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Understanding World War 2 requires an understanding of World War I?

FortYorkRifleman

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Can World War 2 and its causes be understood on its own or should I look into what caused the First World War and its progress from 1914-1918?

Having "studied" the Cold War on my own I find its like an onion; there are layers upon layers of why one event came to be due to previous conflicts/politics etc. I feel like I may run into the same issue here as I intend on researching The Third Reich's rise to power from the early 1930's to the events leading to V Day. Should I take this path of 1930 - 1945 and, if so, will I have a understanding of why The Third Reich rose to power, who Adolf Hitler was as a man and leader, why America stayed out of the war 'till 41, treaties before and after the War etc? Or should I broaden my scope and look at the World Wars as one event from, let's say 1900 to 1945?

Any insight would be appreciated

 

Edward Campbell

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I would say that one book ~ Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World Paperback by eminent Canadian historian and Oxford Professor Margaret MacMillan ~ is indespensible for understanding how and why we got on the path towards World War II. A companion book, also by Prof MacMillan, The War That Ended Peace: The Road To 1914, deals with how we drifted into the First World War but there are lessons in it about how nations and leaders miscalculate. You wil also find much of good value in Part 3 of Elting E. Morison's Turmoil and Tradition: A Study of the Life and Times of Henry L. Stimson which deals with Henry Stimson in the period 1933 until his death in 1950; Stimson was, of course, the US Secretary of War. If you believe, as many do, that war has economic causes then The Economic Consequences Of The Peace by John Maynard Keynes is also a must.
 

Lumber

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Many people will say this (and I will agree), that the cause of the 2nd World War was the end of the first.
 

Old Sweat

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On a less academic note, quite a few intelligent people concluded at the time of the Armistice on 11 November 1918 that they would have to do it all over again in 20 years.

I am not going to get into revisionism, but Allied planning in the summer of 1918 was the Americans would be able to field a large number of trained divisions in mid-1919. This would allow the Allies to overwhelm the Germans and end the carnage. After Amiens, the Black Day of the German Army, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig realized the Germans were a spent force and convinced the Allied military and political leaders to mount a general offensive that ended the war a year earlier than planned.

While this probably allowed the Germans to convince themselves they had not been defeated in the field, but had been undermined by Communists and other agitators, I cannot fault Haig for recognizing the opportunity and convincing the Allies to seize it.
 

YZT580

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Except from an interest viewpoint I wouldn't spend a lot of time looking at the actual events of WW1.  However its causes are of great importance.  So too are the results particularly what happened to each of the major players.  How did Italy go from Ally to Axis?  Important as well is the Spanish revolution because of what the major nations did and more importantly didn't do.  Finally, read the Treaty of Versailles and ask yourself what your reaction would be if the price exacted from Germany were levied against Canada. 
 

FortYorkRifleman

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YZT580 said:
Except from an interest viewpoint I wouldn't spend a lot of time looking at the actual events of WW1.  However its causes are of great importance.  So too are the results particularly what happened to each of the major players.  How did Italy go from Ally to Axis?  Important as well is the Spanish revolution because of what the major nations did and more importantly didn't do.  Finally, read the Treaty of Versailles and ask yourself what your reaction would be if the price exacted from Germany were levied against Canada.

When you say "actual events" do you mean battles?

the 48th regulator said:
Excellent thread!

dileas

tess

Thanks  :salute: Not sure if this would be my hobby but I really enjoy delving into points in our history and learning as much as I can. I may need a second job when I get around to learning about Rome as the books I've compiled in my head to buy is nearing $200  :eek:
 

cupper

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You also have to consider how the conditions placed on Germany in the Treaty of Versailles lead to the rise of National Socialist movement.

It effected Hitler's thinking so significantly that when the French wanted to negotiate an armistice (read surrender) in 1940, Hitler chose the exact location of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles as the site of negotiations, and had the exact same rail car moved from a museum to be placed on the exact spot that it was located at the 1918 signing.

Although the claim at the time was that this was not an attempt to humiliate the French and exact revenge.
 

cupper

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FortYorkRifleman said:
When you say "actual events" do you mean battles?

Thanks  :salute: Not sure if this would be my hobby but I really enjoy delving into points in our history and learning as much as I can. I may need a second job when I get around to learning about Rome as the books I've compiled in my head to buy is nearing $200  :eek:

Library and used book stores are your friends.

And there may be members here who have old dusty copies piling up that their significant others keep complaining for them to get rid of.
 

Kirkhill

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Rifleman - I have found that the trail you have embarked on is never ending/beginnining.

Every "war" has history that causes it.  And events are not just battles - it can be diseases, inventions, famines, cash shortages, promiscuous Popes, itinerant preachers, volcanoes, rumours of wars, establishment of institutions, the change of direction of institutions.

Welcome to a lifelong pursuit.  And you will spend a fortune on books.  (And friends will learn to be wary about lending them to you).
 

cavalryman

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A perennial subject, that.  I recall writing a paper in my first year of the War Studies program some two decades ago to the effect that the root causes of WW2 can be directly traced back to the ending of WW1 and the Versailles Treaty.  Mr Campbell's recommendations re: the two Margaret MacMillan books is spot on.  I've read both, though I'll confess that 1919 was a tougher slog than The War that Ended Peace.  I'll add William Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich to the list of useful references, if only to get a sense of the atmosphere in Germany in that benighted era.  I love history... even after thirty years of marriage, my wife still doesn't understand why my vacation reading list includes a number of non-fiction titles.  Thank God for the Kindle eReader  ;D
 

YZT580

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Both Cupper and Kirkhill expressed what I meant by results.  Another for instance, with regards WW1, what effect did the flu epidemic that started in the days immediately following hostilities contribute to many nations withdrawing into themselves as leaders and families died in large numbers.  The enormous death toll and the corruption within both the officer ranks and amongst the enlisted troops (who were often treated as slaves) was the final straw which led to the Russian revolution.  The resulting war which involved Britain and Canada and others contributed to our ignoring Germany's growth and belligerence because of our leaders fears that the miasma would spread.  And so on.  I don't refer at all to the battlefield results, horrific though they sometimes were.   
 

FortYorkRifleman

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Kirkhill said:
Rifleman - I have found that the trail you have embarked on is never ending/beginnining.

Every "war" has history that causes it.  And events are not just battles - it can be diseases, inventions, famines, cash shortages, promiscuous Popes, itinerant preachers, volcanoes, rumours of wars, establishment of institutions, the change of direction of institutions.

Welcome to a lifelong pursuit.  And you will spend a fortune on books.  (And friends will learn to be wary about lending them to you).

I think I've spent more on books than I have on my last girlfriend. I don't know what I'll do if and when I get posted somewhere.  :eek:

cavalryman said:
A perennial subject, that.  I recall writing a paper in my first year of the War Studies program some two decades ago to the effect that the root causes of WW2 can be directly traced back to the ending of WW1 and the Versailles Treaty.  Mr Campbell's recommendations re: the two Margaret MacMillan books is spot on.  I've read both, though I'll confess that 1919 was a tougher slog than The War that Ended Peace.  I'll add William Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich to the list of useful references, if only to get a sense of the atmosphere in Germany in that benighted era.  I love history... even after thirty years of marriage, my wife still doesn't understand why my vacation reading list includes a number of non-fiction titles.  Thank God for the Kindle eReader  ;D

William Shirer's book is on my list as I am really interested in how the German population voted in, lived under and eventually lost faith in The Third Reich. That, in itself, is a story I have been interested in since learning of World War 2.

YZT580 said:
Both Cupper and Kirkhill expressed what I meant by results.  Another for instance, with regards WW1, what effect did the flu epidemic that started in the days immediately following hostilities contribute to many nations withdrawing into themselves as leaders and families died in large numbers.  The enormous death toll and the corruption within both the officer ranks and amongst the enlisted troops (who were often treated as slaves) was the final straw which led to the Russian revolution.  The resulting war which involved Britain and Canada and others contributed to our ignoring Germany's growth and belligerence because of our leaders fears that the miasma would spread.  And so on.  I don't refer at all to the battlefield results, horrific though they sometimes were.   

I hadn't thought of that before. I had no idea a flu contributed to all of that.
 

a_majoor

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This project is larger and deeper than you probably realize. National Socialism itself is the outgrowth of various philosophical and economic movements which can be traced back ito the 1800's, and the "mass political movements" which marred so much of the early 20th century (including Fascism, National Socialism, Bolshevik Communism etc.) were also a result of major shifts in demographics from farms to cities and communications technologies (mass media, radio and movies).

To giver you a more modern example, trying to discern "why" Vladimir Putin is taking the actions he does in Ukraine and the "near beyond" eventually resulted in my delving into the writings of Russian Philosophers like Vladimir Solovyov, who lived and worked at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century (going the other way, there are still areas of disagreement as to the causes of ancient conflicts like the Peloponnesian War as well...).

What you will eventually need to do is parse your subject a bit more closely and look at an aspect of what happened, otherwise you will be overwhelmed in details and lose the thread of your argument.
 

FortYorkRifleman

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Thucydides said:
This project is larger and deeper than you probably realize. National Socialism itself is the outgrowth of various philosophical and economic movements which can be traced back ito the 1800's, and the "mass political movements" which marred so much of the early 20th century (including Fascism, National Socialism, Bolshevik Communism etc.) were also a result of major shifts in demographics from farms to cities and communications technologies (mass media, radio and movies).

To giver you a more modern example, trying to discern "why" Vladimir Putin is taking the actions he does in Ukraine and the "near beyond" eventually resulted in my delving into the writings of Russian Philosophers like Vladimir Solovyov, who lived and worked at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century (going the other way, there are still areas of disagreement as to the causes of ancient conflicts like the Peloponnesian War as well...).

What you will eventually need to do is parse your subject a bit more closely and look at an aspect of what happened, otherwise you will be overwhelmed in details and lose the thread of your argument.

I definitely felt that way learning about the Cold War as I went from the Vietnam War, to Canada vs Russia in hockey, to Star Wars and going back to Hollywood's "black list" and McCarthism. To be honest I think that's what made it fun and interesting was these detours and I imagine I'll be making several here. I really am trying to narrow my focus but it didn't really work before; I still have no clue when the Cold War actually started and everyone I speak with, from old Professors and teachers, the elderly in my condo who lived in the USSR during the era and online/book sources don't help much. 
 

cavalryman

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I might also add Ian Kershaw's book The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany if you want a glimpse of the final year of the 3rd Reich from the point of view of the ordinary Germans, i.e.  the consequences of WW1 coming full circle
 

Brad Sallows

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>Can World War 2 and its causes be understood on its own or should I look into what caused the First World War and its progress from 1914-1918?

It depends on whether you mean "World War 2" or "World War 2 in Europe".  For the former, you will have to look further afield in time and space.
 

FortYorkRifleman

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Brad Sallows said:
>Can World War 2 and its causes be understood on its own or should I look into what caused the First World War and its progress from 1914-1918?

It depends on whether you mean "World War 2" or "World War 2 in Europe".  For the former, you will have to look further afield in time and space.

At the moment I am looking at Europe and eventually Japan's rise to power and the Pacific Theater
 

Edward Campbell

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FortYorkRifleman said:
At the moment I am looking at Europe and eventually Japan's rise to power and the Pacific Theater


Then Brad's point becomes even more important: When did the Second World War start? Was it 1939 when Germany invaded Poland? Or, perhaps, it started in 1937 when Japan invaded China, proper. But, wait, how about 1931? That's when Japan invaded Manchuria. And that all makes Paris 1919 more important because Prof MacMillan also outlines, in Chapters 23 and 24, the Chinese and Japanese positions and proposals and, equally relevant today, she explains, in Chapters 26 through 29, the origins of the the mess in the Middle East, too.

Japanese_delegation_at_the_Paris_Peace_Conference_1919.jpg

Japanese delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919

          (Canada was given, with the other overseas Dominions, representation on the British Empire delegation to the Conference. She was given two seats in the Conference, and these were occupied alternately by Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden,
          Sir George Foster, the Hon. A. L. Sifton, and the Hon. C. J. Doherty.)


Edited to add Chapter references.
 

FortYorkRifleman

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Mr. Campbell, for the last 15 years I have been looking into why the world is the way it is in regards to America's dominance, why the Middle East is almost always in turmoil be it the Israel issue, Pan Islamic civil war, etc., and ultimately are we, as a species, mature enough to remember our past and not make the mistakes that led to World War 2. When I started researching back when I was 13 (yes, 13) I looked at the people in history books, documentaries and even living veterans of the Second World War as being almost cavemen like in that how can people get to a point where we allow tens of millions to die for the will of one man. I saw them as being from a time when people didn't know better until I matured and realized we really haven't. The question I wanted to know was is it possible for this generation to mimic the past and come to a point where a Third World War is possible?

Ultimately I began looking backwards in time rather than reading books that tried to predict the future and found it much more helpful in making me understand things. I think getting a firm understanding of WWI, especially the Paris Peace Conference, then going forward is where I will begin.
 
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