It examines the relationship between long term social, economic and cultural developments and the impact of the war and political turning points.That great events have great effects seems a truism and it would follow that the Second World War, a conflict which caused a colossal loss of life, saw a continent divided as mighty armies strove for supremacy, and ended with much of in ruins and the rest impoverished, must have had a transforming effect.
This is most obviously the case when we consider the redrawing of the map of Europe in the immediate post war period.
The war ended with what in historical terms was an odd peace, for there was no peace treaty with Germany, in part because the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers had left no authority to conclude peace with, and also because of the disintegration of the alliance of the victorious powers shortly after the moment of victory.
Such an interpretation of the dark history of Europe in the twentieth century does, of course, downgrade the importance of ideology and of the "great dictators" and has been attacked on the grounds that the coming to power of Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) was, not only the major cause of World War II, but that his hysterical and paranoid agenda gave that war its own unique and horrific nature.
Acceptance of the "long war" thesis would tend to shift enquiry from the particularity of World War II as an engine of change to longer term European developments, problems and rivalries.
In particular, millions of Germans were expelled from the Sudetenland, and that Poland's western frontier should be the Oder-Neisse Line (previously the Curzon and then the Molotov-Ribbentrop Line).
The palimpsest of the 1945 arrangements was distinct in 1950 and discernible in 1970 or even the late 1980s, when troops of the wartime allies still garrisoned , but by 1992, after the implosion of the Soviet Union, the "velvet" revolutions in the satrap people's republics, and the reunification of Germany, the map of Europe resembled that in the wake of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk of March 1918, rather more than that of 1945-92, though the end of , a Polish, a Soviet, and a Ukrainian national during his or her lifetime.Nevertheless, states ( and gained it at the expense of what had been Germany, and because of the movement of millions of people, expelled from their homes and moving west in search of security.There was also a movement in the opposite direction as Latvians and other Tartars, were forcibly moved eastwards by the Soviet authorities.We must also consider the view that the two World Wars should not necessarily be treated as autonomous but perhaps be seen as parts of a single conflict, a "Thirty Years War" of the twentieth century, a conflict that arose from the long-term political and economic rivalries of great powers and Europe's fault lines which led these rivalries to ignite into warfare.It is, indeed, possible to argue that the Cold War period can be seen as at least a sequel to it.Two European civil wars (or one punctuated by a lengthy armistice) had not only resulted in the problems of reconstruction, but had substantially reduced the power and influence of the major European states with the exception of Russia, long perceived in western and central Europe as largely an extra-European power, but one whose armies had penetrated deep into Central Europe in 1945 much as they had done in 1815.As the Cold War developed, it became clear that only two powers in the world had emerged from the war with enhanced strength and that these two "super powers" were the and the Soviet Union or USSR.A further weakening of the position of Europe came with the diminuendo of the colonial empires of Britain, France and the Netherlands.The stress and expense of war and of humiliation at the hands of Japan had already impacted severely upon the positions of the imperial powers, while the opposition of the USA and of the emergent United Nations to colonial possessions was a further factor.Nevertheless, the outcome of the Second World War and the nature of the fracturing alliance that triumphed was clearly the major factor in determining, in political-geographic respects, the map of post-war Europe.Its impact was clearly discernible for nearly half a century, although we can debate whether it was the position of the armies of the western powers vis-a-vis the Red Army in 1945 or the subsequent announcement of the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Planin 1947, the formation of NATO in 1948, or the entry of into the alliance in 1954 that decisively made for a divided Europe.