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A further weakening of the position of Europe came with the diminuendo of the colonial empires of Britain, France and the Netherlands.The stress and expense of war and of humiliation at the hands of Japan had already impacted severely upon the positions of the imperial powers, while the opposition of the USA and of the emergent United Nations to colonial possessions was a further factor.Few would deny that the great context for the development of Europe, politically, socially and economically, in the immediate post-war years was the war, but did it really transform Europe and, if so, for how long?
A feature of the post-1945 settlement was thus, if settlement is not an inappropriate term, the brutal displacement of populations.
Whereas the Versailles Settlement had attempted to make frontiers coincide with national or ethnic divisions, the aftermath of the Second World War saw peoples made to fit frontiers.
In that the division was also an ideological one, it determined the nature of economies and societies.
It is, however, when we come to the economic and social effects of the war upon Europe, that determining the degrees and the ways in which the experience of the war as well as its outcome shaped the post-war world becomes difficult.
The article evaluates the degree to which the Second World War was responsible for the development of Europe since 1945.
It seeks to disentangle effects that were clearly directly due to the war from those which can be seen as the result of changes already affecting pre-war Europe, and those due to post-war developments, such as the Cold War and the European Union.
As Mark Mazower (born 1958) has commented, "imperial powers were rarely forced to retreat as a direct result of military insurrection – Algeria was the exception rather than the rule".
Nevertheless, decolonisation impacted severely upon the political positions of the imperial powers, particularly Britain and France.
The major problem is that of distinguishing between pre-war influences, the experience of the war, its result, and the Cold War, which followed so swiftly.
The relentless advance of Allied forces in 19 achieved a victory, so complete as to prevent any revival of the defeated regimes.