I'm studying the influence of democracy and the United States' advocacy of it during the early 20th century, and the effect that the Allied Powers' victory in World War I had in the shifting of certain political ideologies towards a more democratic attitude.

Major ones that existed were militarism, nationalism, and imperialism, but these can't really be associated with an existing political framework, so I'm looking more for the evolution of modern socialism, liberalism, and conservatism. Don't hesitate to discuss more—all information is helpful.

How did World War I shape certain political beliefs to what we know them as today in terms of developing more democratic principles?

  • I'm not sure that "ideologies" are under configuration management. Nor am I sure that there is a association between imperialism and any political framework. I think you're seeking a structure that doesn't exist, except perhaps in an ex post facto academic/analytical framework.
    – MCW
    Sep 8, 2015 at 16:49
  • 1
    Um, it was three years ago mate. I think he's probably handed the essay in by now!
    – Ne Mo
    Sep 8, 2015 at 22:14

1 Answer 1


"The world must be made safe for democracy." - Woodrow Wilson

The irony of Wilson's quote is that WWI did not directly make the world safe for democracy. In fact WWI directly led to the rise of state socialism in the former Russian Empire with its evolution into the USSR, and the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany. From a European standpoint WWI bankrupted the continent and the subsequent reparations imposed on Germany led to, among other things, WWII. The worldwide Great Depression was a huge contributing factor to the rise of these ideologies.

In Russia, WWI was the straw that broke the Tsarist empire's back. The Russian people were dissatisfied with the prosecution of the war and the strain it put on the country contributed to the successful rise of the Bolsheviks. So WWI helped secure the communist victory in Russia.

In Italy, WWI had been a huge economic burden on the country and when the treaties were signed Italy was not given its "fair share" and they felt slighted which led to a fertile environment of nationalism for Il Duce ("Benito Mussolini") to eventually take office. Il Duce of course ushered in the Fascist government in Italy.

Likewise, in Germany, the German people felt they were too severely punished by post-WWI treaties. This like Italy led to an environment where German nationalism was high, but also in Germany there was severe hyper-inflation destroying the German economy. Hitler exploited these conditions to unify the people behind his idea of a "Third Reich" and lead the continent to war.

As far as democracy, after WWI not many nations around the world were democratic. The idea of democracy that we have today (with full suffrage, and robust elections) was not completely mature. It would not be until after WWII that democracy would begin to spread around the world. Really, democracy did not spread to the developing worlds until the decolonization period post-WWII when many colonizer nations simply could not afford their far flung empires.

So in answer to your question WWI did not do a great deal to shape the particular ideological beliefs of each particular system. However, the events of WWI set in motion the sequence that lead to a great deal of democratization.

I'm not sure if that exactly answers your question, because it appears that you maybe are looking for more of a political theory type answer than a spread of democracy type answer.

  • My God, this answer is beautiful. Thank you so much!
    – Purag
    Feb 24, 2012 at 5:25
  • You are very welcome. I think your question, what specific changes to political ideologies, if any, is very interesting and you could probably spend a considerable amount of time researching it. I took a pragmatic "what was the effect" type approach.
    – ihtkwot
    Feb 24, 2012 at 5:33
  • And the approach you took gave me exactly what I needed. I'm working on a WWI project for history and needed this answered...I like to get much more in-depth in my history research, so you definitely helped a lot. Thanks again.
    – Purag
    Feb 24, 2012 at 5:34
  • Well, like anything else on this site I would say it is intended as a starting point. You could probably weasel a PhD thesis out of this topic.
    – ihtkwot
    Feb 24, 2012 at 5:35
  • Of course, before WWI, not many nations around the world were democratic.
    – Oldcat
    Sep 11, 2015 at 22:55

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