1. Introduction

I have always agreed with Ortega y Gasset when he said his famous phrase "I am me and my circumstances". I have always believed that the atmosphere in which you grow up influences you for all your life, as well every experience you life. Every thing you do has its result, and your soul and mind are a result of what you do, what you feel, what you think, and so on. This is why I think it is very important, when analysing a person, here a writer, that we consider the experiences that occurred when he lived. Therefore, I am going to sum up the most important historical events that took place during Huxley’s life years. I am going to focus this work in the history of Great Britain and the United States of America, which are the countries in which Huxley lived during most of his life.


The twentieth century has been a very complicated period of time; two World Wars, an economic crack, and a number of other incidents took place in this time. For some Europeans the years between 1871 and 1914 were some kind of belle époche. Science had developed a lot and had managed to make life easier for people. Europe assumed that it had a role in the civilization, and so colonialism expanded. Even though, there were some intellectuals like the extraordinary Russian writer Fiódor Dostoievski, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietszche or the Austrian Sigmund Freud who criticised this feeling of optimism towards the human rational capacity.

The Bóer War of England in South Africa took place between 1899 and 1902; it ended when Queen Victoria had already died. Austria – Hungary, Russia and France suffered from a break out of Semitic hatred. Due to colonialist interests, the rivalry between countries grew; there were also some problems with nationalism, especially, after the German and Italian reunion. So, to sum up, there was a big number of problems that had to do with politics and nationalist feelings that were very difficult to solve. Meanwhile, the working class became more powerful thanks to the socialist and Marxist political parties. In 1890, Bismarck wasn’t anymore in the ruling sphere of Germany. Wilhem II, which was now the ruler wasn’t so efficient as Bismarck, and, as a result of a series of reasons, Great Britain, France and Russia made the Triple Entente (before this, the relationship between Great Britain and Russia weren’t very positive; Great Britain and France built in 1904 the Cordiale Entente). Edward VII ruled in Britain from 1901 since 1914. The Triple Entente was created to face the alliance between Austria-Hungary, Germany and Italy. The relationship between France and Germany was very deteriorated, and even more after the war of 1870-1871. The situation in Europe was very delicate. The rivalry between Russia and Austria grew, and Germany was therefore in a dangerous location. Then the incident that without turnover led into the first World War was the murder of the Austrian archduke by a Serb, Gavrilo Princip on June 28, 1914.

2. World War I

Great Britain sent an army to France immediately after declaring World War I to try to stop the German. The number of deaths began to increase and the European population panicked. The war was to last very little, just to solve the situation and relationships between the countries, but, as it always happens, the war ended up lasting four difficult years, until the last weeks of 1918. In the end, as a result of this war, the German, the Austrian and the Russian Empire disappeared, and the bigger part of the young generation was now dead. Woodrow Wilson, the United States President, turned out to be a very important figure in the Conference of the Paris Peace in 1919; he had introduced U.S.A. in the war against Germany in 1917. While Europe tried to achieve a democratic situation, this same year, in 1917, the Bolshevik leader Lenin who was now in power of the Russian nation, appealed to the European proletarian to fight for the socialist revolution. France and Great Britain didn’t care in the moment for such ideological revolution; they were interested in economic solutions. Therefore, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria had to sign some treatises giving up land. After the war; Lloyd George, of the liberal party, won the elections; Britain received as a result of the war some colonies in Africa. In 1922, the conservative Bonar Law removed Lloyd from the power.

Spain remained neutral during the war; the country was still recovering from the disastrous 1898. In spite of its neutrality, the Spanish society was divided into two groups: the ones who supported the allies and the ones who were in favour of the German.

The period between both World Wars was very difficult. There had been a lot of people dead because of the war and due to an epidemic flu , which killed twenty million people all around the world. Even though, some positive things appeared, like the UNO fundation, the fact that Russia wasn’t anymore under the dictatorship of the czar, and other aspects of the European present. During 1929 and some years after, the unemployment grew a whole lot in Great Britain, who was strongly affected by the Economic Crack. Still, nationalism and its consequences appeared as real, and this meant a whole lot of problems that would be reflected in the Second World War. The Versailles Treatise was very severe with the German; it established a culprit for starting WW I, and it was Germany; besides the economic measures that the French tried to impose were shameful, and Germany couldn’t manage to pay and obey everything. On the other hand, the relationship between France and Italy became wore, because the Italians thought that they deserved more than they got from the beaten in the war.

Benito Mussolini established a fascist dictatorship in 1922; he made nationalism grow between the Italian population. Meanwhile, in Germany, Adolf Hitler managed to achieve power thanks to the inflation and the economic depression among other reasons. Stalin, as Lenin’s successor, incited the nationalistic feeling in Russia. In Spain, monarchy ended after the elections in 1931. The Spanish Republic had a lot of enemies among the anarchists, the fascists and the church. In 1936, the Spanish Civil War broke out; Spain was completely divided into two sectors; the right – and the left winged. The war finished in 1939 with the victory of the general Francisco Franco, who had the support from two very important and powerful men: Hitler and Mussolini.

3. World War II

To solve the political and economic problems in Europe, France and Great Britain used the apeacement politics, with Neville Chamberlain leading it. France and Great Britain declared the war to Germany, the World War II began, the German army was very powerful and began taking up land and countries. After 1941, when Hitler ordered the invasion to the USSR. and when Japan set out a number of bombs over Pearl Harbor, Russia, the U.S.A. and Great Britain (with Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt) joined to try to make Germany stop its nazi and cruel politics. On spring of 1945, Hitler committed suicide and Germany lost. The Labour Party of Britain won the general elections of 1945 with an absolute majority. The government tried to improve the social situation during the time they ruled.

4. 1945-1964

After both wars, Europe was in a deplorable situation; the USSR and the USA were going to be the most important countries in the next years, increasing the rivalry between them, so that, in the end, the Cold War took place. Germany was divided in 1949 into Occidental and Oriental Germany; this meant the division of the continent. Communism started to gain importance in Oriental Europe, so the USA secretary, George C. Marshall set on a plan (Marshall Plan) to help the economic recovery of Europe. This was rejected by the governments of Oriental Europe, which were under the influence of Soviet power. On the other hand, West Europe started an extraordinary economic improvement. Apart from this, the NATO was created, and, this way, West Europe depended more from the USA (Great Britain joined NATO in 1949). The conservatives ruled in Britain from 1951 until 1964, but didn’t undertake important changes. France and Great Britain were forced to lose their empire. There was a big movement of descolonization during the two first decades after the war. The English Commonwealth lost importance. This decadence of imperialism reflected the lamentable situation of Europe, that had no political nor economic power. It wasn’t a time of hopes in Europe; Jean Paul Sartre reflected this with his philosophy; existentialism.

Even though the power of the USSR in East Europe, they couldn’t manage to avoid nationalism. In 1956, the Hungarians fought against the powerful soviets, in the Cheque Republic, the communist Alexander Dubcek led an important movement of liberation.

The USA had a lot of influence over West Europe, and some people like Charles de Gaulle, the President of the French Republic V, saw that there was some danger in this strong dependence. De Gaulle interrupted the French relationships with the NATO, and started developing its own nuclear armament. The next step for a collaboration between the European countries and a separation from the USA was in 1951, when France, the federal republic of Germany, Italy and the Netherlands joined to establish the market of coal and steel. In 1957, the European Economic Community was formed.

Two World Wars, an economic depression and the deplorable social situation that Great Britain suffered after these events were the reasons that explain the kind of literature written during this period of time. Young writers started to criticise the traditional values of the Victorian society. The ideal way of criticising was the satire.


Biobliography for this page: Encarta ' 98

© Mireia Ferrandis Pradas