Life in 1914 was by most measures a lot harder than it is in 2014 for the vast majority of the world's people. Without effective antibiotics and with only nascent knowledge of the causes of many diseases, stricken children and the vulnerable old had little hope of survival. The great influenza pandemic of 1918-19 killed some 50 million people worldwide. Polio mercilessly struck both rich and poor until vaccines were developed in the 1950s. At the dawn of the automobile age, cities were crowded and filthy, and long-distance travel was unreliable and slow. Refrigeration, enabling the delivery of food to distant markets and its preservation in the home, was still a distant prospect. In the public sphere as in the privacy of the family, women, half the global population, were woefully disenfranchised, as were ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples. They played no role in the decisions of state that were soon to convulse the so-called civilized world in an orgy of self-destruction. Although independence movements were stirring in imperial territories, colonialism still bestrode large swaths of Asia and Africa, and political self-determination remained a dream. Adapted from the source document.
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