Sometimes, it is exciting to imagine a version of the world in a manner different from the existing one. While travelling through different parts of history in a sense of contradiction, known factors begin to produce different outcomes and one realises that reversing just a single event changes the state of the world forever. World War 1, the first truly global conflict and a momentous part of our history is one such event. It is widely known that the war concluded with the victory of Allied Powers. But what if we think of Central Powers as the ones who emerged victorious and put an end to the war? Interestingly, how the course of history would have changed, had the Central Powers won WW1?
It is 1918. Central Powers have taken over Paris, knocked out Russia and Britain out of the war, and the American army is unable to alter the Central Powers’ overwhelming strength, eventually resulting in their triumph. On being victorious, Central Powers might have annexed Belgium and bits of industrial regions of Northern France, with British and French possessions going to the German, Ottomans and Austro-Hungarians. Most likely, Germany would have absorbed Austria, considering its diminished position and weak role. As a result, Germany would have gained more land and present-day Austria would not have existed.
The Middle East would look different as well. Though already in cracks from within before WW1, Ottomans were the only Central Power monarchy to survive the war intact and still in power. But it would have fallen due to a native revolt as its ethnic population desired a statehood and no one would have seen much advantage in putting it back together again. Thus, it seems that the Austrian-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires were just as likely to fall apart even if the Central Powers won WW1. In case they had an extended lifetime, they would largely be unstable as the chaos of the war would not have allowed them to last any longer than they did.
Now, considering that Central powers got lucky, what would the peace treaty be? Along the lines of “Treaty of Versailles”, lands would have exchanged hands. Central Powers could have probably demanded all the Asian and African colonies from the British and French along with the unrestricted right to expand the German High Seas Fleet. It would have incorporated a settlement that required British Empire to cede a number of colonies to the Germans. However, India would have evaded German rule because Germany would not have been able to contain the Indian Nationalism.
After WW1 ended in reality, Germany was not only blamed but ruined by the Allied Powers. However, in the event of Central Powers’ victory, Germany would have neither paid billions in economic reparations to the Allies nor would have it suffered the grievances inflicted by France. Instead, attempts to extract reparations from Allied powers would have been made, whereupon Britain and France would be unable to pay for their war purchases. For the US, British war purchases had created an economic boom; factories taking on extra workers and working double shifts. If the market was abruptly closed off, along with victory of the Central Powers, the US would have faced an economic slump almost a decade before. The axis of an economic fallout would have reversed runs on the banks, with Britain and the US under a financial panic. America would have become an isolationist power and not an enforcer of international order.
Moreover, had the UK lost the war, it would have weakened. With a damaged economy, humiliation of defeat and the loss of its colonies, the UK would have been struggling from within, increasing the likelihood of an early Indian independence as the independence movement was already strong and consistent by then.
Central Powers, especially Germany were in shambles after WW1. People had no choice but to support leaders who promised to restore the pride and power of their nations. If Central Powers won WW1, the “Treaty of Versailles” would not have existed, thus, no calls to abrogate it would have been raised. Germany wouldn’t have been enraged by the terms and punishments dropped on it. It is likely that Hitler would have never risen to power. Even if he did, people would not have got together with him. Anti-Jewish sentiments would not have flared up and horrors of the Nazi Holocaust would have been avoided. However, if the German Jews had survived, Zionism might not have had such an international moral force that it claimed after Hitler’s defeat, thereby reducing the possibility of existence of Israel and the present-day Palestinian conflict.
What about the extent of Communism post-Central Power victory? Russia, an Allied Power, would have eluded circumstances that brought Communism to the world. The Communist regime in Russia would have probably fallen if the Central Powers won WW1. Germans would have crushed Bolsheviks in Russia and the agony and sufferings of Soviet rule could have been avoided. Therefore, there would have been no spread of communism in Eastern Europe, Cuba and China, and thus, no threats of takeovers by the Communist governments.
If Central Powers won WW1, the possibility of WW2 would have been reduced to minuscule proportions. Hitler wouldn’t be on a terror spree to restore pride and power of Germany. Moreover, no nation would have the power to even attempt to overturn a victorious and defiant power like Germany. This would have prevented a chain of unfortunate events. Hiroshima and Nagasaki wouldn’t be obliterated. If there was no WW2, there may not have been a Cold War either. Maybe today the world would be thriving in the absence of nuclear states, free from the fears of mutual destruction. No such thing as the “Bengal famine” would have existed in India’s history, saving 3 million lives that were lost owing to British wartime policies.
If Central Powers won WW1, things would have changed forever. They would be stronger and more competent than they are in history as we know. Germany fought the war with the aim of transforming itself from a merely continental power to a true world power. On recovering from the war, it would have risen to become a dominant power in Europe. Germany was already an industrial power in 1914 and it would have become a mighty world power in the event of winning WW1. It might have ended as a superior nation with abundant resources, very much like what the US is today.
Though we are just placing alternatives, we can’t ever forget that all the war plans and aims were conceived by Germany years before the occurrence of WW1 and were much finer than Allies ever planned, but the entry of the US turned the tables, providing men and machinery to the Allies.
With certainty, one can say that the world would have been a better place. Germany would never have slipped into Nazism, and neither France nor Italy into Fascism; the world would have been spared of Communism, WW2 and the Cold War, all for Central Powers victory in WW1. Several events would not have found a place in our History textbooks and some of them would be non-existent for greater good. The world would not have lost innumerable innocent lives, with far fewer people dying in the 20th century owing to events whose seeds were sown during the world war, bearing fruits in the subsequent years. History ‘might’ have been better if Central Powers won WW1, thus, proving to be an “end to all wars”. Unfortunately, this did not happen, and the reality is what it is.
What Would the World be Like if Germany Won WWI? dated 03.01.2014
Would the world be better if Central Powers won WWI? dated 28.03.2015
How World War I could have ended a whole year earlier dated 11.03.2017
What if the Germans had won the first world war? dated 25.12.2013
If Germany Had Won World War 1… dated 22.08.2009
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Currently pursuing Economics (Hons.) from SRCC, Simran is an avid reader and is always on a lookout for some ‘real’ knowledge. She is a proud member of BTS Army and has an innate obsession for Sundays. She often finds herself stuck in the rat race and struggles to have a consensus between her heart and mind.