate, but the US gradually got itself entangled in another civil war. The US supported the South Vietnamese government against North Vietnam, which was backed by the Soviet Union and China.

Crisis and escalation (1953-1962)

  • In 1953 changes in political leadership on both sides shifted the dynamic of the Cold War. Dwight D. Eisenhower became US President in January 1953. During the last 18 months of the Truman administration, the US defense budget had quadrupled; and Eisenhower resolved to reduce military spending by brandishing the United States’ nuclear superiority while continuing to fight the Cold War effectively. In March Joseph Stalin died, and the Soviets, now led by Nikita Khrushchev, moved away from Stalin’s policies.
  • There was a slight relaxation of tensions after Stalin’s death in 1953, but the Cold War in Europe remained an uneasy armed truce. US troops seemed stationed indefinitely in West Germany and Soviet forces seemed indefinitely stationed throughout Eastern Europe. To counter West German rearmament, the Soviets established a formal alliance with the Eastern European Communist states termed the as Warsaw Pact Treaty Organization or Warsaw Pact in 1955. In 1956, the status quo was briefly threatened in Hungary, when the Soviets invaded rather than allow the Hungarians to move out of their orbit (Hungarian Revolution of 1956). Berlin remained divided and contested. In 1961, the East Germans erected the “Berlin Wall” to prevent the movement of East Berliners into West Berlin.
  • The US foreign policy during this period was dominated by John Foster Dulles who was the US Secretary of state from 1953 to 1959. He considered the US policy of containment of communism as inadequate and advocated a more aggressive policy of rolling back communism by liberating people from what he considered communist tyranny. Dulles initiated a “New Look” for the “containment” strategy, calling for a greater reliance on nuclear weapons to counter US enemies. Dulles enunciated the doctrine of “massive retaliation,” threatening a severe US response to any Soviet aggression. He also enunciated the doctrine of brinkmanship which meant pushing the Soviet Union on the brink of war to force her to grant concessions. He claimed that the ability to get to the verge of war without getting into war was the necessary art for a statesman.
  • During this period the race for armaments had reached a new stage. In November, 1952 the US tested her first thermonuclear bomb. The Soviet Union followed soon after in August 1953. The destructive power of these bombs was many times more than that of the atom bomb dropped at Nagasaki. The doctrine of brinkmanship, when the two antagonistic powers possessed these weapons, was fraught with dangers. The development of these weapons was sought to be justified by the doctrines of mutually assured destruction (MAD) and nuclear deterrence. The acronym MAD reflected the true nature of this doctrine. The second doctrine meant that the possession of nuclear weapon by a country was a deterrent to any possible invasion by another. It was the belief in this doctrine that led Britain to develop her independent deterrent in 1957, France and China later followed.




Formation of SEATO & CENTO

  • The US also started forming military alliance in every part of the world, and establishing her military bases encircling the Soviet Union and China. In 1954 the South East Asia Treaty organization (SEATO) was set up, comprising Australia, Britain, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand the Philippines and the United States. In 1955 the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) was established. These military alliances were used to maintain many undemocratic regimes in Asia. The massive inputs of arms in these countries created tensions between the members of these alliances and their neighbors. Later, the countries viewed alliances as sources of tensions in their region and the world and as threats their independence.


The Vietnam War

  • The policy of containment led to the US involvement in a protracted war in Vietnam. In September, 1945, Ho Chi Minh, the nationalistic communist leader, had declared the independence of Vietnam and set up the democratic republic of Vietnam. The French tried to restore their rule there after the war. In this, they were aided by Britain and later, by the US. Thus from 1946, France was drawn into a war. Because the nationalist forces in Vietnam were led by the communist party, Dulles advocated direct involvement of the US in the Vietnam war and continued to press France to continue the war in which the US provided the funds. The Vietnamese forces led by Ho Chi Minh received help from the soviet union and china but they relied mainly on their own strength and the popular support they enjoyed within. In July, 1954 an agreement was signed at Geneva according to which French rule in Vietnam ended. Vietnam was temporarily divided into North Vietnam and South Vietnam but the country was to be reunited after elections which would be held in 1956.
  • However, the US started building South Vietnam as an independent state under the dictatorial and corrupt rule of Ngo Dinh Diem. It was universally believed that Ho Chi Minh’s party was certain to win the elections. Diem’s government, on the advice of and with the support of the US refused to comply with the decision to hold elections. The US started building the South Vietnamese army to resist the North Vietnamese army. In spite of US support, Diem’s government was on the verge of collapse in 1963 due to its growing unpopularity.
  • The US policy makers advocated what was called the “domino theory”. According to this theory, if South Vietnam fell to the communists, all other south-east Asian countries would also collapse and come under communist rule and this would lead to the expansion of communism all over Asia. The US started sending her own troops; to begin with as military advisers, but by the end of 1967, the number of US troops fighting in Vietnam had gone up to 500,000.
  • The US war in Vietnam was the most unpopular US war in history. It was condemned by people all over the world, including in the United States. No other single event in the years after 1945 had united people all over the world as the opposition to the war in Vietnam. The US troops withdrew from Vietnam in 1973. By April 1975, the South Vietnamese army was routed and the last of the US advisers also left. Vietnam soon emerged as a united country. The defeat of the greatest military power in the world by the people of a small country in Asia was an event of great significance in the history of the contemporary world.


Conflict in the Arab world

  • The conflict found expression in Arab world too. The main cause of conflict in the Arab world during the post-war period was the hostility of the United States and her allies to the spread of Arab nationalism. This was done in the name of preventing communism the western countries determination to retain their control over the oil resources of this region was great. The state of Israel, the main ally of the US was another major source of tension in this area.
  • In November 1947, the United Nations had agreed to partition Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state. However, on 14 may 1948, Britain which held Palestine as a mandate withdrew from there before partition could be affected. The Jewish state of Israel was proclaimed which was recognized by the United States the very next day.
  • The establishment of the state of Israel was followed by an Arab – Israel war (1956) in which the Arabs were deprived of their lands and homes and over a million of them had to live as refugees in other Arab countries. on 29, October 1956, Israel invaded Egypt and on the next day British and French troops were landed there to occupy the Suez Canal. the British – French – Israel invasion of Egypt aroused world – wide protests, including in Britain and France. The United Nations, with the support of the US, also condemned the invasion. on 5, November, the soviet union issued an ultimatum to the invaders to withdraw from Egypt and threatened to use missiles to defend Egypt.
  • On 7, November 1956, the British-French military operations in Egypt were ended and their troops were withdrawn. Egypt and Israel agreed to a cease-fire.
  • With the help of the US, Israel began to be built up as a powerful state in the region. The Arab states refused to recognize the state of Israel and the Arab nationalists viewed her as an instrument to curb the rising strength of Arab nationalism.
  • In 1967, another war broke out between Israel on one side and Egypt, Jordan and Syria on the other. This is known as the six day war. The Arab states were defeated and Israel occupied Egyptian territory in the Sinai Peninsula. The Palestinian territory on the west bank of the river Jordan (from Jordan) and Gaza strip, and a part of the territory of Syria called heights; Israel also established her control over the entire city of Jerusalem.
  • In 1973, there was another Arab-Israel war. During this war, the oil-producing Arab states announced that they would stop shipment of oil to countries which were supporting Israel. This meant mainly the United States and her NATO allies. The European members of NATO, however, refused to align themselves with the US in her support to Israel and US herself was compelled to persuade Israel to agree to a cease – fire. Israel has refused to vacate the many Arab territories that she occupied during the wars in 1956, 1967 and 1973.
  • Egypt, under the leadership of Colonel Abdul Nasser, represented the forces of nationalism in the 1950s and the 1960s. Britain, in 1954, was asked to withdraw her troops from Egypt. At this time, Egypt also began to build her independent military strength with the help of arms from the Soviet Union. The US had offered to help Egypt build the Aswan Dam. Egypt started receiving soviet arms and US aid for the Aswan dam was stopped. on 26, July 1956, the Suez Canal was nationalized. The end of the 1956 war in Egypt was acclaimed as a victory of Arab nationalism. It also led to led strengthening of the soviet influence in the region. Egypt turned to the Soviet Union for help in building the Aswan dam. Nasser also tried to strengthen Arab unity by uniting various Arab states. The US, alarmed at this development, proclaimed what is called the Eisenhower doctrine, named after the US president. According to this doctrine, the US decided to give economic and military aid to the countries in the region to protect them from what it called international communism. In July 1958, however, the pro-western government in Iraq was overthrown. U.S. and British troops were sent to Lebanon and Jordan to prevent the pro-western government of these countries from falling.


Cuban missile crisis

  • One of the most serious crises in the history of the post-Second World War occurred on the issue of installation of nuclear missiles in Cuba. The development of nuclear weapons had been accompanied by the development of new systems of delivery, that is, of means of dropping these weapons. For this purpose, missiles were developed. The US had set up these missile aimed at soviet targets at the bases which she had in different parts of the world. The Soviet Union generally had no bases outside and her missiles sites were within her own territory. Each side also had submarines carrying these nuclear missiles. The range of these missiles was limited, say a few hundred kilometers, which had made the setting up of bases near the territory of the enemy countries necessary. New technology for spying on other countries had also been developed.
  • In January 1959, there was a revolution in Cuba under the leadership of Fidel Castro. The United States turned hostile to Cuba when the new government started adopting radical social and economic measures, introducing agrarian reforms, and nationalizing industries. Another reason was the friendly relations which the new government began to have with the Soviet Union and china. The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in January 1961 and stopped all economic relations with her. In April 1961, she landed 2000 Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba to overthrow the Cuban government. However, the invasion ended in a fiasco and within two days it was crushed. Even though the entire world had condemned the US for the invasion of Cuba, its intention of overthrowing the Cuban government continued. John F. Kennedy; the US president at that time had openly declared after the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs invasion, “We do not intend to abandon Cuba to the communists”. This was the background of the crisis which broke out in October 1962.
  • While the Soviet Union was surrounded by US bases including those with nuclear missiles, the Soviet Union had no bases anywhere near US territory. In October 1962, the US found, from the pictures taken by her spy planes, that the Soviet Union was building missile sites in Cuba which is less than 150 km from the southernmost part of the US. All through the wars which the US had fought her own territory had been inviolable and all the wars had been fought far away. the installation of missiles in Cuba would bring US territory within easy range of attack. This was perceived as a serious threat to the security of the US.
  • Although the Soviet Union had done for the first time what the US had been doing all along i.e. establishing military bases in other countries, it created the danger of a war between the US and the Soviet Union, something which had not happened in spite of various tensions and conflicts between them. Such a war would have endangered all humanity. On 22 October 1962, president Kennedy announced a naval and air blockade around Cuba which meant that the US would stop and ship or aircraft moving towards Cuba, the US also prepared to launch an attack on the missiles sites in Cuba.
  • This crisis, which had brought the world close to disaster, however, ended on 26 October. In that the Soviet Union would remove her missiles from Cuba if the US pledged not to attack Cuba. This was agreed to and crisis was over. The US also agreed to withdraw the missiles which she had installed in Turkey, close to soviet territory.


From confrontation through détente (1962-1979)

  • In the course of the 1960s and 1970s both the US and the soviet union struggled to adjust to a new, more complicated pattern of international relations in which the world was no longer divided into two clearly opposed blocs by the two superpowers. Since the beginning of the post-war period, Western Europe and Japan rapidly recovered from the destruction of World War II and sustained strong economic growth through the 1950s and 1960s, increasing their strength compared to the United States. As a result of the 1973 oil crisis, combined with the growing influence of Third World alignments such as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting countries (OPEC) and the Non-Aligned Movement, less-powerful countries had more room to assert their independence and often showed them resistant to pressure from either superpower. Moscow, meanwhile, was forced to turn its attention inward to deal with the Soviet Union’s deep-seated domestic economic problems. During this period, soviet leaders such as Alexei Kosygin and Leonid Brezhnev embraced the notion of détente.
  • Nevertheless, both superpowers resolved to reinforce their global leadership. Both the Soviet Union and the United States struggled to stave off challenges to their leadership in their own regions. President Lyndon B. Johnson landed 22,000 troops in the Dominican Republic, citing the threat of the emergence of a Cuban-style revolution in Latin America. In Eastern Europe, the soviets in 1968 crushed the Prague Spring reform movement in Czechoslovakia that might have threatened to take the country out of the Warsaw Pact.
  • The US continued to spend heavily on supporting friendly Third World regimes in Asia. Conflicts in peripheral regions and client states—most prominently in Vietnam—continued. Johnson stationed 575,000 troops in Southeast Asia to defeat the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF) and their North Vietnamese allies, but his costly policy weakened the US economy and, by 1975, ultimately culminated in what most of the world saw as a humiliating defeat of the world’s most powerful superpower at the hands of one of the world’s poorest nations. Brezhnev, meanwhile, faced far more daunting challenges in reviving the soviet economy, which was declining in part because of heavy military expenditures.
  • Although indirect conflict between Cold War powers continued through the late 1960s and early 1970s, tensions began to ease, as the period of détente began. The Chinese had sought improved relations with the US in order to gain advantage over the soviets. In February 1972, Richard Nixon travelled to Beijing and met with Mao Zedong and Chou En-Lai. Nixon and Henry Kissinger then announced a stunning rapprochement with Mao’s China.
  • Later, in June, Nixon and Kissinger met with Soviet leaders I Moscow, and announced the first of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, aimed at limiting the development of costly antiballistic missiles and offensive nuclear missiles. Between 1972 and 1974, the two sides also agreed to strengthen their economic ties. Meanwhile, these developments coincided with the “Ostpolitik” of West German Chancellor Willy Brandt. Other agreements were concluded to stabilize the situation in Europe, culminating in the Helsinki Accords signed by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1975.
  • However, the détente of the 1970s was short-lived. The US congress limited the economic pact between Nixon and Brezhnev so much that the soviet repudiated it in 1975. Indirect conflict between the superpowers continued through this period of détente in the Third World, particularly during political crises in the Middle East, Chile and Angola. While president jimmy carter tried to place another limit on the arms race with a SALT II agreement in 1979, his efforts were undercut by the other events that year, including the Iranian Revolution and the Nicaraguan Revolution, which both ousted pro-US regimes and his retaliation against soviet intervention in Afghanistan in December.


The “Second Cold War” (1979-1985)

  • In November 1982 American ten-year-old Samantha Smith wrote a letter to the Soviet leader Yuri Andropov expressing her fear of nuclear war, and pleading with him to work toward peace. Andropov himself replied, and gave her a personal invitation to visit the country. Smith’s visit was one of few prominent attempts to improve relations between the superpowers during Andropov’s brief leadership from 1982-1984 at a dangerously low point in US-Soviet relations.
  • The term “second Cold War” has been used by some historians to refer to the period of intensive reawakening of Cold War tensions in the early 1980s. In 1980 Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter, vowing to increase military spending and confront the Soviets everywhere. Both Reagan and Britain’s new Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, denounced the Soviet Union in ideological terms that rivaled that of the worst days of the cold war in the late 1940s.


KAL 007 and the deployment of missiles in Western Europe

  • With the background of the build-up of tension between the Soviet Union and the United States, NATO decided, under the impetus of the Reagan presidency, to deploy Pershing II and cruise missiles in Western Europe, primarily West Germany. This deployment would have placed missiles just 6 minutes striking distance from Moscow, the capitol of the “Evil Empire”, as Reagan had termed it. Yet support for the deployment was wavering and many doubted whether the push for deployment could be sustained. But on Sept. 1, 1983, the Soviet Union shoot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007, a Boeing 747 with 269 people aboard, in international waters just past the west coast of Sakhalin Island – an act which Reagan characterized as a “massacre”. The barbarity of this act, as the U.S. and indeed the world understood it, galvanized support for the deployment – which stood in place until the later accords between Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev
  • Reagan spent $2.2 trillion for the military over eight years. Military spending, combined with the legacy of the economic structural problems of the 1970s, transformed the US from the world’s leading creditor in 1981 to the world’s leading debtor. Tensions intensified in the early 1980s when Reagan installed US cruise missiles in Europe and announced his experimental Strategic Defense Initiative, dubbed “Star Wars” by the media, to shoot down missiles in mid-flight. Reagan also imposed economic sanctions to protest the suppression of the opposition Solidarity movement in Poland.
  • US domestic public concerns about intervening in foreign conflicts persisted from the end of the Vietnam war. But Reagan did not encounter major public opposition to his foreign policies. The Reagan administration emphasized the use of quick, low cost counterinsurgency tactics to intervene in foreign conflicts. In 1983, the Reagan administration intervened in the multisided Lebanese Civil War, invaded Grenada, bombed Libya and backed the Central American Contras—right-wing paramilitaries seeking to overthrow the soviet-aligned Sandinista government in Nicaragua. While Reagan’s interventions against Grenada and Libya were popular in the US, his backing of the Contra rebels was mired in controversy. In 1985, the president authorized the sale of arms to Iran; later, administration subordinates illegally diverted the proceeds to the Contras.
  • Meanwhile, the Soviets incurred high costs for their own foreign interventions. Although Brezhnev was convinced in 1979 that the Soviet war in Afghanistan would be brief, Muslim guerrillas waged a surprisingly fierce resistance against the invasion. The Kremlin sent nearly 100,000 troops to support its puppet regime in Afghanistan, leading many outside observers to call the war the Soviets’ Vietnam. However, Moscow’s quagmire in Afghanistan was far more disastrous for the Soviets than Vietnam had been for the Americans because the conflict coincided with a period of internal decay and domestic crisis in the soviet system. A high US state department official predicted such an outcome as early as 1980, positing that the invasion resulted in part from a “domestic crisis within the Soviet system…It may be that the thermodynamic law of entropy has…caught up with the soviet system, which now seems to expend more energy on simply maintaining its equilibrium than on improving itself. We could,” he construed, “be seeing a period of foreign movement at a time of internal decay.”


End of the Cold War

  • By the early 1980s, the soviet armed forces were the largest in the world by many measures—in terms of the numbers and types of weapons they possessed, in the number of troops in their ranks, and in the sheer size of their military-industrial base. However, the quantitative advantages held by the soviet military often concealed areas where the Eastern bloc dramatically lagged behind the West. This led many US observers to vastly overestimate soviet power.
  • By the late years of the Cold War, Moscow had built up a military that consumed as much as twenty-five percent of the soviet union’s gross national product at the expense of consumer goods and investment in civilian sectors. But the size of the soviet armed forces was not necessarily the result of a simple action-reaction arms race with the United States. Instead, soviet spending on the arms race and other Cold War commitments can be understood as both a cause and effect of the deep-seated structural during the Brezhnev years. Soviet investment in the defense sector was not necessarily driven by military necessity, but in large part by the interests of massive party and state bureaucracies dependent on the sector for their own power and privileges.
  • By the time Mikhail Gorbachev had ascended to power in 1985, the soviets suffered from an economic growth rate close to zero percent, combined with a sharp fall in hard currency earnings as a result of the downward slide in world oil prices in the 1980s. (Petroleum exports made up around 60 percent of the Soviet Union’s total export earnings.) To restructure the soviet economy before it collapsed, Gorbachev announced an agenda of rapid from costly Cold War military commitments to more profitable areas in the civilian sector. As a result, Gorbachev offered major concessions to the United States on the levels of conventional forces, nuclear weapons, and policy in Eastern Europe.
  • Many US soviet experts and administration officials doubted that Gorbachev was serious about winding down the arms race but the new soviet leader eventually proved more concerned about reversing the Soviet Union’s deteriorating economic condition than fighting the arms race with the West. The Kremlin made major military and political concessions; in response Reagan agreed to renew talks on economic issues and the scaling-back of the arms race. The East-West tensions that had reached intense new heights earlier in the decade rapidly subsided through the mid-to-late 1980s. In 1988, the Soviet officially declared that they would no longer intervene in the affairs of allied states in Eastern Europe – the so-called Sinatra Doctrine. In 1989, soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan.
  • In December 1989, Gorbachev and George H.W. Bush declared the Cold War officially over at a summit meeting in Malta. But by then, the soviet alliance system was on the brink of collapse, and the Communist leaders of the Warsaw Pact states were losing power. In the USSR itself, Gorbachev tried to reform the party to destroy resistance to his reforms, but, in doing so, ultimately weakened the bonds that held the state and union together. By February 1990, the Communist Party was forced to surrender its 73-year old monopoly on state power. By December of the next year, the union-stat also dissolved, breaking the USSR up into fifteen separate independent states. With the collapse of communist rule in Eastern Europe and the disintegration of Soviet Union the Cold War came to an end.




  • The Second World War, like the First, started in Europe and assumed the character of a world war. In spite of the fact that Western countries had acquiesced in all the aggressions of Japan, Italy and Germany from the invasion of Manchuria to the annexation of Czechoslovakia, the fascist countries’ ambitions had not been satisfied. These countries were planning another redivision of the world and thus had to come into conflict with the established imperialist powers. The Western policy of diverting the aggression of the fascist countries towards the Soviet Union had failed with the signing of the Soviet German Non-Aggression Pact. Thus the war began in Europe between the fascist countries and the major West European Powers—Britain and France. Within a few months it became a world war as it spread to more and more areas, ultimately involving almost every country in the world.


The Invasion of Poland

  • After the First World War, East Prussia had been separated from the rest of Germany. The city of Danzig which separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany had been made a free city independent of German control. Hitler had demanded the return of Danzig to Germany but Britain had refused to accept this demand.
  • On 1 September 1939 German armies marched into Poland. On 3 September Britain and France declared war on Germany. Thus the invasion of Poland marked the beginning of the Second World War, The German armies completed the conquest of Poland in less than three weeks as no aid reached Poland. In spite of the declaration of war, however, there was little actual fighting for many months.
  • Therefore, the war during this period from September 1939 to April 1940 when Germany invaded Norway and Denmark is known as the ‘phoney war’.
  • Soon after the German invasion of Poland, the Soviet Union attacked eastern Poland and occupied the territories which were earlier in the Russian empire. It is believed that this occupation was a part of the secret provisions of the Soviet German Non Aggression Pact. In 1940, the Baltic States of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania which had become independent after the First World War were also occupied by the Soviet Union. They, along with Moldavia, became republics of USSR. In November 1939, the Soviet Union also went to war against Finland.

Conquest of Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and France

  • Germany launched her invasion of Norway and Denmark on 9 April 1940 and within three weeks completed the conquest of these two countries. In Norway, the German invaders were helped by Quisling, leader of Norway’s fascist party, who set up a puppet government in Norway under German occupation. The very name ‘Quisling’ has come to mean a traitor who collaborates with the invaders of his country. In early May began the invasion of Belgium and Holland which was completed before the end of May. Soon the German armies marched into France and by 14 June 1940, the capital city of Paris had fallen into German hands almost without a fight. In the meantime, Italy also had joined the war on the side of her ally, Germany. On 22 June 1940, the French government surrendered and signed a truce with Germany according to which about half of France was occupied by Germany.
  • The remaining part remained under the French government which was required to disband the French army and provide for the maintenance of the German army in France. The French government which had surrendered to Germany ruled from Vichy. With the defeat of France, Germany became the supreme power over the continent of Europe. The war conducted by Germany with great speed and force is known as blitzkrieg which means a ‘lightning war’.

The Battle of Britain

  • Britain was the only major power left in Europe after the fall of France. Germany thought that Britain would surrender soon as she was without any allies in Europe. German air force began bombing raids on Britain in August 1940 with the aim of terrorizing her into surrender .The battle that ensued is known as the Battle of Britain. The Royal Air Force of Britain played a heroic role in its defence against air raids and conducted air raids on German territories in retaliation. The Prime Minister of Britain during the war years was Winston Churchill. Under his leadership, the people of Britain successfully resisted the German air raids with courage and determination.
  • In the meantime, Italy had started military operations in North Africa. She also invaded Greece, but the Italian attack in both the areas was repulsed. However, Germany succeeded in capturing the Balkans —Greece, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and also large parts of North Africa.


German Invasion of Soviet Union

  • Having conquered almost the entire Europe, except Britain, Germany attacked the Soviet Union, despite the Non-Aggression Pact, on 22 June 1941. Hitler had always coveted the vast territory and resources of the Soviet Union.
  • He thought that the destruction of the Soviet Union would take about eight weeks. Hitler had grossly underestimated the strength of the Soviet Union. In the first phase of the war with the Soviet Union, Germany achieved significant victories. Vast areas of the Soviet Union were devastated, Leningrad was besieged and German troops were marching towards Moscow. However, in spite of the initial German successes, the German onslaught was halted. The Soviet Union had built up her industrial and military strength. She resisted the German invasion heroically and the German hopes of a quick victory were thwarted.
  • With the German invasion of the Soviet Union, a new vast theatre of war had been opened. An important development that followed was the emergence of the British Soviet American unity to fight against aggression. Soon after the invasion, Churchill and Roosevelt declared British and American’ support, respectively, to the Soviet Union in the war against Germany and promised aid to her.
  • Subsequently, agreements were signed between the Soviet Union and Britain, and Soviet Union and USA. It was as a result of this unity that Germany, Italy and Japan were ultimately defeated.


Pearl Harbour: Entry of USA

  • In 1937, the Japanese had started another invasion of China. Japan was one of the three members of the Anti Comintern Pact along with Germany and Italy. In September 1940, these three countries had signed another pact which bound them together even more. Japan recognized the leadership of Germany and Italy in the establishment of a new order in Europe” and Japan’s leadership was recognized for establishing a new order in Asia. On 7 December 1941, the Japanese, without a declaration of war, conducted a massive raid on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
  • The American Pacific Fleet which was stationed there was devastated. The Americans lost 20 warships, and about 250 aircrafts. About 3000 persons were killed. The Americans were completely taken unawares. Negotiations had been going on between the Japanese and American governments to settle their differences in Asia and the Pacific. The attack on Pearl Harbor in the midst of negotiations showed that the Japanese were determined to conquer Asia and the Pacific. With this the Second World War became truly global. The United States declared war on Japan on 8 December 1941 and soon after Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.
  • Following the U.S. entry into the war, many countries in the Americas joined the war against Germany, Italy and Japan. The Japanese achieved significant victories in the war in Asia. Within six months of the attack on Pearl Harbor, they had conquered Malaya, Burma (now Myanmar), Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Hongkong and numerous other areas.
  • By the middle of 1942, the fascist powers had reached the peak of their power. After that the decline began.


The Battle of Stalingrad

  • In January 1942 the unity of the countries fighting against the fascist powers was cemented. The representatives of 26 nations, including Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union, signed a declaration, known as the United Nations Declaration. The signatories to this Declaration resolved to utilize all their resources to pursue the war until victory was achieved and to cooperate with one another against the common enemy, and promised not to have a separate peace treaty.
  • One of the most important turning points in the war was the Battle of Stalingrad (now called Volgograd). In November and December 1941, the German advance on Moscow met with stubborn resistance and the invasion was repulsed. Germany then launched an offensive in southern Russia. In August 1942, the  German troops 1 reached the outskirts of Stalingrad. For over five months, the battle raged. It involved about 2 million men, 2000 tanks and 2000 airplanes. The civilian population of Stalingrad joined the soldiers in the defence of the city. In February 1943, about 90,000 German officers and soldiers surrendered. In all, Germany had lost about 300,000 men in this battle. This battle turned the tide of the war


The ‘Second Front’

  • The fascist countries began to suffer reverses in other areas also. Japan had failed to capture Australia and Hawaii. In North Africa, the German and Italian troops were routed by early 1943. The destruction of the fascist army in North Africa was also a major turning point in the war. In July 1943, British and American troops occupied Sicily. Many sections in Italy had turned against Mussolini. He was arrested and a new government was formed. This government joined the war against Germany.
  • However, German troops invaded northern Italy and Mussolini, who had escaped with the help of Germans, headed a pro German government there. Meanwhile, British and American troops entered Italy and a long battle to throw the Germans out of Italy followed. The Soviet Union was attaining significant victories against Germany and had already entered Czechoslovakia and Rumania which had been under German occupation.
  • On 6 June 1944, more than 100,000 British and American troops landed on the coast of Normandy in France. By September their number had reached 2,000,000. The opening of this front played a very crucial role in the defeat of Germany. This is known as the opening of the ‘Second Front’. Since 1942 in Europe the most ferocious battles had been fought between Germany and the Soviet Union. The Soviet ‘Union had been demanding the opening of the second front for long, as this would compel Germany to fight on other fronts also and would thus hasten the defeat of Germany. From this time onwards the German armies were on the run on all fronts.


End of the War in Europe

  • After 6 June 1944, German armies had to face the forces of the Allies from three directions. In Italy, the British and American troops were advancing. Northern and western France and the city of Paris had been freed and the Allied troops were moving towards Belgium and Holland On the eastern front, the Germans were facing a collapse. The Soviet army from the east and other Allied troops from the west were closing on Germany. On May 1945 the Soviet armies entered Berlin. Hitler had committed suicide on the morning of the same day. On 7 May 1945 Germany unconditionally surrendered. The end of all hostilities in Europe became effective from 12,00 a.m. on 9 May 1945.


Nuke Attack on JAPAN

  • After the defeat of Germany, the war in Asia continued for another three months. Britain and USA had launched successful operations against Japan in the Pacific and in the Philippines and Burma. In spite of serious reverses, however, the Japanese were still holding large parts of China. On 6 August 1945, an atom bomb, the deadliest weapon developed during the war, was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. This was the first time that the atom bomb had been used. With one single bomb, the city of Hiroshima was obliterated.
  • Another atom bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki on 9 August 1945. The city was destroyed. In the meantime, the Soviet Union had declared war on Japan and had started military operations against Japanese forces in Manchuria and Korea. On 14 August Japan conveyed its acceptance of the Allied demand to surrender but the actual surrender took place on 2 September 1945. With the Japanese surrender, the Second World War came to an end.



Resistance Movements

  • In all the countries of Europe which had fallen victim to the aggressions of fascist countries, the people organised resistance movements. In many countries, the governments capitulated before the aggressors without much fighting but people of those countries continued to resist the fascist rule.
  • For example, when the government of France surrendered, the people of France organized a popular resistance movement against the German occupation. A French army was also formed outside France under the leadership of General de Gaulle which actively participated in the war. Similar armies of other countries were also organized. Inside the occupied countries, the resistance movements set up guerilla forces. Largescale guerilla activities were organized in many countries such as Yugoslavia and Greece. In many countries there were largescale uprisings. The heroic uprising of the Polish people in Warsaw is a glorious chapter in the history of the resistance movements.
  • There were resistance movements within the fascist countries also. The fascist governments of Italy and Germany had physically exterminated hundreds of thousands of people who were opposed to fascism. However, many antifascists from these countries continued to fight against fascism inside and outside their countries. The antifascist forces in Italy were very powerful and played an important role in the war against Mussolini and in fighting against German troops in Italy. In France, Greece, and under the leadership of Marshal Tito, in Yugoslavia, the people fought most heroically against fascist aggression. The socialists, the communists and other antifascists played a very important part in the resistance movements, Millions of civilian fighters against fascism perished in the war.
  • The people in countries which were victims of aggression fought back valiantly. In Asia, the people of China had to bear the Mint of Japanese aggression from the early 1930s. The civil war that had broken out in China between the communists and the Kuomintang in the late 1920s was superseded by a massive national resistance against Japanese aggression.
  • In other parts of Asia also which were occupied by Japan, for example in Indochina, Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and Burma, people organized themselves into strong resistance movements. The peoples who had been fighting against British a French imperialism expressed their support to the war against fascism. Fascism was organized barbarism and was not considered an ally by the peoples who were struggling for their independence. For example, the Indian National Congress while fighting for the independence of India from British rule expressed itself against fascism.


The Damage Caused by the War

  • The Second World War was the most destructive war in history. The fascists had converted a large part of Europe into a vast graveyard and a slave camp. Inside Germany and in those parts of Europe which came under German occupation before and during the war, Jews were picked up and six million of them were exterminated.
  • The labour of the countries occupied by Germany was utilized and most horrible labour camps were started. Millions of people were transferred to what are known as concentration camps and killed. Many of these camps such as those in Buchenwald, Oswiecim and Dachau were death camps where new ways of killing people were introduced. People were burnt in gas chambers. There were mass massacres Prisoners were made to dig mass graves, were shot and then buried in those graves.
  • Certain kinds of factories were located near the concentration camps which produced goods made from human skins and bones. The kinds of tortures and brutalities that the fascists, particularly the German Nazis, perpetrated had no precedent nor did the mass scale on which they were practiced. Many of these brutalities came fully to light when Germany lost the war, after the discovery of places of mass murders and from the descriptions of those in the concentration camps who had survived. The atrocities committed by the Japanese in countries occupied by them were no less brutal. Inhuman medical experiments were conducted by Japanese ‘ doctors’ and ‘scientists’ on human beings.
  • The destruction caused by the war in terms of human lives has no precedent in history. Over 50 million people perished in the Second World War. Of them about 22 million were soldiers and over 28 million civilians. About 12 million people lost their lives in concentration camps or as a result of the terror unleashed by the fascists Some countries lost a large percentage Of their population.
  • For example, Poland lost six million people, about five million of them civilians, which was about 20 per cent of the Polish population. The Soviet Union in absolute terms suffered the worst — about 20 million people which was about 10 per cent of the population. Germany lost over six million people, about 10 per cent of her population. Besides the human losses, the economy and material resources of many countries were badly damaged. Many ancient cities were almost completely destroyed. The total cost of the Second World War has been estimated at the staggering figure of $ 1,384,900,000,000.
  • Many new weapons of destruction were devised and used in the Second World War. The most dreadful of these was the atom bomb. The atom bomb was first devised in the United States during the Second World War. Scientists of many countries, including those who had come to the United States to escape the fascist tyranny in Europe, had helped in developing it. The project to develop the bomb was taken up when a number of scientists, suspecting that the Nazi Germany was developing the atom bomb, approached the US government. They had feared that if the Nazis developed the bomb, they would use it to terrorize the world into submission.
  • The atom bomb was first tested in July 1945. By then, Germany had already surrendered. Many of those who had helped in its development appealed to the US government not to use it against Japan against whom the war was still continuing. They also warned of the danger of starting a race in the production of atomic weapons if the atom bomb was used against Japan. However, the government of the United States used the atom bombs against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The two bombs killed over 320,000 people almost instantaneously and completely wiped out large parts of the two cities. The effects of these bombs on the health of those who survived and on their children continue to this day. The government of the United States justified the use of the atom bomb on the ground that it brought the Second World War immediately to a close and thus helped to save human lives which would have been lost if the war had continued.
  • Many other people, including many Scientists who had helped in making the bomb, condemned the use of the atom bomb. After the defeat of Germany and the ending of the war in Europe, Japan was not in a position to continue the war and her capitulation was a matter of days. Some scholars hold the view that the main reason for using the atom bomb was to establish the superiority of USA in the world after the war as at that time she alone possessed these weapons. In any case, the prediction of the scientists that the use of the atom bomb would lead to a race for producing atomic weapons came true. Within a few years after the Second World War, some other countries also developed atomic weapons. Also other nuclear weapons, thousands of times more destructive than the ones used against Japan, were developed which, if used, can completely destroy all human life on earth.



Causes, Consequences, Comintern

Conditions in Russia before the Revolution

  • By the early years of the twentieth century, political movements based on the ideas of socialism had emerged in a number of countries in Europe. With the outbreak of the First World War, however, the socialist movement in most countries of Europe suffered a setback. The Second International faced a split on the question of attitude to the War and ceased to function. During this period, however, unrest was brewing in Russia. The Russian Revolution took place in 1917, affecting the course of world history for many decades.


  • In the nineteenth century, almost, entire Europe was undergoing important social, economic and political transformation. Most of the countries were republics like France or constitutional monarchies like England. The rule of the old feudal aristocracies had been replaced by that of the new middle classes. Russia, however, was still living in ‘the old world’ under the autocratic rule of the Czars, as the Russian emperors were called. Serfdom had been abolished in 1861, but it did not improve the condition of peasants. They still had miserably small holdings of land with no capital to develop even these. For the small holdings they acquired, they had to pay heavy redemption dues for decades. Land hunger of the peasants was a major social factor in the Russian society.


  • Industrialization began very late in Russia, in the second half of the nineteenth century. Then it developed at a fairly fast rate, but more than half of the capital for investment came from foreign countries. Foreign investors were interested in quick profits and showed no concern for the conditions of workers. Russian capitalists, with insufficient capital, competed with foreign investors by reducing workers’ wages. Whether factories were owned by foreigners or Russians, the conditions of work were horrible. The workers had no political rights and no means of gaining even minor reforms. The words of Marx that workers have ‘nothing to lose but their chains’ rang literally true to them The Russian state under the Czars was completely unsuited to the needs of modern times Czar Nicholas II, in whose reign the Revolution occurred, still believed in the divine right of kings. The preservation of absolutism was regarded by him as a sacred duty.


  • The only people who supported the Czar were the nobility and the upper layers of the clergy. All the rest of the population in the vast Russian empire was hostile. The bureaucracy that the Czars had built was top heavy, inflexible and inefficient, the members being recruited from amongst the privileged classes rather than on the basis of any ability.


  • The Russian Czars had built a vast empire by conquest of diverse nationalities in Europe and Asia. In these conquered areas, they imposed the use of the Russian language and tried to belittle the cultures of the people of these areas. Also, Russia’s imperialist expansion brought her into conflicts with other imperialist powers. These wars further exposed the hollowness of the czarist state.


Growth of Revolutionary Movements in Russia

  • There were many peasant rebellions in Russia before the nineteenth century but they were suppressed. Many Russian thinkers had been influenced by developments in Western Europe and wanted to see similar changes in Russia. Their efforts had helped to bring about the abolition of serfdom. This, however, turned out to be a hollow victory. The hopes of gradual changes in the direction of constitutional democratic government were soon shattered and every attempt at gradual improvement seemed to end in failure. In the conditions that existed in Russia, even a moderate democrat or reformer had to be a revolutionary. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, there was a movement known as ‘going to the people’ when intellectuals started preaching their ideas to the peasants.


  • When the workers’ organizations were set up after industrialization began, they were dominated by ideas of socialism. In 1883, the Russian Social Democratic Party was formed by George Plekhanov, a follower of Marx. This party along with many other socialist groups was united into the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in 1898. However, the party was soon split over questions of organization and policy. One group which was in a minority (hence known as the Mensheviks) favoured a party of the type that existed in countries like France and Germany and participated in elections to the parliaments of their countries. The majority, known as the Bolsheviks, were convinced that in a country where no democratic rights existed and where there was no parliament, a party organized on parliamentary lines would not be effective. They favored a party of those who would abide by the discipline of the party and work for revolution.


  • The leader of the Bolsheviks was Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, popularly known as Lenin. He is regarded as one of the greatest leaders of the socialist movement after Marx and Engels. He devoted himself to the task of organizing the Bolshevik Party as an instrument for bringing about revolution. His name has become inseparable from the Revolution of 1917. The Russian socialists, including Plekhanov and Lenin, had played an important part in the Second International.


  • Besides the Menshevik and the Bolshevik parties, which were the political parties of industrial workers, there was the Socialist Revolutionary Party which voiced the demands of the peasantry. Then there were parties of the non-Russian nationalities of the Russian empire which were working to free their lands from colonial oppression.


  • The revolutionary movement in Russia had been growing when the 1905 Revolution broke out. In 1904, a war had broken out between Russia and Japan. The Russian armies had suffered reverses in the war. This had further strengthened the revolutionary movement in Russia. On 9 January 1905, a mass of peaceful workers with their wives and children was fired at in St. Petersburg while on its way to the Winter Palace to present a petition to the Czar More than a thousand of them were killed and thousands of others were wounded.


  • This day is known as Bloody Sunday. The news of the killings provoked unprecedented disturbances throughout Russia. Even sections of the army and the navy revolted. The sailors of the battleship Potemkin joined the revolutionaries. A new form of organization developed in this revolution which proved decisive in the upheaval of 1917. This was the ‘Soviet’, or the council of workers’ representatives. Beginning as committees to conduct strikes, they became the instruments of political power Soviets of peasants were also formed.


  • In October, the Czar yielded and announced his manifesto granting freedom of speech, press and association, and conferred the power to make laws upon an elected body called the ‘Duma’ . The Czar’s manifesto contained principles which would have made Russia a constitutional monarchy like England. However, the Czar soon relapsed into his old ways. No longer could one hope for gradual reform. The 1905 Revolution proved to be a dress rehearsal of the revolution that came in 1917.



  • It aroused the people and prepared them for revolution. It drew soldiers and the peoples of non-Russian nationalities into close contact with the Russian revolutionaries.


  • Hoping to satisfy his imperial ambitions by annexing Constantinople and the Straits of the Dardanelles, the Czar took Russia into the First World War. This proved fatal and brought about the final breakdown of the Russian autocracy. The Czarist state was incapable of carrying on a modern war. The decadence of the royal family made matters worse, Nicholas II was completely dominated by his wife. She, in turn, was ruled by a friend named Rasputin who virtually ran the government. Corruption in the state resulted in great suffering among the people.


  • There was a shortage of bread. The Russian army suffered heavy reverses. The government was completely unmindful of the conditions of soldiers on the front. By February 1917, 600,000 soldiers had been killed in war. There was widespread discontent throughout the empire as well as in the army. The condition was ripe for a revolution.


  • In setting forth’ the fundamental law for a successful revolution’, Lenin had included two conditions the people should fully understand that revolution is necessary and be ready to sacrifice their lives for it; the existing government should be in a state of crisis to make it possible for it to be overthrown rapidly. That tune had certainly arrived in Russia in 1917.



Beginning of the Revolution

  • Minor incidents usually ‘set off revolutions. In the case of the Russian Revolution it was a demonstration by working-class women trying to purchase bread. A general strike of workers followed, in which soldiers and others soon joined.
  • On 12 March 1917 the capital city of St. Petersburg (renamed Petrograd, later Leningrad and once again, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, St. Petersburg) fell into the hands of the revolutionaries. Soon the revolutionaries took Moscow, the Czar gave up his throne and the first Provisional Government was formed on 15 March.


  • The fall of the Czar is known as the February Revolution because, according to old Russian calendar, it occurred on 27 February 1917.


  • The fall of the Czar, however, marked only the beginning of the revolution. The most important demands of the people were fourfold: peace, land to the tiller, control of industry by workers, and equal status for the non-Russian nationalities. The Provisional Government under the leadership of a man named Kerensky did not implement any of these demands and lost the support of the people. Lenin, who was in exile in Switzerland at the time of the February Revolution, returned to Russia in April. Under his leadership, the Bolshevik Party put forward clear policies to end the war and transfer land to the peasants and advanced the slogan ‘All Power to the Soviets’.


  • On the question of non-Russian nationalities, Bolsheviks were the only party then with a clear policy. Lenin had described the Russian empire as a ‘prison of nations’ and had declared that no genuine democracy could be established unless all tile non-Russian peoples were given equal rights He had proclaimed the right of all peoples, including those under the Russian empire, to self-determination.
  • The unpopularity of the Kerensky government led to its collapse on 7 November 1917, when a group of sailors occupied the Winter Palace, the seat of the Kerensky government. Leon Trotsky who had played an important role in the 1905 Revolution returned to Russia in May 1917. As head of the Petrograd Soviet, he was one of the most outstanding leaders of the November uprising. An All Russian Congress of Soviets met on the same day and assumed full political power. This event which took place on 7 November is known as the October Revolution because of the corresponding date of the old Russian calendar, 25 October.


  • The Congress of Soviets on the next day issued a proclamation to all peoples and belligerent states to open negotiations for a just peace without annexation and indemnities. Russia withdrew from the war, though formal peace was signed with Germany later, after ceding the territories that Germany demanded as a price for peace. Following the decree on land, the estates of the landlords, the Church and the Czar were confiscated and transferred to peasants’ societies to be allotted to peasant families to be cultivated without hired labour. The control of industries was transferred to shop committees of workers.
  • By the middle of 1918, banks and insurance companies, large industries, mines, water transport and railways were nationalised, foreign debts were repudiated and foreign Investments were confiscated. A Declaration of the Rights of Peoples was issued conferring the right of self-determination upon all nationalities. A new government, called the Council of People’s Commissars, headed by Lenin was formed. These first acts of the new government were hailed as the beginning of the era of socialism.


  • The October Revolution had been almost completely peaceful. Only two persons were reported killed in Petrograd on the day the Revolution took place. However, soon the new state was involved in a civil war. The officers of the army of the fallen Czar organised an armed rebellion against the Soviet state. Troops of foreign powers — England, France, Japan, United States and other —joined them. War raged till 1920. By this time the ‘Red Army’ of the new state was in control of almost all the lands of the old Czarist empire.


  • The Red Army was badly equipped and composed mainly of workers and peasants however, it won over better equipped and better trained forces, just as the citizen armies in the American and French revolutions had won.


Consequences of the Revolution

  • The overthrow of autocracy and the destruction of the aristocracy and the power of the church were the first achievements of the Russian Revolution. The Czarist Empire was transformed into a new state called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R) for short Soviet Union. The policies of the new state were to be directed to the realization of the old socialist ideal, ‘from each according to his capacity, to each according to his work’. Private property in the means of production was abolished and the motive of private profit eliminated from the system of production. Economic planning by the state was adopted to build a technologically advanced economy at a fast rate and to eliminate glaring inequalities in society. Work became an essential requirement for every person there was no unearned income to live on.


  • The right to work became a constitutional right and it became the duty of the state to provide employment to every individual. Education of the entire people was given a high priority. The equality of all the nationalities in the U S S.R. was recognized in the constitution framed in 1924 and later in 1936. The constitution gave the republics formed by the nationalities autonomy to develop their languages and cultures. These developments were particularly significant for the Asian republics of U S.S R which were much more backward than the European part.


  • Within a few years of the revolution, the Soviet Union emerged as a major power in the world. The social and economic systems that began to be built there was hailed by many as the beginning of a new civilization while others called it an evil system After about 70 years of the revolution, the system collapsed and in 1991 the Soviet Union ceased to exist as a state.


  • In its impact on the world, the Russian Revolution had few parallels in history. The ideas of socialism which the socialist movement had been advocating and which the Russian Revolution espoused were intended for universal application. The Russian Revolution was the first successful revolution in history which proclaimed the building of a socialist society as its objective. It had led to the creation of a new state over a vast area of the globe. It was, therefore, bound to have repercussions for the rest of the world.



  • Soon after the revolution, the Communist International (also known as the Third International or Comintern) was formed for promoting revolutions on an international scale.


  • The leftwing sections in many socialist parties now formed themselves into communist parties and they affiliated themselves to the Comintern. Communist parties were also formed in other countries, often with the active involvement and support of the Comintern.


  • Thus the international communist movement arose under one organization which decided on policies to be followed by all communist parties The Soviet Union was considered the leader of the world communist movement by the communist parties in various countries and the Communist Party of Soviet Union played a leading role in determining the policies of the Comintern. It is generally agreed that Comintern was often used by the Soviet Union as an instrument for pursuing its own objectives However, the formation of communist parties in many countries of the world with the objective of bringing about revolution and following common policies was a major consequence of the Russian Revolution.
  • With the formation of the Comintern, the socialist movement was divided into two sections — socialist and communist. There were many differences between them on the methods of bringing about socialism and about the concept of socialism itself. Despite these differences, socialism became one of the most widely held ideologies within a few decades after its emergence. The spread of the influence of socialist ideas and movements after the First World War was in no small measure due to the success of the Russian Revolution.


  • The growing popularity of socialism and many achievements made by the Soviet Union led to a redefinition of democracy. Most people who did not believe in socialism also began to recognize that for democracy to be real, political rights without social and economic rights were not enough. Economic and social affairs could not be left to the capitalists. The idea of the state playing an active role in regulating the economy and planning the economy to improve the conditions of the people was accepted. The biblical idea, revived by the socialist movement and the Russian Revolution, ‘He that does not work neither shall he eat’, gained widespread acceptance, adding a new dignity to labour. The popularity of socialism also helped to mitigate discriminations based on race, colour and sex.


  • The spread of socialist ideas also helped nip promoting internationalism. The nations, at least in theory, began to accept the idea that their relations with other nations should go farther than merely promoting their narrow self-interests. Many problems which were considered national began to be looked upon as concerns of the world as a whole. The universality and internationalism which were fundamental principles of socialist ideology from the beginning were totally opposed to imperialism. The Russian Revolution served to hasten the end of imperialism. According to Marx, a nation which enslaves another nation can never be free. Socialists all over the world organized campaigns for putting an end to imperialism.


  • The new Soviet state came to be looked upon as a friend of the peoples of the colonies struggling for national independence. Russia after the Revolution was the first country in Europe to openly support the cause of independence of all nations from foreign rule.


  • Immediately after the Revolution, the Soviet government had annulled the unequal treaties which the Czar had imposed on China. It also gave assistance of various kinds to Sun Yat Sen in his struggle for the unification of China. The Russian Revolution also influenced the movements for independence in so far as the latter gradually broadened the objectives of independence to include social and economic equality through planned economic development. Writing about the Russian Revolution in his Autobiography, Jawaharlal Nehru said,

“It made me think of politics much more in terms of social change”

First World War: Causes, Consequences

First World War: Causes, Consequences

The First World War

  • IN 1914, a war began in Europe which soon engulfed almost the entire world. The damage caused by this war had no precedent in history. In the earlier wars, the civilian populations were not generally involved and the casualties were generally confined to the warring armies. The war which began in 1914 was a total war in which all the resources of the warring states were mobilized. It affected the economy of the entire world the casualties suffered by the civilian population from bombing of the civilian areas and the famines and epidemics, caused by the war far exceeded those suffered by the armies. In its impact also, the war had no precedent. It marked a turning point in world history. The battles of the war were fought in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Pacific. Because of the unprecedented extent of its spread and its total nature, it is known as the First World War.


Imperialist Rivalries

  • The underlying causes of the war were the rivalries and conflicts among the imperialist countries. The imperialist conquest of Asia and Africa was accompanied with conflicts between the imperialist countries. Sometimes the imperialists were able to come to ‘peaceful settlements’ and agree to divide a part of Asia or Africa among themselves without resorting to the use of force against each other. At other times their rivalries created situations of war. Wars were generally avoided at that time because the possibilities of further conquest were still there. If an imperialist country was excluded from a certain area, it could find some other area to conquer. Sometimes wars did break out between imperialist countries as happened, for instance, between Japan and Russia. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, the situation had changed. Most of Asia and Africa had already been divided up and further conquests could take place only by dispossessing some imperialist country of its colonies. So in the period beginning from the last decade of the nineteenth century, imperialist rivalries resulted in attempts to redivide the world, creating conditions of war.
  • Germany entered the scramble for colonies late. After the unification of Germany had been achieved, it made tremendous economic progress. By 1914, it had left Britain and France far behind in the production of iron and steel and in many manufactures. It had entered the shipping trade in a big way. One of its ships, the Imperator, built in 1912, was the largest in the world. Both Britain and France were alarmed at the expansion of German manufactures as they considered it a serious threat to their position.
  • Germany could not grab many colonies, having arrived late on the scene. Most of Asia and Africa had already been occupied by the older imperialist powers. The German imperialists, therefore, dreamed of expanding in the east. Their ambition was to control the economy of the declining Ottoman Empire. For this purpose, they had planned the construction of a railway from Berlin to Baghdad. This plan created a fear in Britain, France and Russia as the completion of the Berlin-Baghdad railway would endanger their imperialist ambitions in the Ottoman Empire. The Germans had imperialist ambitions elsewhere also, including in Africa.
  • Like Germany, all the major powers in Europe, and Japan also had their imperialist ambitions. Italy, which after her unification had become almost an equal of France in power, coveted Tripoli in North Africa which was under the Ottoman Empire. She had already occupied Eritrea and Somaliland. France wanted to add Morocco to her conquests in Africa. Russia had her ambitions in Iran, the territories of the Ottoman Empire including Constantinople, the Far East and elsewhere. The Russian plans clashed with the interests and ambitions of Britain, Germany and Austria. Japan which had also become an imperialist power had ambitions in the Far East and was on way to fulfilling them. She defeated Russia in 190405 after having signed an agreement with Britain and was able to extend her influence in the Far East.
  • Britain was involved in a conflict with all other imperialist countries because she had already acquired a vast empire which was to be defended. The rise of any other country was considered a danger to the British Empire. She also had her vast international trade to defend against the competition from other countries, and to maintain her control over what she considered the lifeline of her empire.
  • Austria had her ambitions in the Ottoman empire The United States of America had emerged as a powerful nation by the end of the nineteenth century She had annexed the Philippines Her main interest was to preserve the independence of trade as her trade was expanding at a tremendous rate The expansion of other major powers’ influence was considered a threat to American interests.


Conflicts within Europe

  • Besides the conflicts resulting from rivalries over colonies and trade, there were conflicts among the major European powers over certain developments within Europe. There were six major powers in Europe at this time—Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, France and Italy. One of the questions with which almost all these countries got involved concerned the countries comprising the Balkan Peninsula in Europe.
  • The Balkan countries had been under the rule of Ottoman Turks. However, in the nineteenth century, the Ottoman rule had begun to collapse. There were revolts by various nationalities for independence. The Russian Czars hoped that these areas would come under their control once the Ottomans were ousted from there. They encouraged a movement called the Pan-Slav movement which was based on the theory that all the Slays of Eastern Europe were one people.
  • Many areas in Austria-Hungary were inhabited by the Slays Russia, therefore, encouraged movements both against the Ottoman empire and Austria-Hungary The major Balkan country, Serbia, led the movement for uniting the areas inhabited by the Slavs in the Ottoman empire as well as in Austria-Hungary.
  • The Serbian nationalism was encouraged by Russia. Other major European powers were alarmed at the growth of Russian influence in the Balkans, They wanted to check the Russian influence, while Austria Hungary had plans of expansion in this area.
  • Corresponding to the Pan-Slav movement, there was a Pan-German movement which aimed at the expansion of Germany all over central Europe and in the Balkans. Italy claimed certain areas which were under Austrian rule. France hoped to recover not only Alsace Lorraine which she had lost to Germany in 1871 but also to wreak vengeance on Germany for the humiliating defeat that she had suffered in the war with Germany in 187071.


Formation of Alliances

  • The conflicts within Europe and the conflicts over colonies had begun to create a very tense situation in Europe from the last decade of the nineteenth century. European countries began to form themselves into opposing groups. They also started spending vast sums of money to increase the size of their armies and navies, to develop new and more deadly weapons, and to generally prepare themselves for war, Europe Was gradually becoming a vast armed camp Simultaneously, propaganda for war, to breed hatred against other countries, to paint one’s own country as superior to others, and to glorify war, was started in each country.
  • There were, of course, people who raised their voice against the danger of war and against militarization. But soon all these voices were to be drowned in the drumbeats of war. The opposing groups of countries of alliances that were formed in Europe not only added to the danger of war, but also made it inevitable that when the war broke out it would assume a worldwide magnitude. European countries had been forming and reforming alliances since the nineteenth century. Finally, in the first decade of the twentieth century, two groups of countries or alliances, emerged and faced each other with their armed might In 1882 was formed the Triple Alliance comprising Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy.
  • However, Italy’s loyalty to this Alliance was uncertain as her main aim was to gain territories in Europe from Austria-Hungary and in conquering Tripoli with French support As opposed to this, emerged the Triple Entente comprising France, Russia and Britain in 1907.
  • In theory it was only a loose group based on mutual understanding as the word ‘Entente’ (meaning ‘an understanding’ indicates. The emergence of these two hostile camps made it inevitable that a conflict involving any one of these countries would become an all- European war. As the aims of the countries in these camps included the extension of their colonial possessions, an all-European war almost certainly would become a world war. The formation of these hostile camps was accompanied with a race to build more and more deadly weapons and have larger and larger armies and navies.
  • A series of crises took place during the years preceding the war. These crises added to the bitterness and tension in Europe and engendered national chauvinism European countries also entered into secret treaties to gain territories at the expense of others. Often, these secret treaties leaked out and fear and suspicion grew in each country about such treaties. These fears and suspicions brought the danger of war near.


Incidents Preceding the War

  • The outbreak of the war was preceded by a series of incidents which added to the prevailing tension and ultimately led to the war. One of these was the clash over Morocco. In 1904 Britain and France had entered into a secret agreement according to which Britain was to have a free hand in Egypt, and France was to take over Morocco. The agreement became known to Germany and aroused her indignation. The German emperor went to Morocco and promised the Sultan of Morocco his full support for the independence of Morocco. The antagonism over Morocco, it appeared, would lead to a war. However, the war was averted when in 1911 France occupied most of Morocco and, in exchange, gave Germany a part of French Congo. Even though the war had been averted, the situation in Europe, with each country preparing for war, had become dangerous.
  • The other incidents which worsened the already dangerous situation in Europe occurred in the Balkans. In 1908 Austria annexed the Ottoman provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina. These provinces were also coveted by Serbia which had the backing of Russia in establishing a united Slav state in the Balkans. Russia threatened to start a war against Austrian annexation but Germany’s open support to Austria compelled Russia to retreat. The incident, however, not only embittered feelings in Serbia but also created further enmity between Russia and Germany. The situation in Europe had become even tenser.
  • The crisis resulting from the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria was followed by Balkan wars in 1912, four Balkan countries — Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Greece —started a war against the Turks. As a result of this war, Turkey lost almost all her possessions in Europe However, the Balkan countries fought another war over the question of distributing the former Turkish territory among them. Finally, Austria succeeded in making Albania, which had been claimed by Serbia, as an independent state. The frustration of Serbia’s ambitions further embittered her feelings against Austria. These incidents brought Europe on the verge of war.


The Outbreak of War

  • The war was precipitated by an incident which would not have created much stir if Europe had not stood divided into two hostile armed camps, preparing for war for many years On 28 June 1914 Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria- Hungary , was assassinated at Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia. (Bosnia had been annexed by Austria only a few years earlier.) Austria saw the hand of Serbia behind the assassination and served her with an ultimatum. Serbia refused to accept one of the demands of the ultimatum which went against the independence of Serbia on 28 July 1914 Austria declared war on Serbia. Russia had promised full support to Serbia and started full scale preparations for war. On 1 August, Germany declared war on Russia and on 3 August on France. German troops marched into Belgium to press on to France on 4 August and on the same day Britain declared war on Germany.
  • Many other countries soon entered the war. Japan declared war on Germany with a view to capturing German colonies in the Far East, Turkey and Bulgaria joined on the side of Germany Italy, in spite of her membership of the Triple Alliance, remained neutral for some time, and joined the war against Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1915.


End of the War

  • Many efforts were made to bring the war to an end. In early 1917, a few socialist parties proposed the convening of an international socialist conference to draft proposals for ending the war without annexations and recognition of the right of peoples to self determination.
  • However, the conference could not be held. The proposal of the Bolshevik government in Russia to conclude a peace “without annexations and indemnities, on the basis of the self-determination of peoples” was welcomed by many people in the countries which were at war. However, these proposals were rejected. The Pope also made proposals for peace but these too were not taken seriously. Though these efforts to end the war did not get any positive response from the governments of the warring countries, antiwar feelings grew among the people. There was widespread unrest and disturbances and even mutinies began to break out. In some countries, following the success of the Russian Revolution, the unrest was soon to take the form of uprisings to overthrow the governments.
  • In January 1918, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States, proposed a peace programme. This has become famous as President Wilson’s Fourteen Points. These included the conduct of negotiations between states openly, freedom of navigation, reduction of armaments, independence of Belgium, restoration of Alsace Lorraine to France, creation of independent states in Europe, formation of an international organization to guarantee the independence of all states, etc. Some of these points were accepted when the peace treaties were signed at the end of the war Britain, France and USA launched a military offensive in July 1918 and Germany and her allies began to collapse. Bulgaria withdrew from the war in September, and Turkey surrendered in October.
  • Political discontent had been rising in Austria-Hungary and Germany. The emperor of Austria-Hungary surrendered on 3 November. In Germany revolution broke out. Germany became a republic and the German emperor Kaiser William II fled to Holland. The new German government signed an armistice on 11 November 1918 and the war was over. The news was received with tremendous Jubilation all over the world.

The Treaty of Versailles with Germany- 1919

  1. Germany had to lose territory in Europe
  • Alsace-Lorraine to France
  • Eupen, Moresnet and Malmedy to Belgium
  • North Schleswig to Denmark (after a plebiscite, i.e. a vote)
  • West Prussia and Posen to Poland-though Danzing (the main port of West Prussia) was to be a free city under league of Nations administration, because its population was wholly German
  • Memel was given to Lithuania
  • The Saar was to be administered by the League of Nations for 15 years, after which the population would be allowed to vote on whether it should belong to France or Germany. In the meantime France was to have the use of its coalmines
  • Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which had been handed over to Germany by Russia at Bresst-Litovsk, were taken away, from Germany and set up as independent states. This was an example of self-determination being carried into practice
  • Union between Germany and Austria was forbidden
  1. Germany’s African Colonies were taken away and became “mandates” under League of Nations supervision: this meant that various member states of the League “looked after” them
  2. German armaments were strictly limited, to a maximum of 100 000 troops and no conscription (compulsory military service); no tanks, armored cars, military aircraft or submarines, and only six battleships. The Rhineland was to be permanently demilitarized. This meant that German troops were not allowed in the area
  3. The war Guilt clause fixed the blame for the outbreak of the war solely on Germany and her allies. Germany was to pay reparations for damage done to the Allies; the actual amount was not decided at Versailles, but it was announced later (1921), after much argument and haggling, as 6600 million
  4. A league of nations was set up; its aims and organization were set out in the league covenant.

Germans had little choice but to sign the treaty, though they objected strongly. The signing took place in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, where the German Empire had been proclaimed less than 50 years earlier.


USA – Woodrow Wilson’s famous 14 Points (January 1918) were:

  1. Reliance on open diplomacy rather than secret agreements
  2. Freedom of the seas
  3. Free trade
  4. Reduce the military forces and/or weapons
  5. Readjust the colonies fairly
  6. The allowance for Russia to self-determine its own government
  7. Respect for Belgium’s Integrity
  8. Restoration of French Territory
  9. Italy receives territory based upon ethnicity
  10. Austria-Hungary receives fair development opportunities
  11. Independence for the Balkan states
  12. Self-determination for the peoples of the Ottoman Empire and free passage through the Dardanelles
  13. Independence for Poland
  14. The formation of a League of Nations to guarantee independence for all countries, large and small

These points achieved publicity when the Germans late claimed that they had expected the peace terms to be based on them and that, since this way not the case, they had been cheated.


Peace Treaties

  • The victorious powers or the Allies, as they were called, met in a conference first in Versailles, a suburb of Paris, and later in Paris, between January and June 1919. Though the number of countries represented at the conference was 27, the terms of the peace treaties were really decided by three countries — Britain, France and USA. The three persons who played the determining role in framing the terms of the treaties were Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States, Lloyd George, Prime Minister of Britain, and George Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France. The defeated countries were not represented at the conference. The victorious powers also excluded Russia from the conference. The terms of the treaty were thus not the result of negotiations between the defeated and the victorious powers but were imposed on the defeated by the victors.
  • The main treaty was signed with Germany on 28 June 1919. It is called the Treaty of Versailles. The republican government of Germany was compelled to sign this treaty under the threat of invasion. The treaty declared Germany and her allies guilty of aggression.
  • Alsace Lorraine was returned to France. The coal mines in the German area called Saar were ceded to France for 15 years while that area was to be governed by the League of Nations. Germany also ceded parts of her prewar territory to Denmark, Belgium, Poland and Czechoslovakia. The area of the Rhine valley was to be demilitarized. The treaty also contained provisions for disarming Germany. The strength of her army was to be limited to 100,000 and she was required not to have any air force and submarines she was dispossessed of all her colonies which were taken over by the victors. Togo and the Cameroon were divided and shared by Britain and France.
  • German colonies in South West Africa and East Africa were given to Britain, Belgium, South Africa and Portugal. German colonies in the Pacific and the spheres under her control in China were given to Japan China was aligned with the Allies during the war and was even represented at the Paris Conference. But her areas under German possession of control were not restored to China; instead they were given away to Japan. Germany was also required to pay for the loss and damages suffered by the Allies during the war. The amount of reparations was fixed at an enormous figure of $6,500,000,000.
  • Separate treaties were signed with the allies of Germany. Austria-Hungary was broken up and Austria was required to recognize the independence of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Poland. She had to cede territories to them and to Italy. Many changes were made in the Balkans where new states were created and transfers of territories from one state to another took place Baltic states which earlier formed parts of the Russian empire were made independent.
  • The treaty with Turkey stipulated the complete dismemberment of the Ottoman empire Britain was given Palestine and Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Syria went to France as what were called ‘mandates’. In theory, the ‘mandatory’ powers, that is Britain and France, were to look after the interests of the people of the ‘mandates’ but actually they were governed as colonies.
  • Most of the remaining Turkish territories were to be given to Greece and Italy and Turkey was to be reduced to a very small state. However, there was a revolution in Turkey under the leadership of Mustapha Kemal. The Sultan was deposed and Turkey was proclaimed a republic in 1922. Turkey regained control of Asia Minor and the city of Constantinople (Istanbul) and the Allies were forced to abandon the earlier treaty.
  • An important part of the peace treaties was the Covenant of the League of Nations. Wilson’s Fourteen Points included the creation of an international organization for the preservation of peace and to guarantee the independence of all states. The League of Nations was created. It was intended as a world organization of all independent states.


  • It aimed at the preservation of peace and security and peaceful settlement of international conflicts, and bound its members ‘not to resort to war’ One of its important provisions was with regard to sanctions. According to this provision, economic and military action would be taken against any country which committed aggression. It also bound its members to improve labour and social conditions in their countries. For this the International Labour Organization was set up which is now one of the specialized agencies of the United Nations.
  • The hopes of having a truly world organization devoted to the preservation of peace and independence of nations were, however, not realized with the formation of the League. Two major countries – Germany and the Soviet Union — were not allowed to become its members for many years while India, which was not independent, was made a member. The United States which had played an important part in the setting up of the League ultimately decided not to join it. The League was never an effective organization. In the 1930s when many countries resorted to aggression, the League was either ignored or defied An important feature of the peace treaties which indicates its nature was the decision with regard to the colonies of the defeated powers. The Allies had entered into many secret agreements for dividing the spoils of war The Soviet government, to bring out the imperialist nature of the war, made these treaties public.
  • During the war, the Allies had been claiming that the war was being fought for freedom and democracy. President Wilson had said that the war was being fought “to make the world safe for democracy”. The publication of secret treaties by the Soviet government exposed these claims. However, in spite of this, the distribution of the colonies of the defeated countries among the victors took place as has been mentioned before. Of course, the Soviet Union which had repudiated all the secret agreements did not receive any spoils which had been promised to the Russian emperor. The League of Nations also recognised this division of the spoils. Legally most of the colonies which were transferred to the victorious powers were ‘mandates’ and could not be annexed.


Consequences of the War and the Peace Treaties

  • The First World War was the most frightful war that the world had so far seen. The devastation caused by it had no precedent. The number of persons who fought in the war is staggering. Estimates vary between 53 and 70 million people. The total number of those killed and dead in the war are estimated at about nine million, that is, about one seventh of those who participated in it.


  • Several million became invalids. The air raids, epidemics and famines killed many more among the civilian populations. Besides these terrible human losses, the economy of many countries was shattered. It gave rise to many serious social problems. The political institutions as they had been evolving in various countries also suffered a serious setback.


  • The war and the peace treaties transformed the political map of the world, particularly of Europe. Three ruling dynasties were destroyed — the Romanov in Russia during the war itself, the Hohenzollern in Germany and the Habsburg in Austria-Hungary. Soon after the war, the rule of Ottomans came to an end in Turkey. Austria and Hungary became separate independent states. Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia emerged as independent states. Poland which had been divided among Russia, Austria and Prussia in the eighteenth century was reformed as an independent state.
  • The period after the war saw the war saw the beginning of the end of the European supremacy in the world. Economically and militarily, Europe was surpassed by the United States which emerged from the war as a world power The Soviet Union was also to soon come up as a major world power. The period after the war also saw the strengthening of the freedom movements in Asia and Africa. The weakening of Europe and the emergence of the Soviet Union which declared her support to the struggles for national independence contributed to the growing strength of these struggles.
  • The Allied propaganda during the war to defend democracy, and the participation of Asian and African soldier in the battles in Europe also helped in arousing the peoples of Asia and Africa. The European countries had utilized the resources of their colonies in the war. The forced recruitment of soldiers and labourers for war, and the exploitation of resources of the colonies for war by the imperialist countries had created resentment among the people of the colonies. The population of the colonial countries had been nurtured on the myth that the peoples of Asia and Africa were inferior to the Europeans. The role played by the soldiers from Asia and Africa in winning the war for one group of nations of Europe against another shattered this myth. Many Asian leaders had supported the war effort in the hope that, once the war was over, their countries would be given freedom. These hopes were, however, belied. While the European nations won the right to self-determination, colonial rule and exploitation continued in the countries of Asia and Africa.
  • The contrast between the two situations was too glaring to be missed. Its increasing awareness led to the growth of nationalist feelings in the colonies. The soldiers who returned to their respective countries from the theatres of war in Europe and elsewhere also brought with them the new stirrings. All these factors strengthened nationalist movements in the colonies. In some countries, the first stirrings of nationalism were felt after the war.
  • The First World War had been believed to be ‘a War to end all war’. However, the Peace Treaties had failed to ensure this. On the contrary, the treaties contained certain provisions which were extremely harsh on the defeated countries and thus they sowed the seeds of further conflicts. Similarly, some victorious countries also felt cheated because all their hopes had not been fulfilled. Imperialism was not destroyed as a result of the war. The victorious powers had in fact enlarged their possessions. The factors which had caused rivalries and conflicts between imperialist countries leading to the war still existed. Therefore, the danger that more wars would be fought for another ‘redivision’ of the world remained lurking. The emergence of the Soviet Union was considered a danger to the existing social and economic system in many countries. The desire to destroy it influenced the policies of those countries.
  • These factors, combined with certain developments that took place in the next twenty years, created conditions for another world war.



Meaning, Factors responsible


  • The term imperialism means the practice of extending the power, control or rule by a country over the political and economic life of the areas outside its own borders.
  • Imperialism refers to the process of capitalist development, which leads the capitalist countries to conquer and dominate precapitalist countries of the world.
  • The imperialist country or Metropolis (literal meaning mother country), subordinates another country/ colony for its own economic and political interests.
  • This may be done through military or other means and particularly through colonialism.



  • Colonialism means the practice of acquiring colonies by conquest (or other means) and making them dependent.
  • The country which is subjugated by a metropolitan capitalist country is described as a colony, and what happens in a colony is colonialism.
  • In other words, Colonialism =the total system of imperialist domination of a pre-capitalist country.
  • Occupation / direct rule over a country by another country=not always an essential feature of imperialism
  • The essential feature= exploitation, with or without direct political control.
  • Until recent years, most countries of Asia Africa and other parts of the world, where under the control of one or another imperialist country.


Imperialism Colonialism
Imperialism refers, more broadly, to control or influence that is exercised either formally or informally, directly or indirectly, politically or economically. Colonialism usually implies formal political control, involving territorial annexation and loss of sovereignty.


Imperialism is a specifically European phenomenon. Colonialism is the system prevalent in the colonies.
When we study imperialism we examine the impact of empire on the metropolis (home country) Here we study impact of empire on the colony.



  • In the present day world, almost all countries are politically independent, however the imperialist control has not come to an end.
  • Neocolonialism is the practice of (mainly economic) exploitation and domination of independent but economically backward countries, by the powerful countries.

New Imperialism

During the initial period of Industrial Revolution, the pursuit of colonies had slowed down. Why?

  • because Between 1775 and 1875, Europeans lost more territory than they acquired in North America and Latin America, because of successful revolution.
  • Spanish colonial rule from Mexico to Argentina was overturned.
  • There was a widespread feeling in Europe that colonies were more trouble than they were worth and the sooner or later colonies would revolt and fight for independence.
  • Benjamin Disraeli said “These wretched colonies will all be independent in a few years and are millstones around our necks.”


However, the pursuits and rivalries re-emerged in the last quarter of the 19th century.

  • This new face of imperialism (1875-1914) is often described as the new imperialism.
  • New imperialism resulted because of the economic system that had developed as a result of Industrial Revolution.
  • During this phase a few industrialized capitalist countries established their Political and economic control and domination over the rest of the world.
  • The form of domination and control included direct colonial rule, sphere of influence and various types of commercial and economic agreements.


Players in New Imperialism:

  • New imperialist countries emerged viz. Germany, Italy, Belgium, USA and Japan. While,
  • Britain and France continued to be powerful and expand.
  • Power of Spain and Portugal declined.


Conditions/factors that helped the rise of Imperialism

Industrial Revolution and Capitalism

  • Industrial Revolution created the capitalist system of production. The capitalist entrepreneurs used two ways to make big profits:
Method to increase profit? => Consequences?
minimum wages to workers low wages = low purchasing power of the majority of the domestic population= low demand of products in home country.
More and more production the production of goods was far in excess of the demand at home.


  • Result?=> Because of the “underconsumption” in domestic market, the capitalist nations had to find new markets and buyers to sell their products.


Marxists: Capitalism = Imperialism

  • Lenin argued that Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism, and it’d lead to the demise of Capitalism.
  • In Capitalist system, wealth is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the possibility for investment at home is exhausted, and capitalists have no choice but to invest abroad, establish colonies, and exploit small, weak nations.



  • England was the first country where industries developed, therefore she gained almost complete control over the world markets.
  • Even when other European countries began to use machines, they could not compete with England’s low prices.
  • So, they tried to protect and stimulate its domestic industries by imposing heavy tariffs on imported items.
  • Result? = European powers could not sell their products to each other. They had to find totally new markets and customers in Asia, Africa and the two Americas.



  • It was the economic policy prevailing in Europe during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. This policy assumed following:
  • Volume of world wealth and trade was relatively static, so one country’s gain required another country/colony’s loss.
  • Wealth of a nation depended primarily on the possession of gold and silver.
  • A colonial possession should provide wealth to the country that controlled it.
  • Exports to foreign countries is preferable to imports or domestic trade, because exports brought more money into the country.
  • Governmental interference in the national economy is justified if it helps achieving the of above objectives.
  • So nations acted accordingly. They setup “trading posts” which would later become “forts”, arm twisted local rulers to gain exclusive market for their products and so on. All this was done and justified as the objectives of mercantilism were fulfilled.


Supply of raw material

  • As the industries grew in Europe, they needed more and more raw material. For example,
  • Cotton= India and Egypt
  • rubber= Congo and East Indies
  • They also needed food grains, tea, coffee, Indigo, tobacco, sugar, coal, iron, tin, gold, copper and later oil.



  • Imperialists forced the colonies to cultivate only one or two crops which were needed as raw material for their own industries (e.g. indigo in India, Sugar in Cuba.)
  • Smuggling: sometimes, goods produced in one country were sold to another country to pay for the goods from that country. e.g. The English promoted cultivation of opium in India, then smuggled into China to pay for the goods they had bought from China.



  • Towards the end of 19th century, Western countries began to look upon Asia and Africa is good places to invest their capital. But Why?
  • Both Asia and Africa had abundant supply of raw material and cheap labour= good profit.
  • As we saw under “Demand” topic, low wages + excessive production= underconsumption. Therefore, if capital was invested in
  • Europe, it would only fetch 3 to 4% profit, because of little purchasing power of local people.
  • But if the same amount was invested in Asia or Africa, you could earn as high as 20% profit.
  • Besides, towards the end of 19th century, financial institutions such as banks expanded their influence and power, thus making FDI easier than earlier.


Infrastructure investment

  • The Western powers invested in their colonies to promote industries that could produce goods for export e.g. mining and plantation.
  • They also invested to strengthen control over colony’s economy e.g. Railways, postal network.


Why Political domination necessary?

  • As the foreign powers invested more and more money in business and infrastructure in Asia, Africa and Americas, their risk increased:
  • What if the weak local prince, Nawab or tribes chief could not contain an uprising or rebellion?
  • What if there was a change in the government?
  • Such things could lead to reduction in profit or even loss of whole investment.
  • For the same reasons, French investors in Morocco (N.Africa), appealed to their home government in France, to annex it. Thus Morocco became “French Morocco”.


Slave trade

  • The Spanish rule in Americas had resulted large-scale extermination of original inhabitants/Native-Americans. Because they were forced to work in gold/silver mines and were massacred, if resisted.
  • Foreigners brought new diseases, and Native Americans had no immunity against them.
  • Later, the Europeans introduced plantation system in North America, West Indies and Brazil for the cultivation of sugarcane, cotton and tobacco (to supply as raw material to home industries).
  • These plantations needed lot of laborers.
  • Hence it became necessary to establish trading posts in the coastal areas of Africa to keep steady supply of African slaves.
  • Later, Britain and other powers used “abolition of slavery” as an excuse to wage war against African chiefs and kings, but their hidden aim was to expand territorial possession. (For timber, ivory, minerals and oil).


Transport and communication

  • The Industrial Revolution brought drastic changes in transport and communication.
  • Steamship could carry goods much faster than the old sailing vessels.
  • The imperialist countries built railroads and inland waterways in the conquered areas, with the help of cheap local labor.
  • Thus could get raw material out of the interiors and send their manufactured products, faster than ever before.
  • Thus every area of the world was brought within easy reach of the industrialized countries.


Rise of extreme nationalism

  • The later part of 19th century was a period of intense nationalism
  • Germany and Italy had just succeeded in becoming unified nations.
  • Nationalism in the late 19th century came to be associated with chauvinism.
  • Nationalist intellectuals in all European powers argued that national greatness meant seizing colonial territory.
  • Once the scramble for colonies began, failure to enter the race was perceived as a sign of weakness, totally unacceptable to an aspiring great power.
  • Many nations developed myth of their superiority over other people
  • Each country felt that she too must have colonies to increase her own prestige and power imperialism became the fashion of the age.
  • Writers and speakers in England, France and Germany promoted the idea of imperialism and took great pride in calling their territories as “empires”
  • Germany’s expansion under Hitler was also based on the belief that German national culture was inherently superior to others.
  • By the end of the 19th century colonialism like nationalism developed into a mass cult.
  • Colonies were symbols of national greatness and nationalists of every economic class were proud of them.
  • Soviet Union’s policy to ‘liberate’ the peoples of Eastern Europe and the Third World, and USA’s “protecting Freedom” are also examples of imperialism driven by moral and ideological concern.



Fear and security

  • Initially, colonies were acquired to get cheap raw material and market to sell finished products.
  • Then Imperialist countries started acquiring places for their military or strategic importance also.
  • For example, England established naval bases and coaling stations at Port Said, Aden, Hong Kong, Singapore and Cyprus – not to protect England but to protect its conquered lands and trade routes to India from her rival nations.
  • The rival nations installed similar bases elsewhere to protect their colonies and trade routes from England.
  • Thus, if you acquired one colony, you had to acquire other colonies to protect the first colony => leading to a chain reaction and race for grabbing more and more colonies. (And ultimately first World war).


Civilizing mission

  • Many European writers and thinkers used to blatantly support and justify imperialism and colonization.


England Wrote a poem titled “White man’s burden”. It gives a rhetorical command to white men to colonize and rule people of other nations.


Jules Ferry France Superior races have the duty of civilizing the inferior races.
  • To many Europeans and Americans, the prospect of saving souls seemed as important as the prospect of expanding prestige and profit.
  • They considered it was their Christian and moral responsibility to educated ignorant peoples into higher culture and convert them to Christianity.
  • Hence for them, imperialism is a noble task, a way of bringing civilization to do backward people of the world.


Christian Missionaries

  • Usually they went alone into an unknown areas in a spirit of duty and religion.
  • But often they were followed by profiteering traders and soldiers.
  • Then wars took place to protect the missionaries.
  • All these seemed quite natural to most Western people, because they considered it their nation’s destiny to civilize and Christianize the people of Asia and Africa
  • US President McKinley himself justified the annexation of Philippines in following words:
  • “ We must help our little brown brothers….there was nothing left to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos and uplift and civilize them as our fellow men for whom Christ also died.”


Adventurers and explorers

  • They had prominent role in Europe’s taking over of Africa.
  • They first went into unknown or little-known territories and brought back the reports that often indicated opportunities for trade and development.
  • On the basis of such reports, a trading post would be first setup.
  • Gradually, the explorer’s home government would take over the protection of the entire area around the trading Post.
  • Then this imperial home government would proceed to claim the entire territory as her own colony.


Favorable conditions in Asia and Africa

Biggest factor was lack of industrialization.


Military strength Asian and African state did not have the economic might of imperialist powers- to fight a long war.

They fought with axes, bows and outdated firearms (if any), while Europeans had new rifles and a “maximgun” (a fast firing machine gun) + the naval artillery to pound the coastal cities of their enemies. while Indian and Arab ships didn’t have guns.

The only exceptions, where Europeans could not succeed in war = Afghanistan and Ethiopia.

Internal rivalries


Politically, Asian and African states were not united.

There were Conflicts between states and within states, the ruler vs. chiefs, warlords, merchants etc.

Hence they often sought the support of Europeans against their rivals.

No Empires In the ancient and mediaeval times, powerful empires had existed in Asia and Africa.

But during 19th century their governments became very weak. They still followed the old ways of governing, even though they had outlived their usefulness.

The loyalty of people still rested in local princes or tribal chieftains. They didn’t have the strong feelings for

“nation-state”, like the Europeans.

No Machines  The Westerners admired and desired the fine quality goods made by Asian and African craftsmen.

But these craftsmen relied entirely on handmade tools= small scale production, could not compete with

factory made products.



  • By 1914, almost all parts of the non-industrialized world had come under or indirect control of a few industrialized countries. Most countries of Africa had Lost their political freedom and were ruled by one or other country. The economies of all countries as well as of those which were politically independent were control imperialist countries to serve rests.
  • All parts of the world were brought together under a world economic control which was based on the exploit colonies. Since 1946, most Asia can colonies have become free and independent. You will read about it later. But the effects of imperialism in the life of the people in these country are still evident.


Economic Backwardness

  • The most important and lasting consequence of imperialism and colonization was the economic backwardness of the colonies as well as of those countries indirectly controlled by the countries Imperialism led to destruction of local industries. For example, India for centuries an exporter of textiles. During imperialist rule, India’s indigenous textile industry was destroyed and she became an importer of British cloth.
  • The natural resources of the colonies came under the control of the imperialist countries and were exploited for their own benefit. The industrialization of these countries was prevented. Where industries were started, these were subordinated to the interests of the industries of the imperialist countries or for making profits for the companies of the imperialist countries. The modern industries in the colonies had little impact on the life of the people there.
  • The patterns of agriculture in the colonies were also changed to meet the requirements of the industries of the imperialist countries. In some countries, the entire agriculture was reduced to the growing of one or two crops For example, Cuba was reduced to the position of a sugar producing country and little else. There was also naked plunder of natural resources, and exploitation through high demands of revenues and taxes. Some of the best lands in the colonies were taken over by the European planters Imperialism further aggravated the economic backwardness of the non-industrialized countries of the world.
  • The subordination of the economics of these areas to those of the imperialist countries was so complete that even after political independence, most of these countries found it difficult to develop their economics to suit their own interests. The impoverishment of the people of the colonies and of other non-industrialized countries is a continuing consequence of imperialism.



  • Imperialism also bred racial arrogance and discrimination. The idea of the superiority of the white race whom God had created to govern the world, was popularized in the imperialist countries. In their colonies, the white rulers and settlers discriminated against the local inhabitants who were considered inferior to them. In most European colonies, there was no intermixing with the local population and the Europeans lived in areas exclusively reserved for them.
  • The worst example of racism was South Africa where intermixing of whites and blacks was made a criminal offence. It is interesting to know that when Japan emerged as an imperialist power, the Japanese were excluded from being branded as belonging to an inferior race. In fact, South Africa gave the Japanese the status of what they called ‘honorary whites’


Struggle Against Imperialism

  • At every step, the imperialist powers met with the resistance of peoples they were trying to enslave. Even when the conquest by arms was decisive, foreign rule that ensued was never peaceful for the rulers. The conquered peoples organized movements not merely to overthrow foreign rule but also to develop their countries into modern nations. In a sense, these movements against imperialism were international in character People striving for freedom in one country supported the cause of peoples in other countries.
  • Generally speaking, the imperialist countries retained their colonial possessions up to the Second World War But within two decades after the end of the War, most of the countries succeeded in regaining their independence.
  • Most of the nineteenth century and the first quarter of the twentieth century were the years in which the nations of the western world held Asia and Africa as their colonial possessions. In the later years of this period of imperialism, about two thirds of the world’s population was living under the rule of one foreign government or the other. The empires acquired by the European nations were the largest in world history.
  • Imperialism is a story of deception, brutality, and armed might. The imperialist powers, however, Justified their enslavement of other nations and peoples in the name of ‘ spreading civilization’.
  • Getting possession of new markets and raw materials and establishing industries to be worked by cheap labour created many ‘small’ wars and two world conflicts. Despite the ‘gentlemen’s agreements’, there was a continuous effort among the western powers to redivide the world as between themselves but never with any consideration for the welfare of the people to whom the territory really belonged.








  • Towards the end of the middle Ages, feudalism as an economic system had started declining. This process was furthered by the Renaissance and other developments. The rise of towns and cities and the growth in trade stimulated the production of manufactured goods.
  • There was an increase in the demand for goods which previously had been considered luxury goods. Life in the new towns and cities had created a desire for many new goods also. All these factors provided a great stimulus to the production of manufactured goods.
  • For a long time, however, the techniques and organization of producing goods did not undergo any significant improvement. The traditional methods were inadequate to meet the growing demand for goods.
  • During the later half of the 18th century there began a series of changes which revolutionized the techniques and organization of production. These developments resulted in the rise of a new type of economy— an industrial economy.
  • The term ‘Industrial Revolution’ is used to describe these developments because the changes came rapidly and they had far reaching effects on the history of the world.



  • The new system of society which had been emerging in Europe from the 15th century is called capitalism. Under capitalism
  1. The instruments and the means by which goods are produced are owned by private individuals and the production is carried out for making profit.
  2. The workers under this system do not own anything but work for a wage.
  3. The owners of wealth under capitalism who are called capitalists do not keep their wealth or consume it or use it for purposes of display but invest it to make profit.
  4. Goods are produced for sale in the market with a view to making profit.
  5. This system is in marked contrast with the feudal system in which goods were produced for local use and the investment of wealth for making profit did not take place.
Feudalism Capitalism
Economic life under feudalism was static as goods were produced for local consumption and there was no incentive to produce more by employing better means of producing goods for a bigger market. Economy life under capitalism was fast moving with the aim of producing more and more goods for bigger markets so that more profits could be made.



Capitalism and Colonization

  • The discovery of new lands and the establishment of colonies had resulted in unprecedented expansion of trade and accumulation of wealth by merchants.
  • The trade included also the trade in human beings, that is, slave trade.
  • The colonization was accompanied by the plunder of the wealth of the people who were colonized. For example, the treasures of the Inca and the Aztec civilizations were plundered by the Spaniards.
  • Mines in the newly conquered areas in the Americas were also exploited for precious metals like gold and silver. Large numbers of native people were worked to death in these mines.
  • The use of slave labour in the plantations in the Americas. Colonization of Asia caused similar havoc and devastation. During a few decades of Dutch rule, the population of a province of Java in Indonesia was reduced to less than one-fourth of its former size.
  • The defeat of the Nawab of Bengal by the English in 1757 was followed by years of naked plunder of the wealth of Bengal.
  • According to estimates of the English government at that time, the English Company and its officials received 6,000,000 pounds as gifts during the period of 1757-1766.
  • The plunder by the English contributed to a famine in 1769-70 in which about a quarter of the population of Bengal perished.
  • Thus a lot of wealth was accumulated in Europe for investment to make more profit.

In the words of Karl Marx,

  • “The treasures captured outside Europe by undisguised looting, enslavement, and murder, floated back to the mother country and were there turned into capital.”


Industrial Revolution

  • The desire to produce more goods at low cost to make higher profits led to the Industrial Revolution and further growl h of capitalism. The Industrial Revolution began in England in about 1750. It was then that machines began to take over some of the work of men and animals in the production of goods and commodities. That is why we often say that the Industrial Revolution was the beginning of a ‘machine age’.
  • Of course, there were many machines in use before 1750. The plough, air-pump, printing press and spinning wheel are only a few of the many examples that could be listed. For hundreds of years each civilization had been trying to perfect old technical skills and develop new ones. But after 1750, new inventions came faster, and they were of a kind that brought morn rapid changes in more people’s lives. The Industrial Revolution changed men’s ways of living and thinking all over the world.
  • The guild system had given way to the ‘domestic’ or the `putting-out’ system. In the 18th century, the domestic system had become obsolete. It started giving way to a new system called the ‘factory system’. In place of simple tools and the use of animal and manual power, new machines and steam power came to be increasingly used. Many new cities sprang up and artisans and dispossessed peasants went there to work.

Factory System

  • Production was now carried out in a factory (in place of workshops in homes), with the help of machines (in place of simple tools).
  • Facilities for production were owned and managed by capitalists, the people with money to invest in further production.
  • Everything required for production was provided by the capitalists for the workers who were brought together under one roof.
  • Everything belonged to the owner of the factory, including the finished product, and workers worked for wages.
  • This system, known as the factory system, brought on the Industrial Revolution.


Why Industrial Revolution started in England?

  • England in the 18th century was in the most favorable position for an industrial revolution, Because of following reasons
  1. Through her overseas trade, including trade in slaves, she had accumulated vast profits which could provide the necessary capital.
  2. In the trade rivalries of European countries, she had emerged as an unrivalled power. She had acquired colonies which ensured a regular supply of raw materials.
  3. After the disappearance of serfdom, people were no longer tied to the land and were free to do to any job they could find. The enclosure movement had begun in the 18th century. Big land-owners wanted consolidate their large land-holdings. In is process, small peasants who had all holdings in land were ousted and large army of landless unemployed people was created. Thus there was no shortage labour force to work in the factories.
  4. As result of the revolution off the 17th century, a stable system of government had been established, which was no longer under the domination of the feudal classes. Commercial classes had acquired more political power and there was no danger of government interference.
  5. England had plenty of natural resources, such as iron and coal, essential for industries. The sources of iron and coal existed side by side and this saved England from many difficulties that other countries faced.
  6. England developed a large shipping industry and had no problem of transportation.
  • No other country enjoyed all these advantages at this period. Some suffered from a lack of capital or natural resources and some from an unfavorable political system. These factors made England a natural place for the Industrial Revolution to begin.
  • Almost all other European countries had agrarian economies and lived under backward political systems. Many of them, such as Italy and Germany, were not even united and suffered from many economic restrictions.


Textile Industry: The revolution

  • In the 1700s the English East India Company was sending cotton cloth from India to England. Soon, calico cloth made in Calicut and Dacca muslin and Kashmir shawls were in great demand in England. Shrewd English businessmen then began to import cotton and make it into cloth in England. When the workers using old-fashioned spinning-wheels and handlooms could not keep up with the increasing demand, a series of inventions came along to make faster spinning and weaving possible.



  • Hargreaves invented a machine which speeded up spinning. Arkwright adapted this machine for running with water. Crompton, sometime later, combined the advantages of the machines invented by Hargreaves and Arkwright. These three inventions alone made it possible for England to produce thread that was finer and cheaper than any that could be produced by others or with older techniques. Then in 1785. Cartwright invented a power loom. This machine could he run by horses or bullocks and later, when factories were set up along rivers and canals, water power was used to operate it.


Cotton Gin

  • But enough raw cotton for feeding these machines was still not available because the process of separating the fibres from the seeds was very slow. A worker could clean only five or six pounds of cotton a clay by hand. In 1793, Eli Whitney, an American, unvented a ‘cotton gin‘. This machine made it possible to separate the seeds from cotton three hundred times faster than by hand.


  • Such a tremendous increase in raw cotton imports would not have taken place but for the invention the steam engine by James Watt in 1769. It was this machine that made it possible to produce goods on a really big seal Machines run by the muscles of men animals, or by water power, could not compete with those driven by the steam engine. This invention revolutionized production.


Blast Furnace

  • With steam power available, there a demand for more machinery. England had plenty of iron and coal to make steel and manufacture machinery, but new and cheaper ways of processing iron had to be found. The development of the blast furnace and, later, the method of turning low-grade iron into steel, enabled the English industries to produce steel cheaply. Thus they could have more and better machines.


TRANSPORT Revolution :


  • In 1814, George Stephenson developed steam engine to haul coal from mines to ports by railways.
  • In 1830, the first railway train began to carry passengers and freight from Liverpool to Manchester.
  • These events were followed by a great wave of railroad construction in England and the United States. As early as 1853 in Lord Dalhousie’s time, the first railroad was laid in India.



  • The need to transport raw materials and manufactured products led to the improvement of roads and the digging of canals— in England and other countries.
  • Mc Adam devised the method of making pakka or ‘macadamized’



  • To expand facilities for transport by water much cheaper than overland England began connecting rivers and lakes with canals.
  • Canal building spread to Europe and America and was a big help in providing cheaper transportation, especially after steam boats came into use.


Postal Revolution

Improved transportation helped in carrying messages as well as people and goods. Rawland Hill’s idea of the penny post— fast and cheap communication by letter—began to operate in England in the early 19th century. Soon it was adopted in other countries, including India. People could thus send letters to and from all parts of the country at the same low rate regardless of the distance.

Business concerns took advantage of the penny-post in their buying and selling transactions far and near.


Agriculture Revolution

Farm Mechanization

  • There was a revolution in agriculture also. The revolution in agriculture in fact had started before the Industrial Revolution. Naturally, there were changes in farming methods to produce more food, and more importantly, to produce cash crops for the market and raw materials for industries. New farm machinery included the steel plough and harrow for breaking the ground, the mechanical drill for seeding and the horse-drawn cultivator to replace the hoe. There were also machines for reaping and threshing.


Crop Rotation

  • Farmers adopted intensive manuring and the practice of crop rotation to maintain soil fertility. The latter is the practice of changing the crop on a piece of land each year, for example, wheat, barley, clover, and so on— instead of letting the land lie fallow every third year as was done in the Middle Ages. Crop rotation is effective because different crops take different elements from the soil.
  • Moreover, planting a crop like clover can actually be better for the soil than letting it lie fallow, because clover is one of the plants that add fertility to the soil.


Land Consolidation

  • Land-owners in England also began to enlarge their farms. They had already consolidated their holdings through the enclosure movement. The strips of land that lay scattered about the village were so consolidated that they could hold all their land in one piece. In doing so, the big land-owner quite unfairly got possession of the peasant’s small holding along with his own.
  • Sometimes big land-holders took over the common meadow in a village also leaving the small land-owners and tenants with no pasture. But the big land-owners controlled Parliament in those days and got laws passed that enabled them to do these things.
  • The result was that the peasants were forced off the land. With no other means of livelihood, they moved to the new industrial towns and cities where they got jobs at whatever wage the factory-owner would pay. Industries thus benefited, but at the small farmer’s expense.

Industrial Revolution in Other Countries

  • In the continent of Europe, the Industrial Revolution began to make some headway after 1815, after the defeat of Napoleon and the end of 23 years of war. Then machines were introduced in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany. However, unstable governments and unrest among the people in some of these countries slowed the growth of industries for some time.
  1. France, by 1850, was developing the iron industry though she had to import both iron ore and coal.
  2. Germany had, by 1865, occupied second place as a producer of steel, but with England far ahead in the lead. After a late start, Germany’s industrial development took an amazing leap after 1870 when the German states were finally welded into one nation. Soon Germany was to become England’s rival.
  3. Russia was the last of the big European powers to have an industrial revolution. She was rich in mineral resources but lacked capital and free labour. After she freed the serfs in 1861, she obtained capital from foreign countries and Russian industry moved ahead. However, it was only after Russia’s 1917 Revolution that rapid industrial development started.
  4. The United States had introduced machines and started factories before 1800— after gaining independence from England. By 1860 she had well established textile, steel, and shoe industries. The American industries grew very rapidly after 1870.
  5. Japan was the first country in Asia to industrialize. Traditionally, Japan produced mainly such articles as silk, porcelain and toys. By the end of the 19th century, Japanese production included steel, machinery, metal goods and chemicals— and in quantities large enough for export

Tariff barriers

  • As England was the first country where industries developed, she gained almost complete control over world markets. Even when people in other countries began to use machines they found they could not compete with England’s low prices. To help keep these low priced products from coming into their markets many countries introduced protective tariffs, that is- governments passed laws that required the payment of such a High tax on imported British manufactures that similar products made locally sold more as they were cheaper. The levy of tariffs to protect new industries became a wide spread practice.


Race for raw material

  • The search tor markets and sources of raw materials resulted in international rivalries. First England later, other Western countries began to look for new sources of raw materials and markets for their manufactures.
  • Towards the end of the 19th century Japan was industrialized and joined the race. In this race, almost the entire non-industrialized world was carved up into colonies— spheres of influence or territories— for economic and political domination by industrialized countries.
  • Thus arose imperialism, under which strong nations subordinated the economies of the countries under their domination to their own interests. They forced them to buy and sell on their own terms.
  • The race for colonies caused many an international conflict. The countries which had been industrialized late and had no colonies, wanted to wrest them from those that had. Countries which had colonies wanted still more.


From Village to City

  • Before the Industrial Revolution, most of the population of the world lived in villages and was dependent on agricultural. Almost all economic needs of man were met within the village itself. Almost the entire population was, in one way or the other, connected with land.
  • The towns and Cities that had arisen since the beginning of civilization were centres of craft and of political and administrative control. Trade was carried on between towns and cities of the same country and of other countries and affected only a very small percentage of the population.
  • With the growth of industrialization the picture was completely transformed. The centre of economic life shifted to the cities. The new cities and towns that grew were important more as centres of industry than as political and administrative centres.
  • A large part of the population now started living in cities where thousands of people worked in industrial establishments. This population was not connected with land. Now in some industrialized countries, less than 20 per cent of the population is connected with land.
  • In our country, though still an overwhelming majority lives in village there is a gradual increase in the population dependent on industry.
  • In highly industrialized countries, the share of industrial production in the total national income is far larger than that of agriculture.
  • Urban and rural economies have become mutually dependent and complementary. The crowding of people into cities has always produced problems of housing, health, and sanitation. The quickening pace of industrialization in England created deplorable living conditions, concentration in smoky industrial towns, and city slums grew worse.
  • Even though the movement of people from village to cities has been going on since civilization began, it has always aroused sadness. Life for a villager in the city resulted in many social strains. Many social bonds were dissolved. Many moral restraints which life in a village community imposed broke down.
  • On the other hand, men became freer to develop their capabilities.
  • The Industrial Revolution brought countries and peoples together. The relations between countries and peoples, however, were not based on equality as the industrially developed countries began to control the economy of countries which were not industrially developed. In spite of this, the Industrial Revolution created an international consciousness among peoples because the developments in one place began to influence the developments in other places.


Industrial Capitalism

The system of society which came into being as a result of the industrial revolution may be termed industrial capitalism. The main classes in this society were

1. Capitalist the owners of the means of production.
2. Workers workers who worked for a wage

Industrial capitalism: Consequences of

  1. It resulted in the concentration of economic power in a few hands.
  2. The independent craftsman became rare.
  3. A small number of capitalists came to control the lives of not only a large number of workers whom they employed but also, directly or indirectly, the economic life of the entire society.
  4. The concentration of economic power in a few hands resulted in shocking social inequalities and created a wide gulf between capitalists and the rest of the population.
  5. These inequalities were so obvious and so great that Disraeli, a British Prime Minister of the 19th century, spoke of the existence of two nations in England- the rich and the poor.
  6. The Industrial Revolution produced a vast number of landless, toolless workers, who were wholly dependent on an employer.
  7. They had to accept whatever wage the employer offered, for there were usually more workers than jobs.
  8. Women and children were employed even in mines because they could be hired for less money.
  9. Often they had to work from 15 to 18 hours a day with no rest periods. If perchance they fell asleep on duty, they might be beaten by a heartless overseer.
  10. Working surroundings were unsafe and dirty.


  • The houses provided for workers were no better. Whole areas of the industrial cities where workers lived were crowded slums. Accidents, disease and epidemics were common. A report on the slums of Manchester in 1837 mentions, among other things, that almost all inhabitants of many streets perished in cholera.


No Social security

  • If an employer was displeased with a worker for any reason, he could dismiss the worker at will. A worker had little choice but to accept an employer’s terms, or be jobless. If he was ill and unable to work, he got no pay, and he might be discharged. If he suffered an accident on the job, he got no help from the employer. When business was slack, a factory-owner regularly dismissed as many employees as possible leaving them with no means of livelihood. It was the industrial workers in England who first endured conditions such as those just described but the workers in other countries fared no better.

Child Laborers

  • The horrible condition of child labourers is stated in the evidence collected by a committee of British Parliament in 1816.


Labour Laws

  • A few humanitarian reformers and some land-owners who were jealous of big businessmen combined with English workers to get the first laws to improve conditions of work.
  • In 1802, England passed its first Factory Act, limiting the hours of work for children to twelve a day.
  • In 1819, law forbade the employment of children under nine.
  • Later laws regulated the employment of women and children in mines.


Trade Unions

  • Many of the laws to protect workers have been due to the pressure from workers’ trade unions. When the English workers first formed trade unions, employers called them `unlawful combinations’ and laws were passed to curb such `evils’.
  • But by 1824 the workers succeeded in getting laws against unions repealed and there was a remarkable growth in unions for all the trades.
  • It may be hard to believe today, but it is true, that the English industrial workers did not have the right to vote in those days.
  • In the beginning in fact, the population of new industrial cities had no representation in Parliament at all.
  • In the thirties and forties of the 19th century, a movement known as the ‘Chartist Movement‘, was launched to get the right of vote for workers.
  • Though the movement declined by the fifties of the 19th century, left its influence and through the Acts of 1867, 1882, 1918 and 1929 all adult citizens were enfranchised.
  • The English workers also won the right not only to organize trade unions but also the right to strike to force employers to concede their demands.


Trade Unions in other countries

  • The idea that the workers’ case must be heard in any dispute met with opposition everywhere.
  • Germany got the right to form labour unions in the late 19th century.
  • In the United States, where unions were frowned upon for almost a century, workers did not, gain full legal rights until the early 20th Then the right to form unions, to strike, and to bargain with employers on the conditions of work was legalized and this was followed by other laws that brought more benefits to employees.
  • The many benefits that workers and all salaried people enjoy in most industrialized countries today are due directly or indirectly to the efforts to correct the terrible conditions that the Industrial Revolution brought about.


  • Protection for industrial workers could not have taken place without a change in the ideas of the responsibilities of — governments.
  • When the Industrial Revolution was gaining strength in England— and the same was generally true in other countries— the growing belief was that governments should not interfere with business and industry.
  • The theory known as laissez-faire or ‘let us alone’, was then a kind of religion among capitalists.


Laissez faire and Capitalism

  • According to the laissez faire idea, the businessman should be free to look after his own interests. Only the unwritten law of supply and demand should determine the size of his profits. The same unwritten law would determine the fate of the worker, whether he had a job, what would be his working conditions and salary. The famous economist Adam Smith voiced this idea in 1776 in a book called The Wealth of Nations, and it had many supporters, too.
  • The laissez faire doctrine was opposed by many people. Gradually, almost all the countries came to accept the idea that the state has a legitimate right and duty to regulate the economy. The Factory Acts in England and many laws dealing with the economy in all countries were a consequence of this.
  • Today one rarely hears a voice in defence of laissez faire. Gradually, the state’s role in economic development has also come to be recognized. This is true particularly of the developing countries that cannot modernize their economies without a comprehensive and large-scale effort on the part of the state. In fact, in these countries, it is the state, rather than the private capitalist, that is the main agency for economic development.



  • The greatest challenge to laissez faire, and to capitalism itself, has come from the idea of socialism, which grew in the beginning as a reaction against the evils of capitalism. The idea appealed particularly to workers. Through their struggles, they were able to achieve much improvement in their living conditions. However, they came to believe that, for basic improvement in their life, socialism or a complete re-ordering of society was essential.
  • The Industrial Revolution that began in England in about 1750 was a revolution in man’s ways of producing goods and services. Abolition of medieval, antiquated social, economic and political systems, arid industrialization to lead to an era of shared plenty became the declared aims of one society after another who emerged as nations.
  • Ever since 1750, man has increasingly used machines and mechanical power to do the work that he formerly did with his own muscles and the help of animals. Meantime, the machines invented by man have become more and more complex and provided him with goods and services that could not otherwise be produced at all. Also, machines have increased the amount of goods man can turn out in a given time, and enabled people to raise their level of living.
  • Industrialization and capitalism brought benefits as well as hardships and evils to man— unemployment, smoky, crowded cities, unhealthy living and working conditions, rivalry and conflict between nations. As working men got the right to vote and elect their representatives in government, they forced the passage of laws that eliminated many of the early evils that industrialization had brought about. Ideas of socialism also arose which, while recognizing the importance of Machines and making them even better, aimed at solving the problems created by capitalism, by building a new social order. But many problem remain. The unsolved problems are a challenge to all nations.




The American Civil War (1861-1865), also known by several other names, was a civil war between the United States of America (the “Union”) and the Southern slave states of the newly formed Confederate States of America under Jefferson Davis. The Union included all of the Free states and the five slaveholding Border States. The Union was led by Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party. The Republicans opposed the expansion of slavery into territories owned by the United States, and their victory in the presidential election of 1860 resulted in seven Southern states declaring their secession from the Union even before Lincoln initiated the American civil war which threatened the unity and integrity of United States of America.

The civil war was the deadliest in American history and it caused 620,000 soldier deaths and an undetermined number of civilian casualties. The victory in the war ended slavery in the United States and restored the Union by settling the issues of nullification and secession and strengthened the role of the federal government. The social, political, economic and racial issues of the war continue to shape contemporary American thought.



A strong correlation was shown between the degree of support for secession and the number of plantations in the region; states of the deep South which had the greatest concentration of plantations were the first to secede. The upper South slave states of Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee had fewer plantations and rejected secession until the Fort Sumter crisis forced them to choose sides. Border States had fewer plantations still and never seceded. The percentage of Southern whites living in families that owned slaves was 36.7 percent in the lower South, 25.3 percent in the upper South and 15.9 percent in the Border States that fought mostly for the Union. Ninety-five percent of blacks lived in the South, comprising one third of the population there as opposed to one percent of the population of the North. Consequently, fears of eventual emancipation were much greater in the South than in the North.

The Supreme Court decision of 1857 in Dred Scott v. Sandford added to the controversy. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney’s decision said that slaves were “so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect”, and that slavery could spread into the territories. Lincoln warned that “the next Dred Scott decision” could threaten Northern states with slavery.

Northern politician Abraham Lincoln said, “this question of Slavery was more important than any other; indeed, so much more important has it become that no other national question can even get a hearing just at present. “The slavery issue was related to sectional competition for control of the territories, and the Southern demand for a slave code for the territories was the issue used by Southern politicians to split the Democratic Party to two, which all but guaranteed the election of Lincoln and secession. When secession was an issue, South Carolina planter and state Senator John Townsend said the “our enemies are about to take possession of the Government, but they intend to rule us according to the caprices of their fanatical theories, and according to the declared purposes of abolishing slavery.” Similar opinions were expressed throughout the South in editorials, political speeches and declaration of reasons for secession. Even though Lincoln had no plans to outlaw slavery where it existed, Southerners throughout the South expressed fears for the future of slavery.

Southern concerns included not only economic loss but also fears of racial equality. The Texas Declaration of Causes for Secession said the non-slave-holding states were “proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or colour”. and that the African race “were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race”. Alabama secessionist E. S. Daragan said the emancipation would make Southerners feel “demoralized and degraded.

Bringing in the 1830s, the U. S. Postmaster General refused to allow mail which carried abolition pamphlets to the South Northern teachers suspected of any tinge of abolitionism were expelled from the South, and abolitionist literature was banned. Southerners rejected the denials of Republicans that they were abolitionists. John Brown’s said on the federal Harpers Ferry Armory greatly increased Southern fears of slave insurrections. The North felt threatened as well, for as Eric Foner concludes. “Northerners came to view slavery as the very antithesis of the good society, as well as a threat to their own fundamental values and interest.”


Southern Culture

Although only a small share of free southerners owned slaves, southerners, of all classes often defended the institutions of slavery-threatened by the rise of free labour abolitionist movements in the northern states-as the cornerstone of their social order.

Based on a system of plantation slavery, the social structure of the South was far more stratified and patriarchal than that of the North. In 1850, there were around 350,000 slaveholders in a total free southern population of about six million. Among slaveholders, the concentration of slave ownership was unevenly distributed.  Perhaps around seven percent of slaveholders owned roughly three-quarters of the slave population. The largest slaveholders, generally owners of large plantations, represented the top stratum of southern society. They benefited from economies of scale and needed large numbers of slaves on big plantations to produce profitable labour-intensive crops like cotton. This plantation-owing elite, known as, “slave magnates,” was comparable to the millionaires of the following century.

In the 1850s, as large plantation owner’s out-competed smaller farmers, more slaves were owned by fewer planters. Yet, while the proportion of the white population consisting of slaveholders was on the decline on the even of the Civil War perhaps filling below around a quarter of free southerners in 1860-poor whites and small farmers generally accepted the political leadership of the planter elite.

Several factors helped explain why slavery was not under serious threat of internal collapse from any moves for democratic change initiated from the South, First, given the opening of new territories in the West for white settlement, many non-slave owners also perceived a possibility that they, too, might own slaves at some point in their life.

Second, small free farmers in the South often embraced hysterical racism, making them unlikely agents for internal democratic reforms in the South. The principle of white supremacy, accepted by almost all white southerners of all classes, made slavery seem legitimate, natural, and essential for a civilized society. White racism in the South was sustained by official systems of repression such as the “slave codes” and elaborate codes of speech, behaviour and social practices illustrating the subordination of blacks to whites. For example, the “Slave patrols” were among the institutions bringing together southern whites of all classes in support of the prevailing economic and racial order. Serving as slave “patrollers” and overseers” offered white southerners positions of power and honour. these positions gave even poor white southerners the authority to stop, search, whip, maim, and even kill any slave travelling outside his or her plantation. Slave “patrollers” and “overseers” also won prestige in their communities. Policing and punishing blacks who transgressed the regimentation of slave society was a valued community service in the South, where the fear of free blacks threatening law and order figured heavily in the public discourse of the period.

Third, many small farmers with a few slaves and yeomen were linked to elite planters through the market economy in many areas, small farmers depended on local planter elites for access to cotton gins, for markets, for their feed and livestock, and for loans. Furthermore, whites of varying social castes, including poor whites and “plain folk” who worked outside or at least in the periphery of the market economy, mighty be linked to elite planters through extensive kinship networks. For example, a poor white person might be the cousin of the richest aristocrat of his county and share the same militant support of slavery as his richer relatives.

Thus, by the 1850s, Southern slaveholders and non-slaveholders alike felt increasingly encircled psychologically and politically in the national political arena because of the rise of free socialism and abolitionism in the Northern states. Increasingly dependent on the North for manufactured goods, for commercial services, and for loans, and increasingly cut off from the flourishing agricultural regions of the Northwest, they faced the prospects of a growing free labour and abolitionist movement in the North.



Antislavery movements in the North gained momentum in the 1830s and 1840s , a period of rapid transformation of Northern society that inspired a social and political reformism. Many of the reformers of the period, including abolitionists, attempted in one way or another to transform the lifestyle and work habits of labour, helping workers respond to the new demands of an industrializing, capitalizing society.

Antislavery, like many other reform movements of the period, was influenced by the legacy of the great Second Great Awakening, a period of religious revival in the new country stressing the reform of individuals which was still relatively fresh in the American memory. Thus, while the reform spirit of the period was expressed by a variety of movements with often-conflicting political goals, most reform movements shared a common feature in their emphasis on the Great Awakening principle of transforming the human personality through discipline, order, and restraint. “Abolitionist” had several meanings at the time. the followers of William Lloyd Garrison, including Wendell Phillips and Frederick, Douglass, demanded the “immediate abolition of slavery”, hence the name. A more pragmatic group of abolitionists like Theodore Weld and Arthur Tappan, wanted immediate action, but that action might well be a programme of gradual emancipation, with a long intermediate stage. “Antislavery men”, like John Qunicy Adams, did what they could to limit slavery and end it where possible, but were not part of any abolitionist group. For example, in 1841 Adams represented the Amistad African slaves in the Supreme Court of the United States and argued that they should be set free. In the last years before the war, “antislavery” could mean the Northern majority, like Abraham Lincoln, who opposed expansion of slavery or its influence, as by the Kansas-Nebraska Act, or the Fugitive Slave Act. Many Southerners called all these abolitionists, without distinguishing them from the Garrisonians. James McPherson explains the abolitionist’s deep beliefs: “All people were equal in God’s sight; the souls of black folks were as valuable as those of whites; for one of God’s children to enslave another was a violation of the Higher Law, even if it was sanctioned by the Constitution.

Stressing the Yankee Protestant ideals of self-improvements, industry, and thrift, most abolitionists-most notably William Lloyd Garrison-condemned slavery as a lack of control over one’s own destiny and the fruits of one’s labour.

Wendell Phillips, one of the most ardent abolitionists, attacked the Slave power  and pressed dissolution of union as early as 1845: “The experience of the fifty years Shows us the slaves trebling in numbers-slaveholders monopolizing the offices and descanting the policy of the Government-prostituting the strength and influence of the Nation to the support of slavery here and elsewhere-trampling on the rights of the free States, and making the courts of the country their tools. To continue this disastrous alliance longer is madness…. Why prolong the experiment?

Abolitionists also attacked slavery as a threat to the freedom of white Americans, Defining freedom as more than a simple jack of restraint, antebellum reformers held that the truly free man was one who imposed restraints upon himself. Thus, for the anti-slavery reformers of the 1830s and 1840s, the promise of free labour and upward social mobility (opportunities for advancement, rights to own property, and to control one’s own labour) was central to the ideal of reforming individuals.

Controversy over the so-called Ostend Manifesto-which proposed U.S. annexation of Cuba as a slave state-and the Fugitive Slave Act kept sectional tensions alive before the issue of slavery in the West could occupy the country’s politics in the mid to late 1850s

Antislavery sentiment among some groups in the North intensified after the Compromise of 1850, when Southerners began appearing in Northern states to pursue fugitives or often to claim as slaves free African Americans who had resided there for years. Meanwhile, some abolitionists openly sought to prevent enforcement of the law. Violation of the Fugitive Slave Act was often open and organized in Boston – a city from which it was boasted that no fugitive had ever been returned. Theodore Parker and other members of the city’s elite helped form mobs to prevent enforcement of the law as early as April 1851. A pattern of public resistance emerged in city after city, notably in Syracuse in 1851 (culminating in the Jerry Rescue incident late that year), and Boston again in 1854. But the issue did not lead to a crisis until revived by the same issue underlying the Missouri Compromise of 1820.


Origin of the American Civil War

The main explanation for the origins of the American Civil War was slavery, especially the issue of the expansion of slavery into the territories. States’ rights and the tariff issue became entangled in the slavery issue, and were intensified by it. Other important factors were party politics, expansionism, sectionalism, economics and modernization in the Antebellum Period.

The United States was a nation divided into two distinct regions separated by the Mason-Dixon line. New England, the Northeast and Midwest had a rapidly growing economy based on family farms, industry, mining, commerce and transportation, with a large and rapidly growing urban population and no slavery outside the Border States. Its growth was fed by a high birth rate and large numbers of European immigrants, especially Irish, German, Polish and Scandinavian.

The South was dominated by a settled plantation system based on slavery, with rapid growth taking place in the Southwest, such as Texas, based on high birth rates and low immigration from Europe. There were few cities or towns, and little manufacturing except in border areas. Slave owners controlled politics and economics. Two-thirds of the Southern whites owned no slaves and usually were engaged in subsist ring agriculture, but support for slavery came from all segments of southern society.

Overall, the Northern population was growing much more quickly than the Southern population, which made it increasingly difficult for the South to continue to control the national government. Southerners were worried about the relative political decline of their region because the North was growing much faster in terms of population and industrial output.

In the interest of maintaining unity, politicians had mostly moderated opposition to slavery, resulting in numerous compromise such as the Missouri Compromise of 1820. After the Mexican-American War, the issue of slavery in the new territories led to the compromise of 1850. While the compromised assisted an immediate political crisis, it did not permanently resolve the issue of the Slave power (the power of slaveholders to control the national government)

Amid the emergence of increasingly virulent and hostile sectional ideologies in national politics, the collapse of the old Second Party System in the 1850s hampered efforts of the politicians to reach yet one more compromise. The compromise that was reached (the Kansas-Nebraska Act) outraged too many northerners. to the 1850s with the rise of the Republican Party, the first major party with no appeal in the South, the industrializing North and agrarian Midwest became committed to the economic ethos of free-labour industrial capitalism.

Arguments that slavery was undesirable for the nation had long existed. After 1840 abolitionists’ denounced slavery as more than a social evil – it was a moral wrong Many Northerners, especially leaders of the new Republican Party, considered slavery a great national evil and believed that a small number of Southern owners of large plantations controlled the national government with the goal of spreading that evil.

In 1860, the election of Abraham Lincoln, who won the national election without receiving a single electoral vote from any of the Southern states, triggered the secession of the cotton states of the Deep South from the union and their formation of the Confederate States of America.


Causes of the war

The coexistence of a slave owning South with an increasingly anti-slavery North made conflict inevitable. Lincoln did not propose federal laws against slavery it already existed, but he had, in his 1856 House Divided Speech, expressed a desire to “arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction”. Much of the political battle in the 1850s focused on the expansion on slavery into the newly created territories. all of the organized terrorizes were likely to become free soil states, which increased the Southern movement toward secession. Both North and South assumed that if slavery could not expand it would wither and die.

Southern fears of losing control of the federal governments to antislavery forces, and Northern fears that the slave power already controlled the government, brought the crisis to a head in the late 1850s. Sectional disagreements over the morality of slavery, the scope of democracy and the economic merits of free labour vs. slave plantations caused the Whig and “Know-Nothing” parties to collapse, and new ones to arise (the Free Soil Party in 1848, the Republicans in 1854, the Constitutional Union). In 1860, the last remaining national political party, the Democratic Party, split along sectional lines.

Both North and South were influenced by the ideas of Thomas Jefferson. Southerners emphasized, in connection with slavery, the states’ rights ideas mentioned in Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolutions. Northerners ranging from the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to the moderate Republican leader Abraham Lincoln emphasized Jefferson’s declaration that all men are created equal. Lincoln mentioned this proposition in the Gettysburg Address. Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens said that slavery was “the cornerstone of the Confederacy” after Southern states seceded. After Southern defeat, Stephens said that the war was not about slavery but states’ rights, and became one of the most ardent defenders of the Lost Cause.

All but one inter-regional crisis involved slavery, starting with debates on the three-fifths clause and a twenty year extension of the African Slave Trade in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. There was controversy over adding the slave state of Missouri to the Union that led to the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Nullification Crisis over the Tariff of 1828 (although the tariff was low after 1846), the Gag rule that prevented discussion in Congress of petitions for ending slavery from 1835-1844, the acquisition of Texas as a slave state in 1845 and Manifest Destiny as an argument for gaining new territories where slavery would become an issue after the Mexican –American War (1846-1848) which resulted in the Compromise of 1850. The Wilmot Proviso was an attempt by Northern politicians to exclude slavery from the territories conquered from Mexico. The extremely popular antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) by Harriet Beecher Stowe greatly increased Northern opposition the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.

The 1854 Ostend Manifesto was a Southern attempt to take over Cuba as a slave state. Even rival plans for Northern vs. Southern routes for a transcontinental railroad became entangled in the Bleeding Kansas controversy over slavery. The Second Party Systems broke down after passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in1854. This replaced the Missouri compromise ban on slavery with popular sovereignty. in 1856 Congressional arguments over slavery became violent when Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina attacked Radical Republican Senator Charles Sumner with a cane after Sumner’s “Crime against Kansas” speech. The Dred Scott Decision and Lecompton Constitution of 1857 were Southern attempts to admit Kansas to the Union as a slave state. The Lincoln Douglas debates of 1858, John Brown’s raid in 1859 and the split in the Democratic Party in 1860 polarized the nation between North and South. The election of Lincoln in 1860 was the final trigger for secession. During the secession crisis, many sought compromise. Two of these attempts were the “Corwin Amendment” and “Crittenden Compromise”. All attempts at compromise failed.

Other factors include sectionalism (caused by the growth of slavery in the deep South while slavery was gradually phased out in Northern states) and economic differences between North and South, although most modern historians disagree with the extreme economic determinism of historian Charles Beard. There was the polarizing effect of slavery that split the largest religious denominations (the Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian churches) and controversy caused by the worst cruelties of slavery (whippings, mutilations and families split apart). The fact that seven immigrants out of eight settled in the North, plus the fact that twice as many whites left the South for the North as vice versa, contributed to the South’s defensive aggressive political behaviour.

Southern secession was triggered by the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln because regional leaders feared that he would stop the expansion of slavery and put it on a course towards extinction. Many Southerners thought either Lincoln or another Northerner would abolish slavery, and that it was time to secede. The slave states, which had already become a minority in the House of Representatives, were now facing a future as a perpetual minority in the Senate and Electoral College against an increasingly powerful North.


Beginning of the war

Lincoln’s victory in the presidential election of 1860 triggered South Carolina’s declaration of secession from the Union. By February 1861, six more Southern states made similar declarations. On February 7, the seven states adopted a provisional constitution for the Confederate State of America and established their temporary capital at Montgomery, Alabama. A pre-war February peace Conference of 1861 met in Washington in a failed attempt at resolving the crisis. The remaining eight slave state rejected pleas to join the Confederacy, Confederate forces seized most of the federal forts within their boundaries (they did not take Fort Sumter); President Buchanan protested but made no military response aside from a failed attempt to re-supply Fort Sumter Via the ship Star of the West (the ship was fired upon the Citadel cadets), and no serious military preparations. However, governors in Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania quietly began buying weapons and training militia units.

On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as President in his inaugural address, he argued that the Constitution was a more perfect union than the earlier Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, that if was a binding contract, and called any secession “legally void”. He stated he had no intent to invade Southern states, nor did he intend to end slavery where it existed, but that he would use force to maintain possession of federal property. His speech closed with a plea for restoration of the bonds of union.

The South sent delegations to Washington and offered to pay for the federal properties and enter into a peace treaty with the United States. Lincoln rejected any negotiations with Confederate agents on the grounds that the Confederacy was not a legitimate government, and that making any treaty with it would be tantamount to recognition of it as a sovereign government. However, Secretary of State William Sewand engaged in unauthorized and indirect negotiations that failed.

Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, Fort Monroe, Fort Pickens and Fort Taylor were the remaining Union-held forth in the Confederacy, and Lincoln was determined to hold Fort Sumter, Under orders from Confederate President Jefferson Davis, troops controlled by the Confederate government under P. G. T. Beauregard bombarded the fort with artillery on April 12, forcing the fort’s capitulation Northerners rallied behind Lincoln’s call for all of the states to send troops to recapture the forts and to preserve the Union with the scale of the rebellion apparently small so far, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers for 90 days. For months before that, several Northern governors had discreetly readies their state militias; they began to move forces the next day.

Four states in the upper South (Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Virginia), which had repeatedly rejected Confederate overtures, now refused to send forces against their neighbors, declared their secession, and joined the Confederacy. To reward Virginia, the Confederate capital was moved to Richmond. The city was the symbol of the Confederacy; if it fell, the new nation would lose legitimacy. Richmond was in a highly vulnerable location at the end of a tortuous Confederate supply line. Although Richmond was heavily fortified, supplies for the city would be reduced by Sherman’s capture of Atlanta and cut off almost entirely when Grant besieged Petersburg and its railroads that supplied the Southern capital.


End of the war 1864-1865

The army of the Union had its Headquarters in the Potomac and Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman was the in commander of the army. Grant understood the concept of total war and believed, along with Lincoln and Sherman, that only the utter defeat of Confederate forces and their economic base would bring an end to the war. This was total war not in terms of killing civilians but rather in terms of destroying homes, farms and railroad tracks. Grant devised a coordinated strategy that would strike at the entire Confederacy from multiple directions.

Union forces in the East attempted to maneuver past Lee and fought several battles during that phase (“Grant’s Overland Campaign”) of the Eastern campaign Grant’s battles of attrition at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbour resulted in heavy Union losses, but forced Lee’s Confederates to fall back again and again. an attempt to outflank Lee from the south failed under Butler, who was trapped inside the Bermuda Hundred river bend. Grant was tenacious and, despite astonishing losses (over 65,000 casualties in seven weeks), kept pressing  Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia back to Richmond. He pinned down the Confederate army in the Siege of Petersburg, where the two armies engaged in trench warfare for over nine months.

Grant finally found a commander, General Philip Sheridan, aggressive enough to prevail in the Valley Campaigns of 1864. Sheridan defeated Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early in a series of battles, including a final decisive defeat at the Battle of cedar Sheridan then proceeded to destroy the agricultural base of the Shenandoah valley, a strategy similar to the tactics Sheraman later employed in Georgia.

Meanwhile, Sherman marched from Chattanooga to Atlanta defeating Confederate Generals Joseph E. Johnston and John Bell Hood along the way. The fall of Atlanta, on September 2, 1864, was a significant factor in the re-election of Lincoln as president. Hood left the Atlanta area to menace Sheraman’s supply lines and invade Tennessee in the Franklin Nashville Campaign. Union Maj. Gen John M. Schofield defeated Hood at the Battle of Franklin, and George H. Thomas dealt Hood a massive defeat at the Battle of Nashville, effectively destroying Hood’s army.

Laying waste to about 20% of the farms in Georgia in his “March to the Sea”, he reached the Atlantic Ocean at Savannah, Georgia in December 1864. Sherman’s army was followed by thousands of freed slaves; there were no major battles along the March. Sherman turned north through South Carolina and North Carolina to approach the Confederate Virginia from the south, increasing the pressure on Lee’s army.

Lee’s army, thinned by desertion and casualties, was now much smaller than Grant’s. Union forces won a decisive victory at the Battle of Five Forks on April 1, forcing Le to evacuate Petersburg and Richmond. The Confederate capital fell to the Union XXV Corps, composed of black troops. The remaining Confederate units fled west and after a defeat  at Sayler’s Creek, it became clear to Robert E. Lee that continued fighting against the United States was both tactically and logistically impossible.

Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House in an untraditional gesture and as a sign of Grant’s respect and anticipation of spoiling the Confederacy back into the Union with dignity and peace, Lee was permitted to keep his officer’s sabre and his horse, Traveller, Johnston surrendered his troops to Sherman on April 26, 1865, in Durham, North Carolina. on June 23, 1865, at Fort Towson in the Choctaw Nations’ area of the Oklahoma Territory, Stand Watie signed a cease-fire agreement with Union representatives, becoming the last confederate general in the field to stand down. the last confederated naval force to surrender was the CSS Shenandoah on November 4, 1865, in Liverpool, England.



Northern leaders agreed that victory would require more than end of fighting. it had to encompass the two war goals: Secession had to be totally repudiated, and all forms of slavery had to be eliminated. They disagreed sharply on the criteria for these goals. They also disagreed on the degree of federal control that should be imposed on the South, and the process by which Southern states should be reintegrated into the Union.

All slaves in the Confederacy were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation which stipulated that slaves in Confederate-held areas, but not in Border States or in Washington, D.C.., were free. Slaves in the Border States and Union-controlled parts of the South were freed by state action or by the Thirteenth Amendment although slavery effectively ended in the U.S. in the spring of 1865. The full restoration of the Union was the work of a highly contentious post-war era known the Reconstruction.

Reconstruction, which began early in the war and ended in 1877, involved a complex and rapidly changing series of federal and state policies. The long-term result came in the three “Civil War” amendments to the Constitution the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery; the Fourteenth Amendment, which extended federal legal protections equality to citizens regardless of race: and the Fifteenth Amendment, which abolished racial restrictions on voting.




During the latter half of the 18th century the Thirteen British Colonies of Northern America revolted against the British colonial rule and gained independence from the British Empire to become the United States of America. In this revolution the Colonies united against the British Empire and entered a period of armed conflict known as the Revolutionary War or “American War of Independence”, between 1775 and 1783.

Ideological background of American Revolution

  • The ideological background of American Revolution was prepared by various kinds of ideas. John Locke’s ideas on liberalism greatly influenced the political minds behind the revolution; for instance his theory of the “social contract” implied the natural right of the people to overthrow their leaders, should those leaders betray the history rights of Englishmen. Historians find little trace of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s influence in America.
  • A motivating force behind the revolution was the American love of a political ideology called “republicanism”, which was dominant in many of the colonies by 1775.
  • The “Country party” in Britain, whose critique of British government emphasized that corruption was to be feared, influenced American politicians.
  • The colonists associated the “court” with luxury and inherited aristocracy, which many British Americans increasingly condemned. Corruption was the greatest possible evil, and civic virtue required men to put civic duty ahead of their personal desires.
  • Men had a civic duty to fight for their country. For women, “republican motherhood” became the ideal, exemplified by Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren; the first duty of the republican woman was to instill republican values in her children and to avoid luxury and ostentation. The “Founding Fathers” of American Revolution were strong advocates of republicanism, especially Samuel Adams, Patrick henry, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams.


Larger Background of American Revolution

Navigation Acts

  • Great Britain regulated the economies of the colonies through the Navigation Acts according to the doctrines of mercantilism which stated that anything that benefited the Empire was good policy; Widespread evasion of these laws had long been tolerated.
  • Now, through the rise of open-ended search warrants strict enforcement of this Act became the practice. In 1761, Massachusetts lawyer James Otis argued that the writs violated the constitutional rights of the colonists, he lost the case, but John Adams later wrote, “American independence was then and there born.”
  • In 1762, Patrick Henry argued the Parson’s Cause in Virginia, where the legislature had passed a law and it was vetoed by the Kind. Henry argued, “That a King, by disallowing Acts of this salutary nature, from being the father of this people, degenerated into a Tyrant and forfeits all right to his subjects’ obedience.


Western Frontier

The Proclamation of 1763 restricted colonization across the Appalachian Mountains as this was to be Indian Territory. Regardless of this the groups of settlers continued to move west and lay claim


Taxation without representation

  1. By 1763, Great Britain possessed vast holdings in North America. IN addition to the thirteen colonies, twenty-two smaller colonies were ruled directly by royal governors.
  2. Victory in the Seven Years’ War had given Great Britain New France (Candida), Spanish Florida, and the Native American lands east of the Mississippi River. In North America there were six Colonies that remained loyal to Britain.
  3. The colonies included Province of Quebec, Province of Nova Scotia, Colony of Bermuda, Province of West Florida and the Province of East Florida. In 1765 however, the colonists still considered themselves loyal subjects of the British Crown, with the same historic rights and obligations as subjects in Britain.
  4. The British did not expect the colonies to contribute to the interest or the retirements of debt incurred during the French and Indian Wars. but they did expect a portion of the expenses for colonial defenses to be paid by the American Estimating the expenses of defending the continental colonies and the West Indies to be approximately $200,000 annually, the British goal after the end of this war was that the colonies would be taxed for $78,000 of this need amount.
  5. The issues with the colonists were both that the taxes were high and that the colonies had no representation in the Parliament which passed the taxes. Lord North 1775 argued for the British position that Englishmen paid on average twenty-five shillings annually in taxes whereas Americans paid only six pence. Colonists, however, as early as 1764, with respect to the Sugar Act, indicated that “the margin of profit in rum was so small that molasses could bear no duty whatever”
  6. The phrase “No taxation without representation” became popular in many American circles. London argued that the Americans were represented “virtually”; but most Americans rejected the theory that men in London. Who knew nothing about their needs and conditions could represent them.


New taxes of 1764

In 1764 Parliament enacted the Sugar Act and the Currency Act. Further vexing the colonists, Protests led to a powerful new weapon the systemic boycott of British goods. The British pushed the colonists even further that same year by enacting the Quartering Act, which stated that British soldiers were to be cared for by residents in certain areas.


Stamp Act of 1765

  1. In 1765 the Stamp Act was the first direct tax ever levied by Parliament on the colonies. All newspapers, almanacs, pamphlets, and official documents-even decks of playing cards-were required to have the stamps.
  2. All 13 colonies protested vehemently, as popular leaders such as Patrick Henry in Virginia and James Otis in Massachusetts rallied the people in opposition. a secret group, the “Sons of Liberty” was formed in many towns and threatened violence if anyone sold the stamps, and no one did.
  3. In Boston, the Sons of Liberty burned the records of the vice admiralty court and looted the home of the chief justice. Several legislatures called for united action, and nine colonies sent delegates to the Stamp Act Congress in New York City in October 1765. Moderates led by John Dickinson drew up a “Declaration of Rights and Grievances” stating that taxes passed without representation violated their Rights.
  4. Lending weight to the arguments was an economic boycott of British merchandise, as imports into the colonies fell from $2,250,000 in 1764 to $1,944,000 in 1765. In London, the Rockingham government came to power and Parliament debated whether to repeal the stamp tax or send an army to enforce it.
  5. Benjamin Franklin eloquently made the American case, explaining the colonies had spent heavily in manpower. Money, and blood in defence of the empire in a series of wars against the French and Indians, and that further taxes to pay for those wars were unjust and might bring about a rebellion.
  6. Parliament agreed and repealed the tax. But in a “Declaratory Act” of March 1766 insisted that parliament retained full power to make laws for the colonies “in all cases whatsoever”

Townshend Act 1767 and Boston Massacre 1770

In 1767, the Parliament the Townshend Acts, which placed a tax on a number of essential goods including paper, glass, and tea. Angered at the tax increases, colonists organized a boycott of British goods. In Boston on March 5, 1770, a large mob gathered around a group of British soldiers. The mob grew more and more threatening, throwing snowballs fired into the crowd. Eleven people were hit: Three civilians were killed at the scene of the shooting, and two died after the incident. The event quickly came to be called the Boston massacre. Although the soldiers were tried and acquitted (defended by John Adams), the exaggerated and widespread description soon became propaganda to turn colonial sentiment against the British. This in turn began a downward spiral in the relationship between Britain and the Province of Massachusetts.


Tea Act 1773

In June 1772, in what became known as the Gaspee Affair, a British that had been vigorously enforcing unpopular trade regulations was burned by American patriots. Soon afterwards, Governor Thomas Hutchinson of Massachusetts reported that he and the royal judges would be paid directly from London, thus bypassing the colonial legislature.

On December 16, 1773 a group of men, led by Samuel Adams and dressed to evoke American Indians, boarded the ships of British tea merchants and dumped an estimated $10,000 worth of tea on board into the harbour. This event became known as the Boston Tea Party.


Intolerable Acts 1774

The British government responded by passing several Acts which came to be known as the Intolerable Acts, which further darkened colonial opinion towards the British. They consisted of four laws enacted by the British parliament. The first was the Massachusetts Government Act, Which altered the Massachusetts charter and restricted town meetings. The second Act, the Administrations of Justice Act, ordered that all British soldiers to be tried were to be arraigned in Britain, not in the colonies The third Act was the Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston until the British had been compensated for the tea lost in the Boston Tea Party (the British never received such a payment) The fourth Act was the Quartering Act of 1774, which allowed governors to house British troops in unoccupied buildings. The first constitutional, called for the people to form militias, and called for Massachusetts to form a Patriot government.


Declaration of Independence, 1776

On January 10, 1776, Thomas Paine published a political pamphlet entitled “Common Sense” arguing that the only solution to the problems with Britain was republicanism and independence from Great Britain. In the ensuing months, before the United States as a political unit declared its independence, several states individually declared their independence Virginia, for instance declared its independence from Great Britain on May 15.

On July 2, 1776, Congress declared the independence of the United States; two days later, on July 4, it adopted the Declaration of Independence, which date is now celebrated as the US Independence Day. Although the bulk of delegates signed the Declaration on that date, signing continued over the next several months because many members weren’t immediately available. was began in April 1775, while the declaration was issued in July 1776, Until this point, the colonies had sought favorable peace terms; now all the states called for independence.

The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, commonly known as the Articles of Confederation, formed the first governing document of the United States of America, combining the colonies into a loose confederation of sovereign states. The Second Continental Congress adopted the Articles in November 1777, though they were not formally ratified until March 1, 1781. On that date the Continental Congress was dissolved and the new government of the United States in Congress Assembly was formed.

Monroe Doctrine

  • During the period from the 1890s to the early years of the twentieth century, the United States spread its control, direct and indirect, over South America and the Pacific In 1823, the President of the United States had proclaimed the Monroe Doctrine which warned the European powers against any attempt to extend their power in the Western/ Hemisphere In 1895, the Monroe Doctrine was given a new meaning. There was a territorial dispute between British Guiana (now Guyana) and Nicaragua, and the British threatened to send troops against Nicaragua. The US government forced Britain not to send her troops and declared that “Today the United States is practically sovereign on this Continent“.


  • A new corollary was added to the Monroe Doctrine in 1904 by the then U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt Britain and Germany had imposed a naval blockade of Venezuela as she had failed to repay the loan which she had taken from them. Theodore Roosevelt forced Britain and Germany to lift the blockade and declared that the United States alone had the right to intervene in the affairs of her neighbouring countries if they were unable to maintain order on their own.


  • The United States took control of the finances of the Dominican Republic which she retained for three decades and occupied that country in 1916 for eight years. In 1906, American troops were sent to Cuba and remained there for three years to ‘protect’ Cuba from disorder. In 1909, American troops were sent to Nicaragua in support of a revolt which had been inspired by an American mining company. The United States secured from the government which had been installed there the ugh t to intervene in that country to protect American interests. In 1915, American troops were sent to Haiti and remained there till 1934.



In Mexico, where the United States had huge investments, Fransisco Madero, a popular leader was deposed with the support of the United States The intervention by the United States in Mexico continued for many years.


Big Stick Policy/Dollar diplomacy.

  • The policy of the United States was described as the ‘Big Stick’ policy and one of an ‘international policeman’ . The extension of the U S influence through economic investments in the region is known as the ‘Dollar diplomacy’. The economic and political domination of South America was facilitated by the absence of strong governments in the countries of South America. Many of these countries were ruled by caudillos, or crude and corrupt military leaders with armed gangs.
  • They floated loans for ready cash and sold concessions to foreign companies to exploit the natural resources of their countries. They served as markets for manufactures, and sources of raw materials for industrialized countries, particularly the United States, as well as avenues for investment of capital from these countries. Most of the countries of South America, though political independent, came under the economic and political control of the United States.


Panama Canal

  • One of the major acquisitions by the United States in this period was the Panama Canal. A French company had started the construction of the canal in the Isthmus of Panama in Colombia (Central America). The canal which would link the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans was of great economic interest in 1901, the United States decided to undertake the canal project alone.


  • She paid $40 million to the French company and entered into an agreement with the government of Colombia. According to the agreement, Colombia was to give the United States perpetual rights to a six mile wide ‘canal zone’ across her territory in exchange for ten million dollars plus $ 250,000 as annual rent. The agreement was completely against the interests of Colombia and Colombia’s Parliament refused to ratify it. In 1903, the United States financed and organized a revolt in Panama and landed her troops there. Soon after, the United States recognized Panama as an independent state.


  • The government of Panama signed a new agreement with the United States according to which the amount of compensation remained the same but instead of the six mile wide canal zone, ten mile canal zone was granted to the United States. The canal was opened in 1914 and the canal zone has remained under the occupation of the United States since then.



  • The United States also extended her control in the Pacific during this period The islands of Hawaii had been important for American shipping and for trade with China The United States’ economic and commercial influence gradually increased in these islands and with the settling of Americans there, particularly as sugar planters, these islands became closely tied to the economy of the United States.


  • The United States had secured the exclusive use of Pearl Harbor as a naval station. In 1893, the American residents in the Hawaii islands revolted against the queen of Hawaii and, asked for the annexation of the islands by the United States. By 1898, Hawaii had been annexed by the United States. Later, it became one of the states of the United States. The United States also extended control over other islands in Pacific. There was rivalry among the US Britain and Germany over these lands. In 1899, Germany and States divided these islands bets selves and as ‘compensation given islands elsewhere in the Pacific.

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