From the Treaty of Versailles to the nuclear age
As the most widespread and devastating warfare in the history of humanity up to that point, World War I (1914-18) thoroughly demolished the complacency that had gradually built up during the relatively peaceful nineteenth century. No longer would many people think of warfare as having the same beneﬁcial eﬀect upon the health of nations as diet and exercise have upon the health of individual human beings. No longer would it be commonly assumed that wars between the great powers would likely be “short and victorious.” Four years of actual, real-world destruction and carnage on an unprecedented scale impressed the dire costs of modern warfare upon humanity far more eﬀectively than the warnings of the small world federalist minority ever had. Certainly conditions at the end of the war were more propitious than ever before for the formation of a genuine world government with meaningful authority over the nations. Yet this did not happen. The world was not yet ready for such a
government. However, a signiﬁcant advance over the nineteenth-century Concert of Europe was indeed achieved through the establishment of the League of Nations in 1919. The League was a permanent, formal organization, open to all the nations of the world, dedicated primarily to the preservation of peace. But it still fell short of being a cohesive political organization, a genuine state, and its actual performance was in fact disappointing. Within barely 20 years of its foundation, another major war commenced, which in due course would greatly surpass the death and devastation brought about by World War I. In this chapter, we will examine the fraught conditions of the interwar period which
doomed the League of Nations to failure, and thereby subjected humanity to another world war.