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The First World War

Twenty-seven countries on five continents participated in World War I, which has also been referred to as the Great War or The War to End All Wars. This war was the bloodiest and most costly of all the previous wars with total casualties numbering thirteen million with another thirteen million wounded.  The cost of this war was estimated to be more than $337 billion (Young World Book 364). The difference between World War I and other previous wars was of the new types of weapons and methods used on the battlefields, in the skies, and on the seas.

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Millions upon millions of men lost their lives or were wounded and women and children suffered from not having any positive male influence and being forced into manual labor on the home front. The cost alone to the United States was $27,729,000,000 and the Americans killed numbered 53,407.  Illness and other causes brought the total number of deaths to about 126,000.  There were 204,002 wounded which were not fatal.
World War I involved the major European nations and the United States from 1914-1918. 

Powerful feelings of nationalism throughout Europe were termed for being the primary cause of the war. Formation of protective alliances divided Europe into two main power groups.  The United States managed to remain completely neutral from 1914-1917.  However, continued interruption of trade and travel on the seas by both the allies and central powers, especially attacks by German submarines, caused the United States to enter the war in 1917. The U.S. involvement in the war helped turn the tide and played a major role in the eventual defeat of Germany.  

Despite the fact the war was fought in Europe and U.S. casualties and property loss were far less than that  of the allies, the war had a significant impact economically, politically, and socially on the United States. 

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The war brought great economic prosperity to the country through the production of wartime goods, but during the postwar era there was widespread unemployment, increased labor strife, racial hatred, and poverty. Propaganda campaigns, designed to create support for the war effort, resulted in strong anti-foreign and anti-Communist feelings, which led to violence and the violation of civil rights for many Americans. Politically, the postwar period resulted in the return to the political philosophy of the late nineteenth century.

Government, which had supported labor during the war, after the war began to side with big business, and labor strife became common again. Child labor was reinstituted and minimum wages for women were declared unconstitutional. In addition, the reduction of the income tax, elimination of the excess profits' tax, and an increase in the protective tariff once again created an unequal distribution of wealth. World War I was an influential event in American history for the impact it made on the economy and the society. However, the political, social, and economic implications that World War I would have on the nation were even more far reaching. Politically, the country turned inward, refusing to participate in the League of Nations. These left postwar affairs in Europe unsettled and would ultimately lead the country into another World War. 

The entire American culture experienced a revolution in the postwar celebration.  Americans were filled with optimism during the postwar years.  The growth of advertising and entertainment, combined with technological advances, such as the television and radio, brought about the emergence of a materialistic society.

Economically, the return to a peacetime economy and the liberal policies of the late 1800’s set the stage for economic disaster.  The reversal of many of the gains achieved by workers combined with the reduction of taxes on the rich, created a problem in the economy that went unnoticed. In addition, the availability of credit led to reckless spending therefore further endangering the economy. 

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In conclusion, I would say that World War I had a significant impact not only on American history but the entire world was affected. World War I played an important role in shaping the political, economic, and social structure of the United States.

Works Cited

Bennett, Geoffrey. Naval Battles of the First World War. 1969

McGowan, Tom. World War I.  New York: Franklin Watts. 1993.

Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 12th November 2001
http://www.bradley.edu/academics/las/civ/Civtext/c12ww2.html

Stewart, Gail B. World War I.  San Diego, CA:  Lucent Books. 1991.

Young, Peter. World War I.  The World Book Encyclopedia. 1986 Ed
 
 


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