How Much Do You Know About 20th Century Europe?

By: John Miller
Image: William Orpen

About This Quiz

Europe, for centuries, has been a linchpin of human affairs. Its many countries and peoples have contributed to the best and worst in what people can accomplish. And during the 20th century, Europeans were again the focal point of history. Do you really think you know much about Europe in the 1900s?

In the 20th century, Europe emerged from old tribal and royal battles, slowly moving toward democratic ideals of liberty and freedom. Do you know what European arts were like at the turn of the century?

But in 1914, everything changed. A single assassin murdered a political heavyweight, and in one bloody moment, an avalanche of accusations and old grudges came to the fore … and the Great War was imminent. Do you know how this war changed Europe forever?

In the ashes of that war, an unsteady peace settled over the lands. Then, a nettlesome new political group seized power in Germany, and Europe plunged into chaos all over again, but this time, nearly every nation on the planet was affected. Do you know how the Second World War shaped the demographics and politics of the region?

It’s not all gruesome, though. Europeans have created new institutions and made many strides toward bettering humanity. Take our history quiz and see if you really understand 20th century Europe!

How many world wars began in Europe in the 20th century?

Political upheavals of all kinds shook Europe in this century. Before the century was half gone, two world wars had forever altered the continent’s history.

The "Great War" refers to which conflict?

In 1914, World War I began after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. The Great War was meant to be the last war, but instead, it sparked a drive toward even greater menace.

“Cubism" came to life in Europe in the early 20th century. It referred to what?

Cubism brought new lines, angles, and aesthetics to paintings in the early 20th century. The concept took hold thanks to artists like Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.

How did WWI affect cultural life in Europe?

The Great War was all-consuming. The ideals of the Renaissance were set aside amid the propaganda of fear and hatred.

How did Europeans perceive WWI as the conflict began?

In Europe, World War I was often portrayed as an adventure — the last Great War to be fought on the continent. Later, that sentiment would change in untold ways.

In what year was the European Union formally created?

In 1993, the Maastricht Treaty created the European Union (EU), a border-smashing political move that revolutionized trade and travel within European countries.

In 1917, a revolution led to Joseph Stalin taking control of which country?

The revolution in Russia led to a Communist takeover, led by none other than Joseph Stalin. He became the ultimate leader of the Soviet Union and led his nation to war.

Which disease ravaged Europe until the epidemic finally ended in 1918?

As if WWI wasn’t bad enough, a terrible Spanish influenza pandemic swept the world. Between the war and the flu, millions of lives were lost, shifting the demographics of all European countries.

True or false, after WWII, was all of Europe in line with Western ideals and philosophies?

After the war, Europe was very much divided between the democratic ideas of the West and the Communist line of the East. The friction caused immense social strife.

What was one major demographic impact of WWI?

Millions of men lost their lives during the brutal conflict. The result? Not enough men to go around in Europe. Sometimes, the issue was called a "surplus of women."

Which country was famously divided into two following WWII?

Germany was divided into East and West Germany following the war. Berlin was split, too, by the infamous Berlin Wall, which became a symbol of Communist oppression.

What new technology brought World War I to the homefront in new ways?

Planes were a brand-new technology in WWI. Air raids left a distinct impression on soldiers and civilians alike and increased the horror and breadth of the war for everyone.

Which major organization was founded in 1920, in hopes of averting another war like WWI?

In 1920, the League of Nations was born. It was an early version of the United Nations and meant to forge a more lasting peace in the region.

Which country suffered under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which ended WWI?

France and Britain made sure the that war’s aggressor — Germany — suffered greatly under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. But it was clear to many that the treaty was simply setting the stage for more conflict.

The Treaty of Versailles had which impact on Germany?

The Treaty of Versailles harshly dealt with Germany, implementing high reparations and restricting the country from raising any sort of real army ... a detail that Hitler decided to overlook in the 1930s.

How did the European approach to WWII differ from the mentality prior to WWI?

Before WWI, Europeans were actually kind of excited for the Great War. But in the years before the Second World War, they knew they were grimly striding toward a bloodbath of the worst kind. They began manufacturing arms at a frantic pace, all the better to kill each other.

How effective was the League of Nations following its formation in 1920?

Most European countries weren’t too keen on the League of Nations following WWI. As a result, the organization never really gained traction in its peaceful aims.

How many European men died during World War I?

Roughly 8 million men perished during WWI. Twice that many were wounded, many with horrific disfiguring injuries. It’s no wonder that European perceptions of war changed after the Armistice.

Compared with World War I, how many Europeans died in WWII?

Perhaps 20 million Europeans — twice the number of WWI — died during WWII. At least 6 million of them perished in German extermination camps.

Charles de Gaulle was a war hero and eventual president of which country?

In both world wars, de Gaulle was a hero of France. His war exploits and political abilities made him one of the most powerful European presidents in the 20th century.

The Iron Curtain divided Europe after _____.

After WWI, the Soviet-controlled East faced off against the West across the Iron Curtain, the dividing line between the territories. The Iron Curtain didn’t dissolve until the USSR did ... in 1991.

What was one reason the League of Nations was a failed organization?

The League of Nations had some lofty ideals, but it failed in part because every nation had veto power. It was nearly impossible to pass a measure of any real weight.

True or false, following WWII, was Britain the world’s biggest debtor?

Before the war, Britain was the world’s biggest creditor; following the war, the country was the biggest debtor on Earth, all because Britain fought to survive Axis aggression.

What did many European cities look like following WWII?

Today, we can’t fathom the destruction of European cities during WWII. Some countries had been fought over not once, but twice. Many major cities weren’t much more than ruins.

How did economic policies change in Europe following WWII?

In the years following WWII, many new plans for rebuilding and maintaining prosperity took hold. And as such, economic policies moved more under the control of central government.

Why was the United Nations established in 1945?

After WWII, the world again came together with an organization meant to prevent yet another worldwide war. In spite of its many shortcomings, the U.N. has at least succeeded on that count.

In 1945, in the wake of WWII, there were ______ more women than men in Germany.

German men died by the droves in WWII, creating a major imbalance in the sexes. Right after the war, there were 7 million more women than men in the country.

The finances of many European countries were in shambles after WWII. What was the name of the plan that helped Europe dig out of disaster?

After the war, U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall proposed an economic aid package meant to help Europe recover from the war. The Marshall Plan’s success not only helped people get their lives back, it helped keep the Soviets at bay.

In 2004, the European Union added how many countries?

In 2004, the EU added 10 new nations to its rolls, such as Poland and the Czech Republic. The additions had huge economic and military implications for the entire region.

Which country voted to leave the EU in 2016?

So much for the EU's progress in the 20th century. In 2016, Britain’s voters made the shocking decision to leave the EU. Britain’s withdrawal from the collective will undoubtedly have long-lasting effects throughout all of Europe.

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