World war I and world war II study guide




World war I and world war II study guide


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World war I and world war II study guide



  1. Understand the general contours of 20th century history and how they have formed the present.
  2. Gain a greater appreciation of causal relationships and their role in driving history.
  3. Recognize the role of past decisions in laying the framework for today’s problems.
  4. Discuss the role of context in understanding decisions that, in hindsight, appear to be critically flawed.
  5. Assess the role of nationalism in understanding 20th century conflicts and the tensions still present today.
  6. Discuss the seeming contradiction of “progress” and “modernity” leading to greater and greater acts of inhumanity (e.g. genocide).





              Nationalism                         1892 Franco-Russian Alliance         Battle of the Marne
Imperialism                         1904 Anglo-French Détente            Unrestricted Sub. Warfare
Industrialization                   1907 Anglo-Russian Agreement      Woodrow Wilson
Treaty of Berlin                   “Encirclement”                               Fourteen Points
Franco-Prussian War            Schlieffen Plan                               Treaty of Versailles
Anti-Semitism                                General Moltke                               “War Guilt Clause”
Otto Von Bismarck              Plan 17                                           Sykes-Picot Agreement
Kaiser Wilhelm II                General Joffre                                 Bolsheviks
Rhineland                            Triple Entente                                           October Revolution
The “Great Game”               Triple Alliance                                Archduke Ferdinand
Russo-Japanese War             Rape of Belgium                             Franz Josef
Czar Nicholas II                   Prime Minister Asquith                   Balfour Declaration
Pan-Slavism                         Naval Secretary Winston Churchill  George Clemenceau
Balkan Wars                        T.E. Lawrence                                           David Lloyd George
Young Turks                       H.M.S. Lusitania                            League of Nations



1867 Serbia, Montenegro, and Rumania gain independence

1870 Franco Prussian War—France loses the Rhineland to Germany

1878 Treaty of Berlin—Austria-Hungary takes possession of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Great Britain takes control of Cypress; Russia gains Bessarabia and part of Turkey

1882 France and Great Britain battle for the Suez Canal in Egypt; British victory leads to creation of a protectorate in Egypt

1890 Kaiser Wilhelm II Takes the Helm in Germany and Marginalizes Bismarck

1892 Franco-Russian Alliance

1894-96 Dreyfuss Affair in France Underscores European Anti-Semitism

1904 Anglo-French Détente

1905 Russo-Japanese War followed by Revolution in Russia; Czar Nicholas II takes power

1907 Anglo-Russian Agreement

1914 Serb nationalist assassinates Austrian Heir to the Throne Franz Ferdinand; Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia; Russia declares war on Austria-Hungary; Germany declares war on Russia and France; Germany invades Belgium; Great Britain declares war on Germany; in November a coup in Turkey leads the Ottoman Empire to declare war on Russia, France, and Great Britain

1915 German U-Boat sinks H.M.S. Lusitania on May 7; British encourage Arab nationalism; Indian troops enter the war to support Britain

1917 Balfour Declaration; October (Bolshevik) Revolution in Russia; Germany announces resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare; United States enters WWI

1918 Armistice Declared

1919 Paris Peace Conference in Versailles; Formation of League of Nations; Syrian Arab Congress

1920 Treaty of Sevres ends Ottoman Empire; Great Britain and France establish protectorates and “client states” in the Middle East

1922 Egyptian revolt against the British leads to partial independence

1923 Turkey gains independence under Ataturk; Shah Riza Khan leads Persia (Iran) to independence


  1. Understand the importance of nationalism in explaining 19th and 20th century conflict.
  2. Recognize the relationship between nationalist impulses and geographical realities in Europe, the Balkans, and the Middle East.
  3. Show the chronology of events leading up to the First World War.
  4. Demonstrate mastery of the cause and effect relationships leading both into and out of the First World War.
  5. Explain how a regional conflict became a World War.
  6. Discuss intelligently the transformation of European foreign policy as a result of WWI.
  7. Analyze the impact of European decisionson the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Far East.
  8. Comprehend the role World War I played in bolstering the influence of socialism both in Europe and worldwide.
  9. Assess the extent to which World War I set the stage for the entire twentieth century and beyond.



  1. The Nineteenth Century World
    1. Industrialization, imperialism, socialism, and nationalism
      1. The Rise of the West and the Decline of the East
        1. The New German Empire
        2. The United States
        3. China and Japan
        4. The Ottoman Empire
        5. Great Britain
    2. 19th Century Foreign Policy and the “Great Game”
    3. Domestic Concerns
      1. The role of industrialization
      2. The importance of nationalism
      3. the nationalist-socialist conflict
    4. Nationalism in the Balkans, the Middle East, and Asia
    5. The Franco-Prussian War and Tensions in Europe
      1. German politics during the Bismarck era
      2. French domestic and foreign politics
      3. British concerns
      4. Austro-Hungarian aims
      5. Russian aims
    6. Balkan Conflicts and the Treaty of Berlin, 1878
    7. The ascent of Kaiser Wilhelm II in Germany
      1. Heightened Tensions
      2. Realignment
      3. The Russo-Japanese War
    8. The Young Turks’ Revolution, the Chinese Nationalist Revolution, and the Balkan Wars of 1913 and 1914


  1. The First World War
    1. European realignment revisited
      1. German fears of “encirclement”
      2. Uneasy alliances
    2. The Balkan Flashpot, 1914
      1. August 1914 and the path to conflict
      2. The Guns of August
    3. Regional Conflict Becomes World War
      1. The Schlieffen Plan
      2. British diplomatic efforts
      3. Rape of Belgium
      4. American neutrality
      5. The Western Front
      6. The Ottoman Empire enters the war
    4. Stalemate
      1. Technological factors influencing conflict
      2. Class conflict and breeding ground for socialism
      3. The implications for Russia
      4. India’s importance
    5. Desperate Measures—British and German foreign policy concerns change dramatically
      1. Fanning the Flames of Arab Nationalism
      2. Zionism and the Balfour Declaration
      3. The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia sends tremors through Europe
      4. Unrestricted Submarine Warfare
      5. American entrance into the ware
  1. The War’s End
    1. Implications of the war for Europe
      1. Economic
      2. Social
      3. Political
      4. Demographic
    2. A Peace to End all Peace—Europe
      1. Wilson’s Fourteen Points
      2. Clemenceau’s intransigence
      3. The War Guilt Clause
      4. The League of Nations debacle
    3. A Peace to End all Peace—the Balkans and the Middle East
      1. Creation of Yugoslavia
      2. How the British and French resolved the Sykes-Pico (dis)Agreement
      3. Frustrated Arab nationalism
      4. Zionist immigration
      5. Nationalist conflicts erupt in the Middle East






           Communism             Anschluss                             D-Day
Vladimir Lenin         Sudeten                                Manhattan Project
Josef Stalin               Neville Chamberlain            Yalta Conference
Fascism                    Appeasement Policy             United Nations
Benito Mussolini       Blitzkrieg                             “Buffer Zone”
Adolph Hitler            Neutrality Act of 1935         Final Solution
Mein Kampf              “Cash and Carry”                 “Night and Fog”
Nazism                     Battle of Britain                   Auschwitz
Weimar Republic      Lend-Lease                          Birkenau
Emperor Hirohito      U.S.S. Panay                        Dachau
Manchuria                Pearl Harbor                         Holocaust
Rape of Nanking       Island-Hopping                    Ustache
Chiang Kai Shek       Battle of Midway
Mao Zedong              Battle of Stalingrad
Luftwaffe                   “Second Front”



1918 End of German Empire; Beginning of Weimar Republic

1920s Rise of European Fascism

1927 Josef Stalin takes power in U.S.S.R.

1931 Japan invades Manchuria

1932 End of Political Party Government in Japan; Beginning of Military Rule

1933 Chancellor Hitler Comes to Power in Germany

1933 Nazi Germany Ceases Reparations, Militarizes Rhineland, and Begins to Rearm

1934 Italy Invades Ethiopia

1937 Japan Invades China

1937 British Zionist Policy Changes to Accommodate Arab Concerns

1937 Anschluss—Germany occupies Austria in March

1937 Sudeten—Germany occupies Northern portion of Czechoslovakia

1937 Japanese Bomb U.S.S. Panay in China

1938 Munich Agreement

1939 German-Soviet Alliance

1939 Germany Invades Poland and France in September

1940 Japan Invades Southeast Asia

    1. Battle of Britain


1941 Hitler Invades Soviet Union on 22 June

1941 Japan Attacks U.S. at Pearl Harbor on 7 December

1942 Battle of Coral Sea and Midway

1944 Invasion of Normandy (D-Day) on 6 June

1945 Yalta Conference in February

1945 Germany surrenders on 7 May; Atomic Bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August; Japan surrenders on 9 August


  1. Show how the end of World War I contributed to the beginning of World War II.
  2. Explain the appeal of socialism/communism in post-WWI Europe.
  3. Discuss how fascism developed in response to fears of socialism.
  4. Explain why Hitler’s message appealed to so many Germans.
  5. Assess the stark difference between what was happening in the U.S. from 1918 to 1930 and what was happening in Europe.
  6. Identify the roots of American isolationism in the 1930s.
  7. Understand why nationalist impulses grew dramatically during and after World War II.
  8. Explain the “mechanics” and psychology of the Holocaust as well as its relation to nationalism.
  9. Discuss U.S. motives for utilizing nuclear weapons to end the war.
  10. Assess the implications of attacking civilian populations.



    1. Post-War Developments
      1. Economic Difficulties
        1. The U.S. ascendant—Roaring 20s
        2. Impact of depression on fledgling democracies
          1. Weimar Republic
        3. Rise of socialism
      2. The Fascist response
        1. Mussolini’s Italy
        2. Adolph Hitler and the Nazi party in Germany
        3. Blood in the Streets
    2. The Road to War—Power Politics and the League of Nation’ failure
      1. Japanese nationalism and expansion in the East
        1. Economic and political motivations
        2. Conflict with the U.S.
        3. Invasion of Manchuria
        4. Rape of Nanking
        5. The League’s response
        6. The U.S. response
      2. Meanwhile, back in Europe…
        1. German Rearmament and Militarization of the Rhineland—1933
        2. Italian expansion—Ethiopia, 1934
        3. The League’s response
        4. German expansion in central Europe
        5. Appeasement Policy and the failure of “land for peace”
    3. War in Europe
      1. German Blitzkrieg and Allied losses
        1. Battle of Britain
        2. Russian setbacks
      2. U.S. Isolationism
      3. Europe circa 1941
    4. War in the Pacific—America’s entry into WWII
      1. The Growing Conflict with Japan
        1. The U.S.S. Panay incident
        2. Pearl Harbor
          1. What FDR did or did not know
      2. U.S. declarations of war
      3. Initial setbacks
      4. Battle of Coral Sea and Midway
      5. Island Hopping Campaign
    5. The Effort to Attract Allies elsewhere
      1. Nationalist promises in Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, and Africa
    6. Soviet Concerns and the Foundations for the Cold War
      1. “Second Front” issue
      2. Progress of war plans, 1942-44
      3. Yalta Conference, 1945
    7. The War’s End
      1. A World Divided
        1. Buffer Zones, Occupied Territories, and Renewed Ideological Conflict
        2. Tensions between allies
        3. What to do with the former colonies and possessions
        4. Promises kept and promises broken
    8. Ethical Considerations of War
      1. The Holocaust
      2. Bombing of Civilian Targets
      3. The Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction





           Yalta Conference                 Mao Zedong                        U.F.Co.
“Second Front”                    Chiang Kai Shek                  Fulgencio Batista
“Buffer Zone”                      Republic of China                Anastazio Somoza
Berlin Crisis                         People’s Republic of China   Ngo Dinh Diem
Berlin Airlift                        17th Parallel                          Ferdinand Marcos
Marshall Plan                       General Douglas MacArthur “Our S.O.B. Syndrome”
George F. Kennan                Harry S. Truman                  Brezhnev Doctrine
Containment Policy             Nikita Khruschev                 START
Truman Doctrine                 Sino-Soviet Split                  SALT I
NSC-68                               Domino Theory                   SALT II
Alger Hiss                            Ho Chi Minh                       Detente
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg  Jacobo Arbenz                                “Client” States
Joseph McCarthy                 Dwight D. Eisenhower         Mikhail Gorbachev
Owen Lattimore                   John Foster Dulles               glasnost
McCarran Internal Security Act                                       perestroika
House Committee on Un-American Activities



1945-48 Soviet Takeover of Eastern Europe

1945-54 Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh battle French for control of Vietnam

1947 Marshall Plan contributes to Berlin Crisis

1947-48 Truman Doctrine—U.S. commits resources to anti-communist groups in Turkish and Greek civil wars

1948-49 Berlin Airlift

1949 NATO formed

1949 Chinese Communists Defeat Nationalists

1949-50 Hostilities Commence in Korea; U.S. intervenes in 1950

1950 China enters the Korean War

1952-53 McCarthy’s “witch hunts”

1953 Korean War Ends

1954 CIA sponsors coup against Guatemala’s Jacobo Arbenz

1954 Vietnamese defeat French at Dien Bien Phu

1955 Warsaw Pact Formed

1956 Soviet Union Crushes Hungarian Revolution

1957 Soviet Union launches Sputnik

1959 Castro Comes to Power in Cuba

1961 Berlin Crisis—Khruschev Builds a Wall

1961 Failed Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba

1962 Cuban Missile Crisis

1965 U.S. Ground Troops arrive in Vietnam

1968 Brezhnev Doctrine invoked in Repressing Prague Spring movement in Czechoslovakia

1973 U.S. Withdraws from Vietnam

1979 Soviets Suppress Polish Uprisings

1979 Soviets invade Afghanistan

1979 Sandinista Rebellion in Nicaragua brings communist government to power

1985 Gorbachev Comes to Power in U.S.S.R.

1991 Soviet Union Collapses


  1. Show familiarity with basic chronology of the Cold War.
  2. Understand underlying ideological and geopolitical causes of the Cold War as well as the role WWII played in creating the Cold War.
  3. Explain the significance of “client” states and how the Cold War impacted many newly independent countries.
  4. Discuss the underlying perceptions driving foreign policy on both the Soviet and American sides.
  5. Demonstrate familiarity with the lynchpins of U.S. Cold War foreign policy.
  6. Assess the connection between domestic politics and Cold War foreign policy.
  7. Consider the extent to which Cold War perceptions still drives foreign policy in the United States and Russia.



    1. Post-WWII Europe—Perceptions and Actions
      1. Fears of Communist Expansion
      2. The Marshall Plan
      3. The Berlin Crisis
        1. Berlin Airlift
      4. Advent of Containment Policy
    2. The Cold War moves to the Mediterranean…
      1. The Truman Doctrine
      2. NSC-68
    3. And to Asia!
      1. “Who lost China?”
      2. The Korean War
      3. Domino Theory
      4. Implication for French Indochina
    4. A Polarized World
      1. NATO and the Warsaw Pact
      2. Implications for Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, and Latin America
        1. Guatemala, 1954
        2. The Suez Crisis, 1956
        3. Pakistan
        4. Cuba, 1959-62
      3. Efforts to walk a “middle” path
        1. Nehru’s India
        2. Tito’s Yugoslavia
        3. Nasser’s Egypt
        4. Ben-Gurion’s Israel
    5. The Impact of Domestic Politics on Foreign Policy and Vice a Versa
      1. McCarthyism in the U.S.
      2. Tough on Communism/Tough on Capitalism
      3. Creating our own monsters?
        1. Vietnam
        2. Cuba
        3. Czechoslovakia
        4. Poland
    6. The Cold War’s Impact on the Superpowers
      1. The Arms Race and its Consequences
      2. Military Actions
        1. Vietnam
        2. Afghanistan
      3. Economic implications of Cold War
    7. The Cold War’s End
      1. Gorbachev’s Soviet Union
      2. Collapse of the Soviet Bloc
    8. The End of History, or Only the Beginning?
      1. New Challenges




  1. Was World War II inevitable?  Some historians argue that late nineteenth-century developments made World War I inevitable and, as a result of how that war ended, ensured that there would be a Second World War.  Other historians argue that both WWI and WWII were avoidable.  Write an essay in which you assess what took place from 1870 to 1935 and whether or not either of the wars might have been avoided.  In discussing the question, be sure to consider the role played by key individuals, as well as the broader events shaping history.
  1. Who do you think was responsible for the Cold War?  Write an essay in which you address the underlying perceptions (on both the U.S. and Soviet sides) that shaped the events from 1940 to 1989.  Explain how each side’s behavior during this time frame stemmed from perceptions or misperceptions of one another’s objectives and actions.


  1. Was communism the driving force of 20th century conflict?  Some historians contend that all of the twentieth-century’s major conflicts—WWI, WWII, and the Cold War—resulted from concerns over communism.  Other scholars maintain that other factors, such as nationalism, were more important in determining the century’s conflicts.  Write an essay in which you assess both positions and answer the opening question.  Be sure to consider both sides with respect to all three of the principle conflicts.
  1. Is foreign policy nothing more than an expression of domestic politics?  Choose any of the three major conflicts covered in this unit—WWI, WWII, and the Cold War—and write an essay in which you assess the foreign policy motives of the involved countries.  Are their objectives and actions the result of internal politics or are they reactions to external events? For WWI, discuss Great Britain, Germany, Russia, and the United States.  For WWII, discuss Great Britain, Germany, Japan, and the United States.  For the Cold War, discuss the Soviet Union, the United States, India, and Vietnam.





Portugal                                         Norway                     Austria                                Albania
Spain                                              Sweden                     Hungary                   U.S.S.R.
France                                            Finland                     Yugoslavia                Switzerland
Belgium                                         Estonia                                Czechoslovakia           Luxembourg
United Kingdom (Great Britain)      Latvia                       Italy
Iceland                                                      Lithuania                  Bulgaria
Netherlands                                    Poland                      Rumania
Denmark                                        Germany                   Greece


Portugal                    Norway                     Switzerland               Greece
Spain                        Sweden                     Yugoslavia                Iceland
France                      Finland                     Czechoslovakia         Luxembourg
Belgium                    East Germany           Italy
United Kingdom       West Germany          Bulgaria
Netherlands              Austria                                Rumania
Denmark                   Hungary                   Albania


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World war I and world war II study guide