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This chapter focuses on war finance in the two principal allies of the Central Powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary, the two financial powerhouses of the Entente, Great Britain and France, and two neutral countries, the United States and the Netherlands. It discusses the impact of mobilisation on national finances, financing the industrial war effort, demobilisation and impossible return to the pre-war financial order, and the financial legacy of the Great War. Mobilisation for war transformed the peacetime financial systems of the European powers. Financial demobilisation in Germany through inflation and stabilisation put an end to war finance, made reconstruction easier and reduced debt. Financial demobilisation following the Great War led to uncertain and therefore temporary stabilization of social policy and the political system itself. The weakness of parliamentary governments, and the attractiveness of totalitarian alternatives, arose in part out of the exigencies and consequences of war finance.
During recent years a series of important studies have attempted to deal synthetically with violent aspects of European history in the twentieth century. All of them refer to and replicate aspects of Eric Hobsbawm's masterpiece Age of Extremes: the Short Twentieth Century 1914–1991 (1994), which in turn demarked that century from the ‘long nineteenth century’ with which Hobsbawm concluded his Age of Empire 1875–1914 (1987). Key analyses in the ‘classic’ works of Volker Berghahn, Ian Kershaw and Mark Mazower share three broad arguments: first, they demonstrate the important role played by ideologies. Liberalism, different variants of aggrandizing nationalism, including colonial imperialism and Nazism, as well as socialism and Soviet communism were, in different phases, instrumental in intensifying political violence (or, as Kershaw terms it, ‘state-sponsored violence’) during the twentieth century. Mark Mazower reminds us in this respect of two realities: during the twentieth century, Europe was not on the whole shaped by a convergence of thinking and feeling, but by a series of violent clashes of diametrically opposed New Orders; and National Socialism, fascism and communism were not alien or novel imports into Europe but grew out of the heritages of previous periods of European history. What was new therefore in the twentieth century was not that there were such ideologically driven conflicts, but their intensity. This owed something to the novel harshness of the expression of these ideologies, but was also a consequence of new means of expression.
That Europe's twentieth century was a period of exceptional violence is certainly not a novel insight. For decades, historians, social scientists and anthropologists have investigated the various forms of more or less organized political violence that occurred in Europe's diverse cultures, ranging from war to genocide and expulsion, from revolution to state repression. Yet no study exists that attempts to explain the emergence and manifestations of, and interconnections between, different forms of political violence within the confines of one volume. In addition, the emphasis which has often been placed on the role played by national political contexts, or more strongly by national peculiarities, in explaining violence has tended to preclude examination of common European trends in the emergence of political violence.
Against this background, the book differs from the existing scholarship in three distinct ways. First, it adopts an inclusive approach to political violence. After an opening chapter that seeks to establish general patterns of causation and periodization in political violence across what we term the ‘long twentieth century’, the volume systematically examines four expressions of political violence, each of which contains its own dialectical dynamics: the violence of military conflicts; the violence generated by projects of genocide and ethnic cleansing; the violence of terrorism and of state repression; and, finally, the violence of revolution and counter-revolution. The volume locates each of these manifestations of political violence in transnational and comparative contexts, and seeks to relate them to each other, and, in turn, to broader trends in European history.
This chapter is a more complicated task to write than would have been the case twenty or thirty years ago. In the age that we can perhaps now define as the ‘classic’ era in the historiography of the European twentieth century from the 1960s to the 1980s, the interconnection of revolutionary causes (of left and right) and violence seemed relatively uncomplicated. Revolutionary causes – perceived as secular, millenarian and intransigent – engaged in violence as a consequence of the radicalism of their rhetoric, dreams and ambitions and the intensity of the struggle that their actions generated for political power.
Nowadays, however, matters no longer seem so straightforward. Much of the literature on revolutionary movements over the last twenty years has watered down the centrality of ideological dynamics within revolution and complicated such dynamics with a heightened recognition that much which might appear political in fact had other causes. Ethnic antipathies, the impact of imperialist projects both within and beyond Europe and what one might term the psycho-underground of masculinities and local community conflicts now seem at least as important, if not more so, as politico-ideological dynamics in explaining the surges of revolutionary violence that took place across Europe during the twentieth century.
The purpose of this chapter is therefore to think afresh about the interconnectedness of violence and revolutionary movements (of the left and right) during Europe's long twentieth century. In doing so, three complexities immediately arise. First, there is the challenge of chronological scope.
This is a comprehensive history of political violence during Europe's incredibly violent twentieth century. Leading scholars examine the causes and dynamics of war, revolution, counterrevolution, genocide, ethnic cleansing, terrorism and state repression. They locate these manifestations of political violence within their full transnational and comparative contexts and within broader trends in European history from the beginning of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in the late nineteenth-century, through the two world wars, to the Yugoslav Wars and the rise of fundamentalist terrorism. The book spans a 'greater Europe' stretching from Ireland and Iberia to the Baltic, the Caucasus, Turkey and the southern shores of the Mediterranean. It sheds new light on the extent to which political violence in twentieth-century Europe was inseparable from the generation of new forms of state power and their projection into other societies, be they distant territories of imperial conquest or ones much closer to home.
In this comparative conclusion, the authors consider some of the most influential trends in the historiography of political and paramilitary violence, with particular reference to the relationship between wartime and post-war violence. The heuristic value of the ‘aftershocks’ metaphor is considered, as are the advantages (and potential pitfalls) of the contributors’ transnational approach. Finally, the authors suggest an agenda for future research on paramilitary violence, which looks at the phenomenon in a global perspective.
Historians on both sides of the Atlantic are currently engaged in a controversy about the allegedly genocidal nature of western colonialism and its connections with the mass violence unleashed by Nazi Germany between 1939 and 1945. The debate touches upon some of the most “sensitive” issues of twentieth-century history: the violent “dark side” of modern western civilization, the impact of colonial massacres on the European societies that generated this violence and, perhaps most controversially, the origins and uniqueness of the Holocaust.