The Modern World from 1914 to about present study guide summary




The Modern World from 1914 to about present study guide summary


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The Modern World from 1914 to about present study guide summary

Unit 5: The Modern World, 1914 CE – present
1.  World War I
           Students are required to know the causes, major events, and consequences of WWI

  • Causes
    • Imperialism
      • No new lands to expand into – some nations didn’t have many colonies (Germany, Italy)
      • Rivalries as nations competed for colonies
      • Sometimes armed conflict in colonial lands for control over resources
    • Nationalism
      • Pride in one’s nation, want one’s nation to be the best and most powerful
      • Fostered conflict as nations competed to be the best
      • Justified imperialism, militarism
      • Caused disruptions in multi-ethnic nations (Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire); rebellions, revolts against foreign rule
    • Militarism
      • Build up of a country’s military; keeping a large standing army
      • Nations expanded their militaries as a show of power
      • Arms race: each nation needed to have a standing army because their neighbors had standing armies
    • Alliances
      • Bismarck: German chancellor behind alliance system in Europe
      • Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy allied; France, Great Britain, Russia allied
  • Events
    • Assassination of Archduke Frantz Ferdinand: Serbian terrorists kill the Austrian duke and his wife as they honeymooned in Sarajevo
      • Austria demands Serbian submission
      • Russia offers to back Serbians in defying Austrians
      • Austria and Germany declare war on Serbia and Russia (along with Russia’s allies)
    • Schlieffen Plan
      • Germany knows Russia will take longer to mobilize, so plans to attack France first and then loop back through Germany to meet Russian troops
      • Germany begins invasion by first cutting through Netherlands and Belgium
      • Great Britain outraged at Germany’s attack on neutral nations, begins to mobilize for war
      • Conquest of Belgium takes longer than planned, by the time Germany gets to France, the French are ready to meet them in battle, and English arrive to reinforce French lines
    • Trench warfare
      • War stalemates in France
      • Both sides dig trenches; space between = no man’s land
      • Terrible conditions
    • Technology
      • Tanks
      • Poison gas
      • Airplanes
      • Machine guns
    • War worldwide
      • China, Japan declare war on Germany and attack German spheres of influence in China
      • Colonies in Africa involved
      • Ottoman Empire: joins with Germany and Austria, wants to protect lands from increasingly aggressive Russia
      • US joins after Russia pulls out (Revolution)
    • Consequences
      • Wilson’s 14 points: Wilson wants self-determination (for Europeans only); formation of League of Nations to ensure peaceful resolutions to conflicts; fair treatment for Germany and Austria
      • Treaty of Versailles: war guilt clause that blames Germany and requires millions in reparations; creation of mandates = colonies controlled by members of the League of Nations (primarily Britain and France), such as the Middle East (former lands of Ottoman Empire), and were mostly lands taken away from the losers of the war
        • In general, this treaty failed to resolve the initial conflicts and underlying causes of the war
      • Destruction
        • Death of a generation of men
        • Widespread destruction of farmlands, towns, roads
      • New countries
        • Austria-Hungary broken into Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia
        • Poland, Romania returns
        • Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia gain independence
      • China falls under Japanese control

Why you should know this:  You will be asked specific questions about the causes and consequences of WWI.  You may also be asked to compare aspects of WWI with other wars, either with those that came before or with those that came after WWI.

Example: Using the following documents, compare the nature of the postwar world envisioned by the victorious nations after WWI and WWII.

To answer this question thoroughly, you would need to have an understanding of the causes of world conflict and how the leaders of the nations involved attempted to resolve (successfully or unsuccessfully) the conflict at the close of war.  You would need to be familiar with peace settlements as well as negotiations along the way to achieving peace.

2.  The Great Depression
The Great Depression had a global impact, so AP students are expected to know how the Great Depression happened, its worldwide effects, and attempts at recovery from the economic decline.

  • Causes
    • Overproduction
      • Agricultural
      • Factories
    • Destruction of WWI
      • Germany unable to pay reparations
      • Great Britain and France unable to pay war debts to US
    • Bank failures
      • Banks failed in Europe as people couldn’t pay back loans
    • Stock Market Crash
      • Buying stock on the margin artificially inflated prices
      • Stock values fell dramatically as people sold their stocks
      • Millions of dollars “vanished” as stock prices bottomed out
      • Banks failed as people couldn’t pay back loans
  • Worldwide effects
    • Overproduction of agricultural goods caused drop in prices, hurting Latin American and African economies based on one or two cash crops
    • Tariffs put in place to protect domestic businesses, caused a decline in world trade
    • Widespread unemployment as businesses failed due to decline in trade
    • Inflation of prices, especially in Germany
    • Europe, USA, Japan, Latin America, Africa
  • Responses
    • Social welfare programs
      • Government pushes reforms that help relieve suffering caused by Depression
      • USA: New Deal, Social Security, soup kitchens/bread lines, welfare
    • Rise of Fascism
      • Italy, Germany, Japan, Spain
      • Attractive to people hurt by Depression
      • Leaders stressed taking drastic measures to overcome economic decline, renewed interest in building military and becoming aggressive

Why you should know this: The Great Depression had a huge impact on the world’s economy
and had significant consequences in terms of how each nation responded to the suffering brought about by the Depression.


              • Which of the following was true of the Great Depression?
                • It was alleviated by the flow of US funds to Europe during the 1930’s
                • Global agriculture saw underproduction and low prices during the 1920s and 1930s
                • It was unaffected by Allied war debts
                • It was caused by an underproduction of raw materials in European colonies
                • It was tied into the payment of war reparations

You would have to be aware of the causes of the Great Depression, beyond just the
stock market crash in the US, to identify the correct answer, (E).


3.  World War II
As with WWI, AP* students are required to know the causes, major events, peace settlements, and significance of WWII.

  • Causes
    • Fascist leaders
      • Fascist parties became popular during the Great Depression in especially hard-hit countries like Germany and Italy because Fascist leaders effectively used scapegoats to place blame for the economic hardship; they also advertised plans for recovery that involved their nation becoming powerful and aggressive
      • Fascism in Germany (Hitler), Italy (Mussolini), Spain (Franco), and Japan (Hirohito and his staff of Generals)
    • Aggression
      • Japan
        • 1931: invades Manchuria
        • 1937: invades China (Rape of Nanking)
      • Germany
        • 1938: Anschluss (unification of Germany and Austria)
        •  1938: annexation of Sudetenland (part of Czechoslovakia)
        • 1939: annexation of all of Czechoslovakia
      • Italy
        • 1935: invades Ethiopia
    • Appeasement
      • Great Britain, France allow acts of aggression for fear of another war
      • 1938: Munich Conference
        • Hitler promises not to invade any more territories
        • Great Britain and France accept
      • 1939: Soviet Union signs treaty of nonaggression with Germany
    • “Final straw”
      • September 1939: Hitler invades Poland
  • Major Events
    • Alliances
      • Axis powers: Germany, Italy, Japan
      • Allied powers: Great Britain, France, Soviet Union (later, the USA)
    • War in Europe
      • Germany quickly overtakes France and establishes a puppet government, called Vichy France
      • British unable to do much due to German fortifications along France’s northern boarders
      • 1944: with the help of the US, British, French, Canadian, and American troops land on the beaches of Normandy and push through Germany fortifications
      • May 1945: Allied Victory over Europe
    • War in Africa
      • German and Italian troops take over British and French lands in North Africa
      • British troops fight to reclaim these lands
      • Desert Fox: German General Rommel, known for master strategy in the deserts of North Africa
    • War in the Pacific
      • Japanese expand to control China, Korea, French Indochina, Dutch East Indies, Philippines, etc.
      • December 1941: attack on Pearl Harbor; US declares war on Axis powers
      • Island-hoping campaign: US forced to liberate the Pacific island by island
      • Atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki led to victory in the pacific in August 1945
    • Holocaust
      • Final Solution: Hitler’s plan to eliminate Jews in repayment for their supposed role in the Great Depression (diversionary tactic used for Hitler to gain power and win popularity)
      • Concentration Camps: work camps built to keep Jews, Greek Orthodox, Gypsies, Communists, Handicapped, Homosexuals, and anyone else Hitler didn’t like or wanted to get rid of
      • Extermination Camps: some “work” camps were actually extermination camps, where people were sent to be killed
        • Gassing: most people that died were “gassed” in large rooms that looked like shower rooms and then their bodies were burnt
        • Executions: sometimes people were just executed and buried in ditches they had been forced to dig themselves
        • Experimentations: Germany doctors ordered to perform medical experiments on prisoners, especially those that were already sick, were twins/triplets, or had some other kind of abnormality
    • Technology
      • Atomic weapons
  • Peace Negotiations and Settlements
    • 1943: Tehran Conference
      • Allied powers decide to liberate France first
      • Soviet Union to push through Eastern Europe and open an Eastern Front
    • 1945: Yalta Conference
      • Soviets agree to help the US fight Japan
      • Decision to partition Germany into zones
    • 1945: Potsdam Conference
      • Soviets to control Poland
      • Decision to separate Austria from Germany
  • Significance and Consequences of WWII
    • US occupation of Japan
      • Establishment of a constitutional monarchy; efforts led by MacArthur
    • Korea divided by US and Soviets
    • China gained freedom from Japan, but immediately saw civil war between Nationalists (KMT – Chiang Kai-shek) and the Communists (Mao Zedong)
    • Soviet occupation of most of Eastern Europe, creation of the Eastern bloc (communist satellites of USSR)
    • Nuremburg Trials: Prosecution of war criminals involved in the Holocaust
    • End of Western European dominance over the world; colonies push more than ever for independence
    • United Nations: organization to settle disagreements peacefully
    • Shift in world power to the USA and the USSR
    • Ushering in of the Cold War

Why you should know this:  You will be asked questions about the causes, events, and
consequences of WWII.  You will also be asked to compare WWI and WWII


              • The nation that rose in power during WWI but declined in power during WWII was
                • Great Britain
                • Japan
                • Russia
                • The Ottoman Empire
                • Austria

If you are able to successfully compare the characteristics about both wars, you will
arrive at the correct answer, (B)

4.  The Rise of the Soviet Union
The history of Russia as tsarist rule collapsed and revolutionaries ushered in a new form of government, communism, has had a profound effect on the world during the Modern Era.  As such, AP students are required to understand the circumstances surrounding the rise of communism in Russia, as well as the policies of communist leaders from Lenin to Gorbachev.





  • Romanov family on the throne (tsars of Russia)
  • Poverty gap between peasants and aristocracy
  • Lag in industrialization leaves Russia behind other nations and dependent on Europe for imports
  • 1905: revolution temporarily ends absolute power of tsar; creation of Duma (a parliament); tsar dissolves it a few months later
  • entrance into WWI disastrous for Russia; millions of soldiers killed; caused shortages on the homefront; tsar left capital to oversee conduct of war



Revolution and Lenin

  • 1917: First revolution removes tsar from power
  • 1917: Second revolution brings Bolsheviks (communists) to power
  • 1918: Russia pulls out of war; Lenin comes to power
  • Civil War: Red army vs. White army; tsar assassinated; Bolsheviks maintain control over Russia and begin instituting communist policies such as land redistribution, establishment of Soviets (political and economic communities)
  • Policies fail to work and industrial and agricultural production declines
  • Lenin implements New Economic Plan (NEP) which allows some privatization, resulting in renewed economic growth
  • 1923: Birth of USSR
  • 1924: death of Lenin





  • Stalin takes over after Lenin
  • Purges: Stalin eliminates any opponents
  • Collectivization: collecting farmlands together to be farmed by peasants collectively and produce given to the government for distribution; unsuccessful in the long run because of lack of innovation
  • Five Year Plans: plans for economic growth in industry, agriculture
  • WWII: USSR gains control over Eastern Europe and establishes Communist regimes there (with the exception of Greece and Yugoslavia, which was communist, but not under the direct control of USSR)
  • Beginning of the end of the “friendly” relationship between China and USSR
  • Emphasis on industrial production, especially for the military (production of atomic weapons)
  • Satellite rebellion against USSR: 1956, Hungary; 1961 construction of Berlin Wall to prevent escape of East Germans in to West Germany; 1968, Prague Spring led to Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia; 1970’s, Solidarity in Poland challenges Soviet rule



  • 1956: Stalin dies, Khrushchev comes to power
  • end of severe political oppression that characterized Stalin’s rule; de-Stalinization
  • 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis: Soviets build nuclear missile sites in Cuba, aimed at the US; brinkmanship = policy of escalating aggression to the point of war
  • “Space Race”: race with US to produce space technologies (satellites, rocket-ships, etc.)
  • Continued deterioration of relationship between China and USSR


  • 1964: Brezhnev comes to power
  • 1979: Soviet invasion of Afghanistan



  • 1985: Gorbachev comes to power
  • begins initiating reforms that attempt to modernize Russia and improve its economic and cultural state
  • Glasnost: openness, end of censorship, criticism of government allowed
  • Perestroika: economic reform that allowed some private ownership (reflection of Lenin’s NEP); revival of foreign investment in Soviet economy; increased production of consumer goods
  • Widespread disagreement with Gorbachev’s reforms; represent move away from communism as envisioned by Stalin and Khrushchev
  • Increased independence for Eastern bloc countries

           Why you should know this:  You will be asked specific questions about the rise of communism in Russia, as well as about specific events and policies of Soviet leaders.  You will also most likely need this information for an essay, for comparisons, evidence of changes, or background information to help interpret and analyze a document


              • Mikhail Gorbachev allowed all of the following EXCEPT
                • The production of consumer goods
                • Discussion of government  policies
                • Private land ownership
                • Democratic government
                • Foreign investments

Knowing the characteristics and trends of Soviet rule will, as well as knowing the
simple fact that Gorbachev was a communist ruler, not a democratic ruler, no matter how
liberal and democratic his reforms might have seemed compared to Stalin, would lead you
immediately to the correct answer, (D).

5.  The Cold War
The Cold War was a tense time in world history where, as nations gained atomic weapons, the world held its breath in fear of a nuclear war.  The struggle between the USA and the USSR had political, social, cultural, and economic consequences worldwide.  AP students will need to be aware of these consequences in their global context.


Nature of Consequence







  • “iron curtain”: phrase used by Winston Churchill to describe post WWII Europe; curtain dividing free and oppressed nations
  • 1946: Great Britain, France, US combine their German zones to make West Germany; Soviet section becomes East Germany
  • 1947: Marshall Plan – US gives money/loans to countries trying to recover from the war without turning to totalitarian rulers; reflected US policy of containment (containing the spread of communism)
  • 1947: Truman Doctrine – US promises to give aid to countries fighting against communism; reflected policy of containment; after Greece
  • 1947-1948: Berlin Airlift – Soviets blockade West Berlin in protest of US involvement with West Germany economy
  • 1949: NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) – alliance between US, Canada, most of Western Europe
  • 1950-1953: Korean War – North Korea, backed by USSR and China, invades South Korea; UN coalition forces support South Korea and regain territories
  • 1954: Geneva Conference – France gives control of North Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh, South Vietnam to US-backed regime of Ngo Dinh Diem
  • 1955: Warsaw Pact – alliance between Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries
  • 1961: Bay of Pigs invasion – US promises to support Cuban exiles to retake Cuba from Castro; backs out of plans for air support and Cubans are massacred
  • 1962: Cuban Missile Crisis – US discovers Soviet missiles in Cuba
  • late 1960’s: Vietnam War – Thousands of US troops in Vietnam fighting to keep the south independent from the north
  • 1972: SALT I treaty between US and USSR begins détente
  • 1973: US begins to leave Vietnam
  • 1975: South Vietnam taken over by North Vietnam
  • 1979: SALT II treaty; USSR invades Afghanistan
  • 1989: Berlin Wall torn down; Tiananmen Square protests in China
  • 1991: Fall of Soviet Union as Soviet Republics declare independence




  • Economic disruption in Communist countries, especially those tied politically to the Soviet Union
  • Soviet focus on industrialization at the expense of the production of the basic goods needed to maintain quality of life
  • During the “Space Race”, Soviets spent so much money on new technologies that they then lacked the money to expand other industries and therefore their economy
  • Embargo against Cuba: after Castro goes communist, the US refuses to trade with Cuba, driving Cuba to seek economic aid from the Soviets
  • Many nations sought aid after WWII; the US and USSR “competed” in a way to try to give aid in exchange for alliances
  • “non-aligned” nations frequently got financial aid from both sides
  • China’s plan for industrialization, The Great Leap Forward, involved back-yard industrial production with no real plan to build and staff industrial factories; led to economic decline for the country as peasants struggled to meet industrial quotas while trying to meet agricultural needs at the same time






  • Nuclear Age: new vocabulary and fears (nuclear weapons, bomb shelters, nuclear fall-out, “duck and cover”, etc.)
  • The Red Scare: fear of communist infiltration in the US, led to McCarthyism (persecution of people known to have or have had in the past a connection to the communist party)
  • The study of Russian in public schools
  • Emphasis on Math and Science in American Schools to beat the Russians at their own game
  • Communist culture tended to revolve around extolling the virtues of the communist worker-revolutionary and portray greed as evil
  • US begins mass exportation of American culture and values as a part of trying to solidify American superiority and power in the face of Russian opposition
  • Communist de-emphasis on religion led to increase in secularization in communist areas, except Poland (where Catholic influence remained strong)
  • Cultural Revolution in China intended to stamp out opposition and growing democratic currents; push for China to revive its interest in Communistic values
  • Spy movies and books that pit KGB members against CIA operatives (Mission Impossible, Hunt for Red October) become very popular



  • Groups of immigrants from Soviet/former Soviet countries enter the lower classes of countries where they settle (industrialized “Western Nations)
  • Communist leaders/revolutionaries attempt to eliminate social classes, driving aristocrats and wealthy people away (many tried to escape illegally)
  • Communist invasion of and defeat in Afghanistan led to the rise of the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist political group; once in power, the Taliban promoted a strongly patriarchal, Islamic social structure, with women forced to wear the veil and long robes

           Why you should know this:  You will be asked about specific events during the Cold War, as well as what the consequences of Cold War events were.


  • An example of brinkmanship is found in
    • the Cuban Missile Crisis
    • the Arab-Israeli War
    • the Iran-Iraq War
    • the Cultural Revolution
    • the Korean War

                      If you know the significance of the events listed above, as well as facts about those events, you would easily pick out 
(A) as the correct answer

6.  Decolonization
A major theme of the 20th century has been the decline in power of Western Europe.  This theme is especially evident as more colonies worldwide became independent nations after the end of WWII.  European departure from areas in Africa and Asia had diverse effects. 


           Example:  Compare the economic and social characteristics of communist China and the Soviet Union from 1945-1990.

                      To answer this question successfully, you would have to have an understanding of the economic and social       characteristics in both the USSR and China during the Cold War (the approximate span of the dates).  You would also need to     be aware of changes in these structures over this time period. 


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