18 Ways World War I Directly Shaped The Way We Live Now

Published: 22 April 2024

By Kellen Perry
via the Ranker website


Also known as the Great War, World War I was a horrific world conflict that lasted for roughly four years (1914-1918). You know a bit about WWI from history class: the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, “the War to End All Wars,” Allied powers vs. Central powers, trench warfare, Europe forever changed, millions upon millions of lives lost. But do you really know how World War I changed the world?

The impacts of World War I on the world are far-reaching and immeasurable. This list merely covers some of the most significant and obvious ways that it changed the world. First and foremost, it changed warfare forever, and along the way, ushered in countless technological advances we still use today. It was an event that straddled times of great advancement, something that was documented both with modern film photography and traditional paintings. Some of these things – like more effective sanitary napkins – were destined to be developed anyway, but one of the ways WWI changed the world was by greatly hastening these developments: Necessity is, as they say, the mother of invention. Read on to learn how World War 1 shaped the modern world.

It Forever Changed How Wars Were Fought

It was in WWI that “technology became an essential element in the art of war,” to quote Guillermo Altares of El PaísSubmarines, aerial bombardment, armored tanks, toxic gas attacks, barbed wire – all were either invented or revolutionized during the Great War.

It was also the first time technology was such an overwhelmingly destructive force, with poison gas alone capable of wiping out thousands at a time. The Germans even had so-called “blue cross” shells containing diphenylchlorarsine, which made victims sneeze violently. They called these shells “mask breakers.”

WWI Forever Changed The Public’s Attitude Toward War

Historian Jay Winter argues that WWI “discredited the concept of glory” and exposed the idea that it was noble to perish for one’s country as an “old lie.” Winter claims that the “propaganda” literature and painting of war was “cleaned away” by artists and poets following WWI because “millions of men slaughtered deserved more than elevated prose; they deserved the unadulterated truth.”

This truth came to light in the “nonsense verse of the Dada movement and in the nightmare paintings of the surrealists,” who “denounced the obscenities” of armed conflict. Winter also notes that soldiers writing popular memoirs helped expose the realities of WWI to millions back at home.

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