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Referat :: World War II
The Beginning of the World War II
World War II, global military conflict that, in terms of lives lost and material destruction, was the most devastating war in human history. It began in 1939 as a European conflict between Germany and an Anglo-French-Polish coalition but eventually widened to include most of the nations of the world. It ended in 1945, leaving a new world order of the Superpowers dominated by the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
More than any previous war, World War II involved the commitment of nations' entire human and economic resources, the blurring of the distinction between combatant and non-combatant, and the expansion of the battlefield to include all of the enemy's territory. It was also unique in modern times for the savagery of the military attacks unleashed against civilians, and for the adoption by Nazi Germany of genocide (of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and other groups) as a specific war aim. The most important determinants of its outcome were industrial capacity and personnel. In the last stages of the war, two radically new weapons were introduced: the long-range rocket and the atomic bomb. In the main, however, the war was fought with the same or improved weapons of the types used in World War I. The greatest advances were in aircraft and tanks.
The World After World War I
Three major powers had been dissatisfied with the outcome of World War I. Germany, the principal defeated nation, bitterly resented the territorial losses and reparations payments imposed on it by the Treaty of Versailles. Italy, one of the victors, found its territorial gains far from enough either to offset the cost of the war or to satisfy its ambitions. Japan, also a victor, was unhappy about its failure to gain greater holdings in East Asia.
Causes of the War
France, Great Britain, and the United States had attained their wartime objectives. They had reduced Germany to a military cipher and had reorganized Europe and the world as they saw fit, with the French Empire and the British Empire controlling much of the globe. The French and the British frequently disagreed on policy in the post-war period, however, and were unsure of their ability to defend the peace settlement. The United States, disillusioned with the Treaty of Versailles, with the selfish nature of Allied war aims, and with the secret treaties they had signed during the war, disavowed the treaty and the League of Nations included in it, and retreated into political isolationism.
Failure of Peace Efforts
During the 1920s, attempts were made to achieve a stable peace. The first was the establishment (1920) of the League of Nations as a forum in which nations could settle their disputes. The League's powers were limited to persuasion and various levels of moral and economic sanctions that the members were free to carry out as they saw fit. At the Washington Conference of 1921-1922, the principal naval powers agreed to limit their navies according to a fixed ratio. The Treaties of Locarno produced by the Locarno Conference (1925) included a treaty guarantee of the German-French boundary and an arbitration agreement between Germany and Poland. In the Paris Peace Pact (1928), 63 countries, including all the great powers except the USSR, renounced war as an instrument of national policy and pledged to resolve all disputes among them "by pacific means". The signatories had agreed beforehand to exempt wars of "self-defence".
Rise of Fascism
One of the victors' stated aims in World War I had been "to make the world safe for democracy", and post-war Germany adopted a democratic constitution, as did most of the other states restored or created after the war. In the 1920s, however, the wave of the future appeared to be a form of nationalistic, militaristic totalitarianism known by its Italian name, fascism. It promised to minister to people's wants more effectively than democracy and presented itself as the one sure defence against Communism. Benito Mussolini established the first Fascist dictatorship in Italy in 1922.
Formation of the Axis Coalition
Adolf Hitler, the Fü hrer (leader) of the German National Socialist (Nazi) party, preached a brand of fascism predicated on anti-Semitism and racism. Hitler promised to overturn the Versailles Treaty and secure additional Lebensraum (living space) for the German people who, he contended, deserved more as members of a superior race. In the early 1930s the Great Depression hit Germany. The moderate parties could not agree on what to do about it, and large numbers of voters turned to the Nazis and Communists. In 1933 Hitler became the German chancellor, and in a series of subsequent moves established himself as dictator.
Japan did not formally adopt fascism, but the armed forces' powerful position in the government enabled them to impose a similar type of totalitarianism on the civilian leadership. As a dismantler of the w...
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