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Key questions in modern world history

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)

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

 What went wrong at Gallipoli in 1915?

 Did people agree with Churchill's stand on appeasement?

 Why did the Allies find it hard to agree about a Second Front in the Second World War?

 Was Churchill really worried about the Battle of the Atlantic? And if so, why?

 Could Britain have done more to help the Jews in the Second World War?

 Did the League of Nations matter in the 1920s?

 What was the significance of Pearl Harbor?

 Did nuclear weapons help to make the world safer between 1945 and 1951?

 Churchill and the Cold War: Why did Churchill make his famous ‘Iron Curtain’ speech in 1946?

 Who deserves the credit for developing the tank?

 How united were the Big Three at the Yalta Conference in 1945?

 Was the Dunkirk evacuation a triumph or a disaster?

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