The Legacy of WW1

While the meaning of the Great War has changed over time, it is possible after 100 years to take a more balanced view. It is becoming accepted that the Great War was not a ‘bad’ or ‘unjust’ war, at least from an Allied point of view. It was fought against military aggression and to protect the sovereignty of small states, as well as the integrity of British power. The war had a powerful democratising affect, with people who fought it, demanding a new place in society for the ordinary citizen. The Britain we’ve inherited today and it’s citizen democracy grew out the sacrifice of World War 1. What went wrong was the bad peace that followed WW1. We can now remember the scale of sacrifices made at the time, the moving stories of the “Pals’ regiments, the horrors of  battles, such as Gallipoli, the Somme, and Passchendaele, without allowing any doubts about the justice of the war, preventing our respect for the fallen.

The legacy of the Great War still has an enduring resonance. While the War helped postpone domestic strife and unite the United Kingdom between 1914-18, the war made Britain very wary about intervening in Europe again. Britain is still divided whether it should be part of Europe today. The War also widened the world and made politics international. Many of the current problems in the Middle East can be traced to the boundaries and territories that were drawn up directly after the First World War. The War forced America to emerge from isolation, and become the World Superpower which dominates today. The War replaced old Empires and military autocracies with democratic Nation States. Government’s expanded their powers and responsibilities to win the war and we all now accept greater State intervention, in terms of managing our health, welfare and taxation. Women achieved the vote and more political rights through the First World War. The War generated a quantum leap in industry, technology, medicine, culture and international politics. After World War One, Revolution, Republicanism and Fascism flourished. Old Empires fell apart and gave rise to mass democracy. People rose up and three visions emerged to harness ‘people power’. These were Bolshevism and the one Party State, Liberty and Republicanism, with no place for monarchs and aristocrats, and Fascism, with the cult of the Great Leader. These ideologies which emerged from the First World war, dominated the Twentieth Century and still shape ideas today. It is for these reasons that the First World War will always be remembered.