See also: Timeline of World War II
The start of the war is generally held to be 1 September 1939 beginning with the German invasion of Poland; Britain and France declared war on Germany two days later. Other dates for the beginning of war include the Japanese invasion of Manchuria on 13 September 1931; the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War on 7 July 1937; or one ofseveral other events.
Others follow A. J. P. Taylor, who held that there was a simultaneous Sino-Japanese War in East Asia, and a Second European War in Europe and her colonies. The two wars merged in 1941, becoming a single global conflict, at which point the war continued until 1945. This article uses the conventional dating.
The exact date of the war's end is not universally agreed upon. Ithas been suggested that the war ended at the armistice of 14 August 1945 (V-J Day), rather than the formal surrender of Japan (2 September 1945); in some European histories, it ended on V-E Day (8 May 1945). The Treaty of Peace with Japan was not signed until 1951.
Main article: Causes of World War II
World War I radically altered the diplomatic and political situations inEurasia and Africa with the defeat of the Central Powers, including Austria-Hungary, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire; and the 1917 Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia. Meanwhile the success of the Allied Entente powers including the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Italy, Serbia, and Romania and the creation of new states from the collapse of Austria-Hungary and the Russian Empire resultedin a major shift in the balance of power from central and eastern Europe to the Atlantic littoral. In the aftermath of the war major unrest in Europe rose, especially irredentist and revanchist nationalism and class conflict. Irredentism and revanchism were strong in Germany because she was forced to accept significant territorial, colonial, and financial losses as part of theTreaty of Versailles. Under the treaty Germany lost around 13 percent of its home territory and all of its overseas colonies, while German annexation of other states was prohibited, massive reparations were imposed and limits were placed on the size and capability of Germany's armed forces. Meanwhile, the Russian Civil War had led to the creation of the Soviet Union. After Lenin's death in 1924,Stalin seized power in the USSR and repudiated the New Economic Policy favouring the Five Year Plans instead.
In the interwar period, domestic civil conflict occurred in Germany involving nationalists and reactionaries versus communists and moderate democratic political parties. A similar scenario occurred in Italy. Although Italy as an Entente ally made some territorial gains, Italiannationalists were angered that the terms of the Treaty of London upon which Italy had agreed to wage war on the Central Powers, were not fulfilled with the peace settlement. From 1922 to 1925, the Italian Fascist movement led by Benito Mussolini seized power in Italy with a nationalist, totalitarian, and class collaborationist agenda that abolished representative democracy, repressed political forcessupporting class conflict or liberalism, and pursued an aggressive foreign policy aimed at forcefully forging Italy as a world power, and promising to create a "New Roman Empire." In Germany, the Nazi Party led by Adolf Hitler pursued establishing such a fascist government in Germany. With the onset of the Great Depression, Nazi support rose and, in 1933, Hitler was appointed Chancellor ofGermany, and in the aftermath of the Reichstag fire, Hitler created a totalitarian single-party state led by the Nazis.
The Kuomintang (KMT) party in China launched a unification campaign against regional warlords and nominally unified China in the mid-1920s, but was soon embroiled in a civil war against its former Chinese communist allies. In 1931, an increasingly militaristic Japanese...