World War I, also called First World War or Great War, an international conflict that in 1914–18 embroiled most of the nations of Europe along with Russia, the United States, the Middle East, and other regions. The war pitted the Central Powers—mainly Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey—against the Allies—mainly France, Great Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan, and, from 1917, the United States. It ended with the defeat of the Central Powers. The war was virtually unprecedented in the slaughter, carnage, and destruction it caused.
Great Britain entered World War I on 4 August 1914 when the king declared war after the expiration of an ultimatum to Germany. The official explanation focused on protecting Belgian neutrality, and the main reason, however, was to prevent a French defeat that would have left Germany in control of Western Europe. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was one of the Allied Powers during the First World War of 1914–1918, fighting against the Central Powers (the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Bulgaria). Britain’s colonies sent over two and a half million men to fight for Britain during the war. Great Britain, Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary all ruled empires. Their colonies sent supplies, food, and soldiers to help in the war effort. During the war, the Royal Family changed its surname from ‘Saxe-Coburg-Gotha’ to ‘Windsor’, which sounded more British.
World War II, also called the Second World War, a conflict that involved virtually every part of the world during the years 1939–45. The principal belligerents were the Axis powers—Germany, Italy, and Japan—and the Allies—France, Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and, to a lesser extent, China. The war was in many respects a continuation, after an uneasy 20-year hiatus, of the disputes left unsettled by World War I. The 40,000,000–50,000,000 deaths incurred in World War II make it the bloodiest conflict, as well as the largest war, in history. England’s entry into World War 2 was forced by the non-stop aggression of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany. England formed the Western Frontline against the German offensive; if not for English bravery and the entry of the United States into the European campaign, Germany might have taken Great Britain. Britain went to war with Germany when Poland was attacked. It allied with France and Greece and Norway, but all three of those countries were occupied by the Germans. The Royal Air Force then stopped the attempt by the Germans to defeat England by preventing an invasion. The Royal Navy with the assistance of the Royal Canadian Navy kept the convoy routes across the Atlantic open. British forces were attacked in the Pacific when the Japanese started their advances and lost Hong Kong and Singapore. They stopped the Japanese in their attack on India. England itself provided an ‘unsinkable’ aircraft carrier, for the Allied Air Forces offensive against Germany. England and the Allies liberated North Africa, then invaded Sicily and Italy. In 1944 the Allies landed in France and pushed toward Germany. The Allies defeated the German offensive in the Battle of the Bulge and entered Germany, linked up with the Soviets advancing from the east and the war was over in Europe. The Royal Navy then sent most of its strength to the Pacific to assist the US in the war against Japan. Japan surrendered.
Modernism took shape decades before World War I, but its clamorous arrival was vastly accelerated by the greatest collective trauma in history to that point. World War I reshaped the notion of what art is, just as it forever altered the perception of what war is. Although World War II racked up more catastrophic losses in blood and treasure, World War I remains the paradigmatic conflict of the modern age, not only politically but also culturally. During and after World War I, the flowery Victorian language was blown apart and replaced by more sinewy and R-rated prose styles. In visual art, Surrealists and Expressionists devised wobbly, chopped-up perspectives and nightmarish visions of fractured human bodies and splintered societies slouching toward moral chaos. The fear that powerful new machines invented to serve humanity might instead destroy it also took root around World War I, later spreading into science fiction and the debates surrounding today’s aerial drone warfare.
Art theft and looting occurred on a massive scale during World War II. It originated with the policies of the Axis countries, primarily Nazi Germany and Japan, which systematically looted occupied territories. Near the end of the war the Soviet Union, in turn, began looting reclaimed and occupied territories. “The grand scale of looted artwork by the Nazis has resulted in the loss of many pieces being scattered across the world.”Countless pieces of art were stolen during the Holocaust and many were destroyed. The Nazis were relentless in their efforts to get rid of the Jewish people and their culture. Paintings that had been passed down from generation to generation were taken and destroyed. This was extremely emotionally hard for many Jewish families because it was not only an attack on their families and culture but also on their history. There have barely been any efforts of restitution. Many of the families who lost art are simply now left with claims. One of the primary problems encountered by individuals pursuing claims is that it is difficult to locate the necessary documentation on provenance. Organizations with information on a piece’s history, museums in particular, often have a disincentive to share information that could assist in an heir’s claim.
Postmodernism is a broad movement that developed in the mid- to late 20th century across philosophy, the arts, architecture, and criticism, marking a departure from modernism. The term has been more generally applied to the historical era following modernity and the tendencies of this era. Postmodern literature is literature characterized by reliance on narrative techniques such as fragmentation, paradox, and the unreliable narrator; and is often (though not exclusively) defined as a style or a trend that emerged in the post–World War II era. Some famous thinkers associated with postmodernism are Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Pierre-Félix Guattari, Fredric Jameson, Emmanuel Lévinas, Jean-François Lyotard, Richard Rorty, and Slavoj Žižek.
The Modernist Period in English Literature occupied the years from shortly after the beginning of the twentieth century through roughly 1965. In broad terms, the period was marked by sudden and unexpected breaks with traditional ways of viewing and interacting with the world. Experimentation and individualism became virtues, wherein the past they were often heartily discouraged. Modernism was set in motion, in one sense, through a series of cultural shocks. The first of these great shocks was the Great War, which ravaged Europe from 1914 through 1918, known now as World War One. In Modernist literature, it was the poets who took fullest advantage of the new spirit of the times and stretched the possibilities of their craft to lengths not previously imagined. In general, there was a disdain for most of the literary production of the last century.
Important British writers between the World Wars, include the Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid (1892–1978), who began publishing in the 1920s, and novelists Virginia Woolf (1882–1941), E. M. Forster (1879–1970) (A Passage to India, 1924), Evelyn Waugh (1903–66), P. G. Wodehouse (1881–1975) (who was not a modernist) and D. H. Lawrence.
Economic historians have considered the impact on Britain of the dislocation of international trade flows, and the ways in which Britain coped with the wartime disappearance of imports of key supplies rendered inaccessible through either their association with enemy powers or the limited capacity of British shipping. The area of food supply was crucial here. Britain was a pre-war importer of the majority of her foodstuffs. The poor harvests of 1916-1917, combined with the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare by Germany in February 1917, were tackled by increased government control of food supplies and a shift in agricultural practice away from dairy to arable produce. The net result of these activities across industry and agriculture was that Britain was able to contribute a significant share towards the Allies’ superabundance of materiel in 1918 whilst simultaneously maintaining health and morale on the home front. Consequently, Britain was not seriously troubled by the shortages that contributed to discontent and revolution within the Central Powers and Russia.