Week 15: Global Society in a Post-Cold War World
Primary Source Readings
Your assigned readings are the next section of this module, Primary Readings, and the detailed description of assignment requirements are in the Dropbox folder for this week’s Primary Source Reading.
This semester, you will read two primary sources every other week. The topic of each reading set relates to the subjects that we will be studying in the history of Western Civilization. I have selected two readings for every topic that contrast and conflict one another.
Post-War Information from European History/Europe: 1945 to Present
As Europe enters a new era, with two world wars still residing in the collective memory, peace and prosperity seems likely to continue. The Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, resulting in a europe whose countries and borders have returned to their pre-WW2 state. Its nations, however, are faced with ageing populations and falling birthrates, making it increasingly challenging to sustain expensive programs of social services. As the twenty-first century began, the continent is redefining itself with multiculturalism, a strengthening of europe’s common economic policies and the formation of a European parliament. The Europe of Nations, whose nationalistic sentiments led to two world wars during the last century, is viewing the federalism of the USA as a possible solution to forging a United Europe.
Britain after the war was heavily in debt. The bombing of major urban centers and exhaustion of manpower due to war casualties further added to the financial difficulties. The damage to the economy led to rationing being extended into the next decade. From 1945 until 1951, the Labour Party and Prime Minister Attlee replaced the Conservative Party. Winston Churchill was considered by the general populace to be a “War Prime Minister” and though having lost the first post-war election did serve a further term as Prime Minister from 1951 to 1955. In August 1947, India became independent of Britain. From 1950 to 1980 Britain, now without the full economic benefit of its colonies, embraced the free-market capitalism advanced by the USA though more emphasis was given to social programs and state ownership of major utilities. In many respects America’s involvement in the war had been conditional on Britain dismantling its colonial power base with the USA viewing it as an obstacle to their own ideas of trade and free-market capitalism. This had first been proposed by Roosevelt to Churchill at the August 1941 meeting where the future of post-war europe was being discussed. America had viewed Britain’s colonial trade as monopolistic and though it was Pearl Harbour and Japanese aggression that led to the USA entering the war; the agenda for colonial independence remained. America the Colony who had fought a war against the English for independence was pre-disposed culturally and economically to make this request.
The Vichy regime installed by the Nazis after their invasion of France during World War II was replaced in 1946 by the Fourth Republic, which lasted until 1958. The Fourth Republic consisted of a strong Parliament with a Premier chosen by the majority party. There was also a weak ceremonial President. Charles De Gaulle, who led the Free French Resistance movement against the Nazis during their occupation of France in World War II, was elected but refused to participate and thus resigned. After World War II, France decolonized Indochina, Morocco, Tunisia, and the rest of West Africa. The Fourth Republic also allowed women’s suffrage.
Violent conflict arose in Algeria, still a french colony. Bombings, terrorism, and the death of nearly one million people during anti-french actions led to this conflict taking center stage in French politics. When senior officers of the French military in Algeria rebelled in May of 1958 and fears of a coup d’état spread among the members of the government, the latter called upon Charles De Gaulle to resolve the problem. De Gaulle refused to take power unless the government would allow for a stronger Presidential position.
The people of France conceded, and in 1958 the Fifth Republic was formed with a strong authoritarian President. However, De Gaulle’s solution to the problem was to simply free Algeria. In 1968, university students protest over their conditions, leading to a mass working-class strike. After the failed “régionalisation” referendum, De Gaulle resigned in 1969. He was followed by two right wing presidents: Georges Pompidou (elected in 1969 and deceased in 1974), and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (elected in 1974). Abortion became legal under Giscard’s rule.
After World War II, Germany was divided into zones according to agreements reached between the ally powers. Western zones were placed under American and Western European control, while the eastern zones came under the control of the Soviet Union.Germany was to be occupied by the allies until some point in the future; how this was to be achieved itself became a source of conflict between the allies. This division of Germany also mirrored the presence of Allied troops in the now liberated countries of Europe. The Soviet army maintained a military presence in Poland, Romania and other eastern european states.American troops were still stationed in many western european states. With the war at an end the concord between the USA and Russia was now faltering and Germany and many of its neighbours were soon to become the center stage for an ideological battle between these once allies. The division of Berlin was a precursor to the Cold War; the first post-war arena for the entrenched differences between Russia and the USA and an ominous sign for the later conflicts of Vietnam and Korea.