Intro to Modern World History

9 War, Consumption, & Radical Politics

Shelley Rose and Mark Cole


World War I shook the foundations of the nineteenth-century European-centered world. The Great War, from August 1914 to November 1918, was a truly global war. While most of the battles were fought on European soil, countless countries and soldiers across the world participated. The war accelerated the momentum toward mass participation, mass consumption, and mass production—or modernism—that had begun to emerge at the start of the twentieth century. New media, especially radio and film, helped spread war propaganda to the masses. One of the principal effects of World War I was the influence that the ideas of freedom, self-determination, and sovereignty had on colonies around the world. During the 1920s and 1930s, long after the fighting ended, leaders and peoples around the globe struggled with the issues that the war had raised. How should societies be organized in order to reflect these new values and assumptions? The Great Depression of the 1930s heightened this dilemma as it became clear that mass production and consumption had failed to meet the material needs of many members of society. In the wake of these developments, three competing visions emerged for how to be “modern:” liberal democracy, authoritarianism, and anticolonialism. They competed for preeminence in the inter-war period. Not only was this an intellectual competition, but also it interacted with older geopolitical rivalries and imperial networks, making the world a tinderbox by the end of the 1930s.

Objectives: After completing Module 9 you will be able to:

  1. Identify the causes for World War I and analyze the effects of the war on regions both within and outside of Europe.
  2. Explain how the development of modern mass societies both caused and were effected by the Great Depression.
  3. Compare the ideologies of liberal democracy, authoritarianism, and anticolonialism, and evaluate the success of each in this period.
  4. Describe how access to consumer goods and other aspects of mass society influenced political conflict.


Section 1: The Great War

  1. Read 1914-1918 Online,”Introduction.” Read at least one article on a single theme that interests you. Think about how the narratives in this online resource are similar or different to your previous knowledge about World War I.

Section 2: Radical Movements on the Left & Right

  1. Read Morgan Philips Price,  Capitalist Europe and Socialist Russia
  2. Read Mussolini,  What is Fascism?


Share This Book