Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hobsbawm chapter 13

Hobsbawm’s chapter thirteen discusses the transition from a relatively peaceful Europe to one of war. Before 1914, Europeans enjoyed a period of peace. However, this concluded and Europe was presented with a new sensation; world war. Back when this book was written in 1987, approximately every European over the age of seventy had experienced two world wars. Their children were not immune to this and had their chance to experience WWII (Hobsbawm 302). Even after these two world wars peace did not ever truly return to Europe. Hobsbawm believes that even though the fighting has spread beyond the borders of Europe, its people are still affected. The clod war hung over Europe until the 90’s, three years after Hobsbawm’s book was published. These were frightening times, living in the shadow of a third world war, one of devastating consequences. Nuclear technology left the world in fear, which was only put to ease with the competition between sides towards complete annihilation. The rise in technology has pushed warfare to terrifying limits. What was once a relatively peaceful Europe was now under a blanket of fear, hoping their enemies had the same opinions on another world war.

However, it was not always like this in Europe and I found it very interesting how peaceful Europe was for the most part before the outbreak of WWI. It was not only common; it was the norm, expected by all Europeans. For almost fifty years, European nations refused to initiate war between each other, though they chose to challenge weaker non-European nations in order for expansion. Hobsbawm sheds light on this subject by stating, “Yet it is absolutely certain that no government of a great power before 1914 wanted either a general European war or even – unlike the 1850s and 60s – a limited military conflict with another European great power” (Hobsbawm 310). These nations decided to focus their efforts in overseas colonization and any major disputes between them were handled in some sort of a peaceful arrangement. I felt this was interesting because I never knew of this peaceful period in Europe.

My question is if the Treaty of Versailles would have not placed such harsh penalties on Germany for WWI, basically placing the blame squarely on their shoulders, would Hitler have been able to rise to power in 1920’s and 30’s depression struck Germany? Would WWII have still taken place and would different nations be the focus of history?


  1. Hobsbawm's book (in my opinion) shows that the 20th century was heavily shaped by the 19th century, and how could it be otherwise. I think the question you raised is a very good one. I think that the Treaty of Versailles made it a lot easier for Hitler to rise to power, because he could easily use rhetoric about the (supposedly) unfair treaty that placed blame for the War on Germany's shoulders. This opposition to the "victor's justice" was used by Hitler to pull Germany out of her depression.

  2. hey. I completely agree with you, stefan. Not just this book, but many other sources cite the winning countries' harsh treatment of Germany as a factor (a very big one actually) of World War II. If Germany's economy did not fail, if Hitler did not take advantage of this and create intense nationalism among the people, the world might be a slightly different place today.