• Unit 8: The Collapse of Empires in the Middle East and Asia

    In this unit, we explore the consequences of World War I and World War II. European imperialism revolutionized geopolitics and defined the development of the modern world. It also promoted feelings of nationalism, a sentiment that galvanized countries, led to revolutions, and shaped their interactions with the world. The growth of nationalism directly contributed to the outbreak of World War I, when the Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on June 28, 1914, to protest Austrian control of Serbia. As we learned in Unit 3, Europe's web of alliances drew the European continent (and the entire world due to their colonial holdings) into the war.

    World War I fundamentally disrupted the European world order and ultimately led to the rise of fascism in the form of Adolph Hitler (1889–1945) in Germany and Benito Mussolini (1883–1945) in Italy. Just as Napoleon had before him, Hilter took advantage of the political and economic instability to push German nationalists on the need to conquer Europe. Meanwhile, Japan moved into mainland Asia, and England and France carved up the remains of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. The Zionist movement began to gain momentum, but the atrocities holocaust convinced the world of the need to create a separate Jewish homeland in 1945.

    World War II cemented the new world order. But the victors had learned about the need to reclaim geopolitical stability despite the physical destruction. The United States helped Europe and Japan rebuild. But the Middle East remained dangerously divided, and the United States and Soviet Union, the world's two new superpowers, would embark on a Cold War that would maintain relative peace, using their stockpiles of nuclear weapons as leverage.

    Completing this unit should take you approximately 14 hours.

    • 8.1: The End of the Ottoman Empire and Reorganization of the Middle East

      The Middle East is home to Sumer, the world's oldest recognized civilization founded between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the Mesopotamia region of the Fertile Crescent from 4500–4000 B.C. The early population (the Ubaid people) was notable for their farming communities, raising cattle, weaving textiles, and working with carpentry and pottery. This region later became the home of the Babylonian (c. 1895–539 B.C.), Achaemenid or Persian (550–329 B.C.), and Sassanian (212–651) empires.

      When Islam began to spread in the 7th century, the Middle East, parts of Africa, and India fell under Islamic control. Islamic rulers (caliphs) established vast empires (caliphates). As we have discussed, the Islamic Caliphates were great centers of learning and science. The last widely recognized caliphate was the Ottoman Empire which spread its hegemony over Turkey and the Middle East between 1299–1924.

    • 8.2: World War I and the Growth of Nationalism and Zionism

      During World War I, the Ottoman Empire allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary because it was eager to extinguish British control from its dominions. However, after the Allies (United Kingdom, France, Russia, Italy, Japan, United States) defeated the Central Powers (Germany, Austria Hungary, Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria) in 1918, Britain, France, Greece, and Russia took it upon themselves to divide the Ottoman territories up.

      The empire was essentially wiped off the map with the signing of the Armistice of Mudros (1918), which ended fighting in the Middle East between the Allies and the Ottoman Empire. Interestingly, Britain and Russia had occupied Iran during the war because they feared it would join the Central Powers – Britain took the southern and central regions of Iran with its oil fields, while Russia took the north. This direct occupation led to a great famine that killed more than a quarter of the Iranian population from 1918 to 1919.

    • 8.3: Fascism in Europe

      In Europe, the end of World War I contributed directly to the growth of nationalism and fascism, a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and a regimented society and economy. In 1919 at the end of World War I, the Allied Powers signed the Treaty of Versailles at the Paris Peace Conference. They placed responsibility for the war squarely on German shoulders. The 1921 London Schedule of Payments required Germany to pay $33 billion (in today's currency) in reparations to the Allied Powers.

    • 8.4: The Effect of World War II on the Middle East

      World War II left Europe scarred and devastated. Extensive fighting and bombing in England, France, Germany, and Italy left the continent economically and politically fractured. More than six million Jews, in addition to political dissidents, the disabled, homosexuals, and gypsies, were killed in the Nazi death camps. The war also disrupted colonial holdings across the globe, as revolutions for independence in India and China pushed the European powers out of Asia. Nationalist movements in Africa began to gain momentum. In Indochina, Cambodia and Laos gained their independence from France. Vietnam had to wait for the conclusion of a deadly and controversial war to gain its independence from the United States in 1975.

    • Unit 8 Assessment

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