How the Second World War shifted the course of human history

The Colossus, first programmable computer used by allied forces, primarily used for decoding German coded messages

Every war in human history is remembered for many things, the heroism of people who fought in the war, atrocities that happened throughout the war etc. Second World War is often remembered for the damage it caused on humanity, especially because of the atrocities and human right violations happened throughout the course of war. Humanity still remembers the massive death toll; the Second World War had imposed on its participant countries. The Second World War was a great piece of human activity, where mankind was stretched beyond its usual capabilities and course of propagation. Mankind was forced to take many new roads of inventions and innovations that it was not been able to take because of several reasons such as risk to life, cost of initiation etc. For instance, the two nuclear explosions that took a great number of human lives were also a magnificent piece of human workmanship; the only backdrop was that it was used for an act of destruction. All together the Second World War really turned the evolution course of humanity on several fronts.

Diplomacy and Decolonization

Second World War laid foundations to the modern world. It brought many changes especially in the field of International Relations; the damage inflicted by the war caused nations of pride to bow down for a common cause of peace and progress. Thus many of these world powers that resorted to a policy of isolation were forced to open their diplomatic channels and shift their international policies and interests into a negotiable and cooperative manner. Ever since the end of Second World War, the common urge to institute a world organization that can be inclusive of all voices all over the world was in a strong mode. Later this interest of inclusiveness evolved into a much better mechanism called The United Nations, than its preceding organization, League of Nations. Later, the world sided with two major contenting powers which follow opposite ideologies creating several situations similar to that of events that escalated into the World Wars. Even though, the situation getting escalated into a global war, was avoided with the effective utilization of the diplomatic and debatable platforms provided by the United Nations.

Decolonization is one of the major aspects that shaped the modern world. Soon after the Second World War most of the colonial countries of European origin that controlled most of the colonies around the world, were not in a position to manage all of its colonies which were striving for freedom. Years of wars declined the military capability of these colonial powers on a large scale and their war shattered economy was no place near to reinforce their colonial expeditions. Cumulative International pressure and the weakening of colonial powers together forced the colonial masters to address the increasing urge from colonies from different parts of Asia, Africa etc. This led to the birth of many countries in the latter half of the Twentieth century. The formations of new countries later changed the geo-political situations and many of them are contributing heavily to global peace in the contemporary world.

Technological Boom and the Dawn of Modern World

One of the positive consequences of the Second World War was the technological advancements that mankind has achieved. Technology took a giant leap or a head start during the Second World War period starting with a ball point pen to nuclear technology. Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki shook the world with the catastrophic capabilities of nuclear power and in the later age many great powers became obsessed with it and started stockpiling it. After the World War, just like most of the technology developed during the wartime, nuclear technology also took an interesting turn. It was reintroduced again in a much more useful and progressive way. Development of nuclear technology in a much controllable way led to the invention of nuclear energy, the very same sort of energy once used to decimate the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is now powering millions of homes all over the world. Similarly many military gadgets later took their civilian incarnations and are playing a crucial role in modern man’s life, for instance the ball point pen used by RAF pilots instead of reservoir pens which were prone to leakage, is a common sight in the hands of a school child nowadays. Jet engines which were used to operate fighter aircrafts later brought the world closer making the air transportation faster and cheaper. Thus the common mindset of humanity in making use of ‘progressive facilities for destruction’ evolved into a mindset of ‘transforming the destructive weapons to facilitate human progress.

Space technology is something that saw its dawn age during the Second World War. Nazi Germany, the so called aggressors of the war, built V2 rockets which was the first form with a decent similarity to the modern day rockets. After the world war, Cold War period also contributed heavily towards modern space technology. Both United States and USSR were fit competitors to succeed the so called space competition. Together they launched satellites, put man on moon and laid the foundations to the modern world of communication. The introduction of programmable computers and their widespread usage for code breaking was the most important breakthrough that formed the modern world. The allied effort to deal with the enigma of German codes led the world to develop more on programmable machines which now facilitates most of the human activities from large scale industries to social media in the form of computers, tablets, smart phones etc.

All together, Second World War stands as the turning point of history which shifted the course of humanity, from isolation and pride to cooperation and negotiation, from conflict to progress aided with technological advancements of the War. Second World War stands as a strong reminder of human capability for destruction as well progress. When asked by future generations, “how come the world started to change so fast?” we can tell them “This was when it changed”.

Cyriac S Pampackal, currently a post graduate student in International Relations and Politics at School of International Relations and Politics, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, Kerala.


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