The period spanning the two World Wars was unquestionably the most catastrophic in Europe's history. Historians have been drawn to its exceptionally dramatic and harrowing events, as bookshops continue to stock new studies on Hitler, Stalin, Churchill, the Holocaust, and the battles of the two World Wars with monotonous regularity. There is a deeper need, however, to explain why Europe experienced so many conflicts, revolutions, coup d'états, and civil wars within such a short space of time? Why did much of Europe succumb to authoritarian rule and why did political violence become so endemic? Why was mass politics followed by mass murder? Why did Europe experience a 'Thirty Years' War'? Another challenge is to explain the diversity of experiences: why some European societies were not traumatized by war and invasion, why liberal democracy survived throughout north-western Europe, why general living standards continued to rise, and why the status of women continued to improve. The Oxford Handbook of European History 1914-1945 looks afresh at this troubled and complicated age. It does so by taking comparative and transnational approaches rather than merely focusing on individual national experiences. Its features a collection of distinguished historians who explain the patterns of change and continuity that applied generally, while at the same time accounting for various regional and local articulations. Among the themes covered are political economy, international relations, genocide, colonialism, gender, sexuality, human rights, welfare, rural politics, labour and youth, as well as the era's more distinctive features, such as fascism, Stalinism, the Great Depression, trench warfare and the ethnic cleansing. The Handbook serves as a guide for revising the 1914-1945 era, and for how to write histories that take the whole Europe as their subject and not merely its constituent parts: histories of Europe rather than merely in Europe.
The period spanning the two World Wars was unquestionably the most catastrophic in Europe's history. Despite such undeniably progressive developments as the radical expansion of women's suffrage and rising health standards, the era was dominated by political violence and chronic instability. Its symbols were Verdun, Guernica, and Auschwitz. By the end of this dark period, tens of millions of Europeans had been killed and more still had been displaced and permanently traumatized. If the nineteenth century gave Europeans cause to regard the future with a sense of optimism, the early twentieth century had them anticipating the destruction of civilization. The fact that so many revolutions, regime changes, dictatorships, mass killings, and civil wars took place within such a compressed time frame suggests that Europe experienced a general crisis. The Oxford Handbook of European History, 1914-1945 reconsiders the most significant features of this calamitous age from a transnational perspective. It demonstrates the degree to which national experiences were intertwined with those of other nations, and how each crisis was implicated in wider regional, continental, and global developments. Readers will find innovative and stimulating chapters on various political, social, and economic subjects by some of the leading scholars working on modern European history today.