Churchill inspecting the bomb-damaged House of Commons in May 1941, London. (Reproduced from the Broadwater Collection with the permission of Curtis Brown Group Ltd, London on behalf of the Broadwater Collection. Original held at the Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge)

Key questions in modern world history

The first half of the twentieth century was a period of momentous developments in world history. Rival empires grew to their heights and clashed in the First World War.

Between the wars politicians tried to build peaceful alliances like the Locarno Treaties – agreements between the allied powers and new states of Central and Eastern Europe, securing postwar territories – and to co-operate through the League of Nations, a forum created after the First World War to resolve international disputes.

But some politicians were more interested in war.

The Second World War was fought over ideologies – democracy against fascism – as well as the strategic interests of the nations involved. As the Second World War ended, another conflict of rival ideologies began, resulting in a new kind of war: the Cold War. A new world order developed as the US and the USSR emerged as superpowers and the old powers, including Britain, went into decline.

Winston Churchill was at the heart of many of the great developments of the period. He was an important figure in the First World War, a prominent voice for much of the interwar period and of course he led Britain in the Second World War.

He was a passionate supporter of the US and, although he allied with the Soviet Union in the Second World War against Hitler, was later an enemy of the USSR in the Cold War.
Even when he wasn’t in power, Churchill was researching and writing about world affairs and exchanging letters with world leaders and ordinary members of the public from different countries.

As a result, the Churchill Archive provides a valuable and fascinating insight into this period. We’ve collected material from the Archive which will allow you to explore this exciting period of history.


Click on the questions below to investigate these key questions in modern world history




A cemetery near Ypres, Belgium, the scene of bitter fighting during the First World War. (Popperfoto/Getty Images)