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AP World History: Modern Units 7, 8 and 9 all focus on the period from 1900 to the present day, but Unit 7 is specifically about the wars – large and small – that the world saw during this historical time period.

💎 Check out all of Fiveable’s AP World study guides, videos, slides, and more!

Unit 7 at a Glance

Live Replay: World War I and World War II
World War I Quiz
World War II Quiz
Live Replay: 20th Century Science and Technology

Unit 7 is all about Global Conflict. It covers material from c. 1900 to the present as it encompasses both World Wars and makes up about 8–10% of the AP Exam.

🚩 Freemanpedia has a great overview of this period here!

Unit 7 Key Concepts

These questions are simply guiding questions and are not meant to be practice essay questions.

  1.  What caused the shift in power from the beginning of the 20th century to the modern-day? What power structures remained intact?
  2.  What were the causes and effects of both World Wars?
  3.  Compare and contrast World War One with World War Two. How were they fought? Why were they different?
  4.  What led to the mass genocides of this time period? Why did they happen during this time period specifically?
  5.  Synthesizing all of your information about this period, consider what caused the global conflicts of the 20th century. What were the most important factors?

Past Questions on Unit 7

The AP World History exam has seen major revisions in recent years, so the format of earlier questions-specifically those from 2017 and before-are not exactly the way that questions will be asked on the test. The College Board website provides great information about the current formatting of the test and current examples of SAQs/DBQs/LEQs.

2017-LEQ #3: CCOT of Global Balance of Power
2018-LEQ #4: 20th Century Political Ideologies
2018-SAQ #1: Mass Violence and Governance
2019-LEQ #4: State Controlled Economies (I wrote this one for my AP World Exam!)

Unit 7 Outline

The following outline is derived from the College Board’s Course and Exam Description, found here.

7.1 | Shifting Power After 1900

  • Through the major global conflicts of the first half of the century, emerging land treaties affected some nations more than others.
    • Empires collapsed (ex: Austro-Hungary and Ottomans).
    • Nations were formed (ex: Latvia, Czechoslovakia).
  • Three major land empires collapsed.
    • The Qing Dynasty
    • The Russian Empire
    • The Ottoman Empire
  • After WWII, many former colonies were able to successfully demand their independence.
    • They did this through peaceful methods (India) or with violence (Kenya).
    • This topic is covered more intensively in Unit 8 (link TBA).
  • States challenged existing political and social structures.
    • Mexican Revolution: A movement campaigning for election reform spiraled into a ten-year rebellion. It led to the writing of a new Mexican constitution that guaranteed reforms in areas such as education and voting.
    • East Asia Demonstrations: The May Fourth (China) and March First (Korea) movements
    • Regional Conflicts: Across the globe, various movements popped up based on religious or ethnic identity (Ex: Quebecois Independence movement, Muslim League).
    • Anti-Imperialist Movements: Various movements arose in European colonies seeking independence in the face of colonial power-structures. This topic is covered more intensively in Unit 8.

7.2 | Causes of World War I

  • Remember the acronym MANIA:
    • Militarism: A belief that a strong military should be maintained and used for the good of the nation if need be. The period before WWI was marked by strong military rivalry and arms build-up, as well as an increase in influence from those in the military in countries like Germany and Russia.
    • Alliances: The complicated series of alliances European powers were involved in dragged many nations into war once it began (Ex: Triple Alliance, Franco-Russian alliance, Belgian-British relations, Triple Entente).
    • Nationalism: Growing nationalist sentiment fed militarism and the desire to use weaponry to expand the glory of the state. It also made ethnically diverse nations such as Austro-Hungary unstable, fueling conflict.
    • Imperialism: The scramble for colonies broke the balance of power established by the Congress of Vienna and expanded the scale of WWI until it was a truly global war with immense consequences.
    • Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand: On June 28th, 1914, he was killed by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip.

7.3 | Conducting World War I

  • Nations adopted the strategy of total war on the home front.
    • Total War: A war strategy where a nation’s domestic population, as well as the military, are involved in the war process. This term has been used to describe the American Civil War and later categorizes WWII as well.
    • Factories were utilized to make war materials; with the men off to war, women would take their place as factory workers
    • Governments created production quotas, price and wage controls, and ration systems.
    • Those who spoke out against war efforts were often censured (ex: German-Americans during WWI).
    • Propaganda (communications used to influence people’s attitudes that are often skewed) was used to recruit men and vilify the enemy.
    • Art and media were used to both promote and oppose the war.
  • New military technology led to increased casualties.
    • Trench warfare was a defining feature of WWI.
    • Poison gases were so devastating to soldiers that later treaties banned their use.
    • Machine guns and submarines first made their major entrances into the world of warfare.
    • Other developments include the usage of aircraft and tanks.

7.4 | The Economy in the Interwar Period

  • Fueled by the start of the Great Depression, governments began to take a more active role in their nations’ economies.
    • Keynesian economic theories fueled a lot of these new programs
    • United States: FDR’s New Deal
    • Italy: Benito Mussolini’s Corporatism/planned economy
  • On the extreme end of the scale, planned economies such as those in Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China often implemented repressive policies, to the detriment of the populace.
    • USSR: Five-Year Plan
    • China: Great Leap Forward

7.5 | Unresolved Tensions After World War I

  • The major imperial states of the time (including Japan) maintained or gained control over lands, sparking resistance and resentment.
    • Division of Ottoman Empire and former German colonies into Mandates
    • Invasion of Manchuria in 1931 by Japan; the formation of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere
  • A great deal of anti-imperial resistance emerged as a result of this unchanging/worsening status quo.
    • Transnational movements, such as Pan-Arabism and Pan-Africanism, emerged after WWI.
    • Communism was also used as a tool of anti-imperialism in nations such as Vietnam.
    • Nationalist movements and organizations, fueled by an increase in education, were established and came to resist imperialism (ex: Indian National Congress, 1885, West African resistance to French rule).

7.6 | Causes of World War II

  • Remember the acronym FIGURE:
    • Fascist and Totalitarian Regimes: Nationalist, one-party regimes were established in Italy and Germany, led by Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. In Japan, military rule arose under Emperor Hirohito.
    • Imperialism: Germany, Italy and Japan all began to seek territory and were willing to use their military to do so.
    • Global Economic Crisis: The economic instability that the Great Depression caused helped encourage the rise of fascism and militarism.
    • Unsustainable Peace Settlement: Although the Axis nations became more and more aggressive in their land grabs, the French and British pursued a policy of appeasement, failing to take significant action. The League of Nations could also do little to stop the Axis nations.
    • Racism: Nazi beliefs about race and society played a large role in justifying their expansionist policies and their atrocities during the war.
    • Expansion of Fascist Regimes: World War Two officially started on September 1st, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. Conflict in the Pacific Theater started much earlier with the Japanese invasion of China in 1937.

7.7 | Conducting World War II

  • World War II, like World War I, was a total war.
    • Under Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, the United States and Britain joined forces with agreements such as the Lend-Lease Act, which allowed the United States to lend war materials to Britain.
    • When the United States joined the war effort in 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, they mobilized their undamaged factories and ramped up their production of everything from ammunition to aircraft. This gave the American economy the boost it needed and allowed women unprecedented access to jobs.
    • Colonies of the Allied Powers, such as India, also joined the war, making it a truly global conflict.
    • The Axis Powers were less successful in their mobilization efforts: certain attitudes and policies made their war machines less effective as time went on.
    • Propaganda and art were used heavily by both sides as well.
  • The use of new military technology saw casualty rates rise.
    • Firebombing
    • Atomic weapons

7.8 | Mass Atrocities After 1900

  • Mass atrocities in an attempt to destroy specific groups of people became infamous during this century.
    • Armenian Genocide, 1914-23, Ottoman Empire
    • Holodomor and other famines,1920s to 1930s, Ukraine (USSR)
    • Holocaust, 1941-1945, Nazi-Occupied Europe
    • Cambodian Genocide, 1975-1979, Cambodia
    • Rwandan Genocide, 1994, Rwanda

7.9 | Causation in Global Conflict

  • The global conflicts of the 20th century were caused by a wide variety of factors, to a wide variety of degrees.
  • These are just a few examples of causes:
    • Innovations in science and technology
    • Challenges to established social orders
    • Shifts in global power
    • Rise of new forms of government
    • MAIN: militarism, alliance, imperialism, nationalism

Happy studying! 😀

[Sources: 5 Steps to A 5 AP World History, 2019; Cracking the AP World History Exam, 2018; AMSCO World History, 2018, Freemanpedia]

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