For the nations of Europe, the war was an unforeseen disaster that turned previously rich countries into debtors.
Some people lost confidence in the former leaders of society and even questioned their faith in human progress. Britain, which had been one of the richest states in Europe, became a debtor nation and never recovered its pre-war assurance. An unexpected influenza pandemic struck Europe’s weakened population and caused at least 50 million deaths worldwide, more than the war itself.
After the war the dead were honoured by means of monuments and there was an upsurge of spiritualism as mothers tried to speak to their dead sons. Others tried to forget the suffering of the war, and the roaring twenties saw people grasping at the pleasures of life. By the thirties, taxpayers who could not imagine that such a war might happen again were reluctant to pay for rearmament.
The terms of the Treaty of Versailles were designed to punish Germany and imposed reparation payments intended to make the country suffer economically. Many Germans resented the humiliation and many of them turned to new political movements, especially to the National Socialist Party, the Nazis, led by their leader – Adolf Hitler.
The peace that came at the end of the war lasted barely twenty years. This was the bitterest legacy of the First World War: the peace that had cost so much led only to another dreadful conflict.