Like the Great Depression, World War I only solved the immediate problem of conflict over European imperialism and power. For the most part, unresolved tensions remained and secondary problems even emerged from how the postwar negotiations went down in France.
In the Paris Peace Conference, President Woodrow Wilson presented his Fourteen Points, which included the end of colonies, reduction of arms, free trade between countries, and self-determination in former territories by major powers. However, this proposal was shot down and as a result, the dejected US established an isolationist policy after the cold treatment of their Atlantic neighbors moving forward. While this presentation didn’t have anything to do with the Interwar Period, key conflicts within this era concerned some of Wilson’s statements.
Just after reaping the benefits of the Meiji Restoration during the Age of Industrialization, Japan was a rising star during WWI as it helped secure sea lanes as part of the Allies. Even before that, it had proven itself to be a formidable force to reckon after defeating China and Russia in previous conflicts (Sino-Japanese Wars, Russo-Japanese Wars). Well, turns out that we’ll see more of it during this period.
During the Great Depression, military leaders were convinced that the only way to get out is to revert to being an empire and invade neighboring territories. Already having Korea and parts of China under its belt, Japan invaded Manchuria and renamed it as Manchukuo. The League of Nations wasn't able to do something as it watched its former member expand its reach and destroy everything in its path. The notorious Rape of Nanjing (1937) showed the worst side of humanity as the Japanese slaughtered hundreds of thousands and pillaged cities and villages.
Photo courtesy of Global Security
Imperial expansion from that point continued and by World War II, Japan has consolidated East and parts of Southeast Asia under its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Inhabitants of these territories grew resentful, but they only kept to themselves due to their inability to kick them out on their own.
Right to Self-Determination
Remember the postwar conference in Paris where they divided the losers’ territories among the winners? After the war, the Ottoman Empire dissolved and Germany had to relinquish control over its colonies. Under British, French, and other Allies’ control, these former colonies are known as mandates.
Unlike colonies from earlier centuries, the winning countries ruled these areas under the justification that they are doing so until they are ready to “self-determine” (self-rule) for themselves. Cue intense anger from locals alongside nationalism. It just doesn’t make sense for them: “Why does some government from who-knows-where know more than us when we’re ready to govern ourselves? It’s just their excuse to exploit us!” We’ll see more of this mindset and how mandates and colonies alike will eventually resist in the decolonization period.
To counter imperialism, transnational movements emerged. Two movements in particular have gained traction in their respective regions. Pan-Africanism called for the union of every African group regardless of their current location (within Africa or abroad). Pan-Arabism likewise echoed the desire of Arabs to be under a single, unified nation.
Pan-Africanism. Photo courtesy by Alpha Kabine Baro.
Increased literacy rates led to the formation of nationalist organizations that called for independence within European colonies.
The Indian National Congress, formed by Mohandas Gandhi, called for Britain’s peaceful departure from India through negotiated independence.
West Africa conducted continuous strikes and established congresses to symbolize African resistance to French rule.
Due to the failure of Wilson’s Fourteen Points, the status quo remained unchanged in terms of imperialism. There, however, exists a slight change that’ll continue to reverberate and intensify during and after World War II: nationalism within mandates and colonies.
Activity 4: TRUE or FALSE. Write T if the statement is true and F if it is false.
Overproduction during WWI is a cause of the Great Depression.
The US economy is entirely dependent on German reparations after the war.
Only Germany was punished during the Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles.
Governments already play a huge role in business even before the Great Depression.
FDR’s New Deal is based on the model of Keynesian economics.
Italy incorporated communism into its economic model.
Japan stopped invading its neighbors as a sign of deference to the Allies.
The Ottoman Empire and German colonies were divided into territories called mandates.
Self-determination refers to a nation’s right to self-rule.
India passionately resisted French rule.
ANSWERS - Activity 4: TRUE or FALSE
TRUE: (1), (5), (8), (9)
FALSE: (2), (3), (4), (6), (7), (10)