Back   THE TREATIES, 1919-1923




Immediate Results of the War

Some of the immediate results of the war were all too plain. It had caused the deaths of 10 million fighting men and the wounding of perhaps 30 million more. A large proportion of these had been the fittest among the young men of all the belligerent countries. Thus a large proportion of a whole generation of men was cut off in the prime of life. These, however, were only the outward and visible signs of less tangible results too vast and too widespread to be measurable in any precise terms. There were, for example, the mental suffering and the physical privation endured by masses of the civilian population. How many millions would have to struggle with health permanently impaired, how many women would have to bear alone the burden and responsibility of rearing their families because the father had been killed, how many people died in epidemics which spread because of war conditions, these were samples of the many questions that could never be answered.

On the economic side there were similarly incalculable results. It has been reckoned that 65 million men were engaged in the war and therefore for varying periods - some of them for four years - were withdrawn from productive industry. Moreover, the civilian populations during the same period were engaged not on work that would maintain or raise the general standard of living but in producing munitions which it was the business of the armies and navies to expend as fast as they could. The cost of maintaining the civilian war workers and the cost of munitions, in addition to the cost of the fighting men, were ever-mounting charges that some- how would have to be reckoned and met after the fighting stopped.  

There were political results, too. Between 1914 and 1918 Czarist Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire had ceased to exist. So had the Kaiser's regime in Germany. In their places were numerous small States ruled by national governments of various types. No one could predict what would be the political future of all these States or what might be their relations to one another or to other Powers.

       These economic conditions, and this state of political flux, formed an important part of the political background against which arrangements for a peace settlement would have to be made.

S Reed Brett, European History 1900-1960 (1967)