The First World War, 'the war to end all wars' (1), or the the Great War as referred by the peers can be defined as a caesura in many aspects in world history, changing both the political scene and the lives of millions. Its aftermath was both shocking and optimistic at the same time. (2)
Charlie Chaplin. Modern Times. Film Affinity
The devastating war which had effected the whole world for 5 long years has redefined the meaning of warfare and made it even more destructive than it already is. The large-scale use of lethal poison gas at Ypres in 1915 had been just the first step towards a new front that was the chemical battlefield, and the concept of aerial warfare and the U-boat threat have become widely known at the time as well. (3) The war has caused a great shock for everyone as its destructive impact on people meant not only a huge number of casualties but also the serious psychological trauma caused by it. ‘Shell-shock’ - currently known as the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the trauma caused by the events of the war has affected many people on both sides. (4-5)
The war that shifted everything has also changed the societal role of women of the time as the more men had to march to the fronts in the battlefield, the more women were recruited in the factories of the hinterlands. For example, in Austria-Hungary out of approximately 1.100.000 people working in factories, 145.000 of them were women who were involved mainly in the food and textile industries, followed by the ammunition and electrical industries. (6) This kind of presence of women in labour market naturally resulted in the strengthening of female influence on politics. As the previously emerging feminist efforts received a new momentum, the aim of the movement for political independence has suddenly become more achievable, supporting women for their right to vote. (7)
While a great disease, the Spanish Flu, has decimated the population worldwide starting from the last years of the war and lasting until quite after the end of it, and the reintegration of homecoming soldiers meant serious yet often forgotten problems in every society; the general discontentedness naturally led to an increasing desire for peace and changes in domestic politics. This has generally caused the recrutial of socialism (Christian socialism, social democracy, etc.) while the plans of idealists and politicians backing pacifism has gained more ground. The mass parties formed in the second half of the 19th century became even more popular than before. During the first years of the 1920s, fascism and national socialism were born. The aspects of this phenomenon were called as the ‘revolt of the masses’ by the famous philosopher and essayist Ortega (8). Meanwhile, due to the denouement of the war along with the decisions made at the Paris Peace Conference, the arena of the great powers was also rearranged. Collapsing of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire as well as the German Colonial Empire created a new line-up. New state formations were formed one after the other: the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (the future Yugoslavia), Czechoslovakia, establishment of Hungary and Austria as separately independent countries, and etc. In the Middle East and Africa, French and British protectorates were created, and this mandate system was formalized under the newly established League of Nations. (9) Czarism in Russia also ended with the communist coup (considered a revolution by majority of the population in Russia), thus the birth of the USSR took place.
Due to the technical development through the commonization the use of telephone, radio, and other forms of recording, it has become easier to communicate. The birth of cinema has opened doors to the completely new forms of entertainment and relaxation, and many actors who took parts in the movies of the time have reached global fame. From the 1920s onwards, a radical turning point had occurred in popular music and dance as well: new waves of music in the U.S. such as jazz has quickly gained huge number of audiences in the bars of the modern cities across the globe (10) in the same way the style of dances such as the tango and the swing has become popular (11-12). The world has rapidly started to globalize in terms of culture.
4 Models pose for a picture in Chicago, US in 1920.
Fashion has also changed significantly: skirts became shorter, and women have started to bob, shingle, and crop their hair. Fashion, once regulated by the strict rules of tradition in society indicating the affiliations towards a community, has become a form of self-expression.
The aftermath of the Great War has been therefore diversified, and it covers the aspects of political life, power relations, social developments, and the everyday life. It was the beginning of the short 20th century, or the modern times as we know it. (13)
Hathaway, Oona A. – Shapiro, Scott J. (2017): The Internationalists. How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World. Simon&Schuster. New York.
Burns, Eric (2015): 1920. The Year that Made the Decade Roar. Pegasus Books. New York-London.
Canada and the First World War. Battles and Fighting. Canadian War Museum – Musée Canadien de la Guerre. https://www.warmuseum.ca/firstworldwar/history/?target=118
Jones, Edgar (2014): Psychological Wounds of Conflict: The Impact of World War One. Fair Observer. https://www.fairobserver.com/region/north_america/psychological-wounds-of-conflict-the-impact-of-world-war-one-71084/
Butterworth, Benjamin Russell (2018): What World War I taught us about PTSD. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/what-world-war-i-taught-us-about-ptsd-105613
Varga, Lajos (2007): A magyar szociáldemokraták a háború „győzelmes” éveiben (1914-1916). Múltunk 2007/2., pp. 164-222. http://epa.oszk.hu/00900/00995/00010/pdf/vargal.pdf
De Witte, Melissa (2020): World War I strengthened women’s suffrage, shifted public attitude, Stanford scholar says. Stanford. Stanford University. https://news.stanford.edu/2020/08/12/world-war-strengthened-womens-suffrage/
Ortega, y Gasset, José (2003). A tömegek lázadása. Nagy Világ.
David, Paul (2000): L’esprit de Genève. Histoire de la Société des Nations. Vingt ans d’efforts pour la paix. Editions Slatkine, Genève.
Jackson, Jeffrey H. (1999): Making enemies: jazz in inter-war Paris. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/095715589901002904?journalCode=frca
Tango History - Origin and Characteristics of Tango. http://www.dancefacts.net/tango/history-of-tango/
Fuller, Jake (2021): History of Swing Dancing. The history of swing dance dates back to 1920. Origins of Swing, Lindy Hop, Jitterbug and Jive. https://www.centralhome.com/ballroomcountry/swing.htm
Johnson, Paul (1999): The Modern Times. A History of the World from the 1920s to the Year 2000. Phoenix Giant.
Charlie Chaplin. Modern Times. Film Affinity. https://www.filmaffinity.com/en/film726746.html
4 Models pose for a picture in Chicago, US in 1920. https://www.reddit.com/r/TheWayWeWere/comments/igcvnr/4_models_pose_for_a_picture_in_chicago_us_in_1920/