For a significant portion of our history, Europe has seen constant battles and bloodshed, often due to leaders or military forces with desire of holding sovereignty over other countries – such as the Norman Conquest lead by William the Conqueror, desire to distinguish their country as an independent state – such as the Irish War of Independence lead by the IRA, or even for political reasons - such as the holocaust lead by renowned political extremist and dictator Adolf Hitler.
Although these events, along with a multitude of other wars – civil, guerilla or full-frontal attacks on other countries - were undoubtedly devastating to Europe due to the large loss of lives and the impact on the economy, they seem to rate very low in terms of continental destruction today upon reflection of the two wars that were severely damaging to Europe – World War I and World War II.
The aftermath of World War I saw the most social disruption and economic damage in Europe’s history at the time. The absence of men who had been killed meant housewives struggled as their husbands were no longer available to play their role as ‘breadwinner’ which was worsened by the fact that taxes were raised by the government, who had also established new departments in efforts to rebuild their war-torn states. Millions of civilians were displaced as new borders appeared with four domains disappearing from our maps. These are just a few of the consequences suffered throughout Europe until treaties such as the Treaty of Versailles officially brought the war to an end in 1919, many clauses of which pertained to the formation of ‘The League of Nations’ – the primary attempt to stop war breaking out between European countries, an action deemed necessary so that countries could be rebuilt and their people could stop suffering. However, there were flaws in the arrangement as it did not include three of the world’s most powerful countries – America, who refused to join and Germany and Russia who were not allowed to join. With no associated military force, the League had only empty threats to work with and its strongest members – Britain and France – were suffering in terms of both economy and armed forces.
World War II lasted six years, dramatically crippling the European economy. A war responsible for over 40 million deaths was inevitably going to cause large scale damage to society as a whole. For example, cities were reduced to ruins, food had to be rationed due to halved agricultural production, and communications were severely disrupted due to the destruction of railways, bridges and harbours.
In his speech in Zurich, September 1946, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill encouraged the idea of European countries banding together, he likened it to ‘a kind of United States of Europe’. However, this view has not always brought enthusiasm, with some fearing the idea of a ‘super state’, loss of sovereignty, spending money/sharing resources where they will not see a return or...