Significant effects of World War I for Kids
The most significant effect of World War I was World War II. Because of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, forced upon an exhausted Germany and her allies, the defeated countries could not recover from World War I. The collapse of their economies and the demand for reparations caused intense hardship, with no end in sight. World War II was a direct outcome of the harsh treatment imposed by the peace treaty that ended World War I.
World War I caused great economic hardship to Britain and her allies as well. The economies of these countries were devastated by massive spending on the war effort. France also suffered enormous property damage as most of the war on the Western Front was fought on French soil. In part, as a result of Russia's involvement in World War I, a civil war broke out in Russia, whose aftermath left millions of Russian people starving.
In the United States, however, World War I stimulated the US economy. Prior to US entry into the war, American industry realized great profit through the production and sale of tanks, bullets, uniforms, and other materials needed to fight the war. The United States emerged from World War I with a healthy economy. This helped to push the United States into a position of world leadership before the American people were ready to accept such a responsibility. For example, the United States did not join the newly formed League of Nations, whose purpose was to provide an opportunity for countries to work out conflicts without the outbreak of another war. The US Congress had good reasons for not joining, but a compelling one was that the American people wanted other countries to fight their own battles in the future and to leave America out of their conflicts entirely.
The political and geographical shape of countries: As part of the peace treaty, some countries gained land, some lost land, and some disappeared entirely. For example, Austria-Hungary collapsed and was torn apart. Rumania was given a large share of land inhabited by Hungarians. Different ethnic groups were included together in the new multi-national state of Yugoslavia. These groups were concerned about the uncertain future of their individual language and culture. These and other rearrangement of borders caused many problems, some of which are still continuing today.
Loss of manpower during World War I: About 15 million military and civilian people died during World War I. The United States lost about 100,000 people. Britain, Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary suffered collective losses in the millions. France lost a generation of young men.
Loss of manpower continues, the Spread of the Spanish Flu: No one knows, even today, what caused a deadly disease, nicknamed the Spanish Flu, that became a world-wide epidemic in 1918. What they do know is that the filthy trenches of World War I created a breeding ground for the spread of this disease. After the war, armies on both sides were demobilized. They headed home to many different countries around the world. Many carried this highly contagious disease home with them. As a result, about 1/3 of the world's population soon became violently ill. Unlike most plagues that target the very young and the very old, this strain of influenza hit healthy young adults the hardest. These young adults, including doctors, nurses, medical researchers, and others, were the very people needed to fight the epidemic, but they were sick themselves. The medical profession as a whole was exhausted by the war. Today, we have a vaccine for the flu. Back then, no vaccine existed. Some people were helped by medicines that did exist. Some recovered on their own. But many did not survive. It is estimated that as many as 50 million people died between 1918 and 1920 from this disease, a disease carried home from the trenches of World War I.
New Weapons: Tanks, Machine Guns, and Planes: Prior to World War I, battles were fought with sabers and canons and guns that shot a few bullets before reloading was necessary. During World War I, a water-cooled machine gun was invented. This was used as well as air-cooled machine guns. These guns could fire hundreds of bullets in a rapid stream before reloading. The water-cooled machine gun did not need time to cool down and could be used continuously. The use of both guns allowed attacks and casualties to be bigger and more devastating than ever before. The machine gun is still an important weapon in use by the military today. Planes and tanks were still primitive and limited during World War I, but the military recognized their potential. Great effort was spent after the war improving these new inventions. Tanks remained a tool for the military. But planes became important not only to the military but also to carry civilian goods and passengers, which changed many things.
Women get the right to vote: One good thing that happened as a result of World War I is that women entered the work force during the war, many remained in the work force after the war, and all adult women acquired the right to vote as an outcome of the war in most countries in Europe and in the United States.