Aftermath of World War II  

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The Aftermath of World War II covers a period of history from roughly 1945-1957. A multipolar world was replaced by a bipolar one dominated by the two most powerful victors, the United States and Soviet Union, which became known as the superpowers.

In the area of popular culture, the most striking aspect was the spread of American popular culture. It came via cheap transistor radios, television, films, and recordings. The new culture celebrated youth, and film stars such as Marilyn Monroe and James Dean became cultural icons. This youth culture flourished in Western Europe, as well as Eastern Europe.


Post-World War II baby boom, Cold War, American popular culture

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Aftermath of World War II was the beginning of an era defined by the decline of all European colonial empires and the simultaneous rise of two superpowers: the Soviet Union (USSR) and the United States (US). Allies during World War II, the US and the USSR became competitors on the world stage and engaged in the Cold War, so called because it never resulted in overt, declared hot war between the two powers but was instead characterized by espionage, political subversion and proxy wars. Western Europe and Japan were rebuilt through the American Marshall Plan whereas Central and Eastern Europe fell under the Soviet sphere of influence and eventually behind an "Iron Curtain". Europe was divided into a US-led Western Bloc and a Soviet-led Eastern Bloc. Internationally, alliances with the two blocs gradually shifted, with some nations trying to stay out of the Cold War through the Non-Aligned Movement. The War also saw a nuclear arms race between the two superpowers; part of the reason that the Cold War never became a "hot" war was that the Soviet Union and the United States had nuclear deterrents against each other, leading to a mutually assured destruction standoff.

As a consequence of the war, the Allies created the United Nations, an organization for international cooperation and diplomacy, similar to the League of Nations. Members of the United Nations agreed to outlaw wars of aggression in an attempt to avoid a third world war. The devastated great powers of Western Europe formed the European Coal and Steel Community, which later evolved into the European Economic Community and ultimately into the current European Union. This effort primarily began as an attempt to avoid another war between Germany and France by economic cooperation and integration, and a common market for important natural resources.

The end of the war also increased the rate of decolonization from the great powers with independence being granted to India (from the United Kingdom), Indonesia (from the Netherlands), the Philippines (from the US) and a number of Arab nations, primarily from specific rights which had been granted to great powers from League of Nations Mandates in the post World War I-era but often having existed de facto well before this time. Independence for the nations of Sub-Saharan Africa came more slowly.

The aftermath of World War II also saw the rise of communist influence in Southeast Asia, with the People's Republic of China, as the Chinese Communist Party emerged victorious from the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

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Europe in ruins

At the end of the war, millions of refugees were homeless, the European economy had collapsed, and much of the European industrial infrastructure was destroyed. The Soviet Union had been heavily affected, with 30% of its economy destroyed.

Luftwaffe bombings of Frampol, Wieluń,Warsaw, in 1939 instituted the practice of bombing purely civilian objectives. The United Kingdom ended the war economically exhausted by the war effort. The wartime coalition government was dissolved; new elections were held, and Winston Churchill was defeated in a landslide general election by the Labour Party under Clement Attlee.

In 1947, United States Secretary of State George Marshall devised the "European Recovery Program", better known as the Marshall Plan, effective in the years 1948 - 1952. It allocated US$13 billion for the reconstruction of Western Europe.

End of European Colonialism

The areas previously occupied by the colonial powers gained their freedom, some peacefully such as the Philippines in 1946, and India and Pakistan in 1947. Others had to fight bloody wars of liberation before gaining freedom, such as against the French attempt to reoccupy Vietnam in the First Indochina War following the Vietnamese Proclamation of Independence, and against the Netherlands' attempt to reoccupy the Dutch East Indies. Japan had brought with them a sense of nationalism that grew power bases in the Philippines, and Vietnam. This nationalist nature led to revolutions against the Americans and the French in Asia. This signalled the end of the imperial nature of many of the European powers.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Aftermath of World War II" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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