Wall Street and the First World War

Due to the centenary, many previously unsung heroes of WWI have had their stories revealed. Among these stories is that of Wall Street, which helped to fund the efforts of the Allies during the conflict. While the Great War devastated numerous countries, this was not generally so with the Allies. This is largely due to the help they received from Wall Street in the form of immense levels of funding.

The United States was in a fairly decent position prior to the war, economically speaking. This was largely due to the money that many had made through the purchase and sales of stocks and bonds. Though this bubble would eventually burst, leading to a period of depression (a precursor to the Great Depression a few years later), Wall Street had helped many American citizens to increase the size of their pocketbooks for the time being. Brokerage firms helped more than the workaday citizen, however, acting as bankers and helping to fund important battles such as that of the Somme. Interestingly enough, they did this long before America had formally joined the war effort.

Having had a staggering impact on the Allies’ ability to fight the war, America was in a position to become one of the war’s primary military powers. Thanks to the combination of their strong military and the aid they provided through Wall Street, America gained enough respect to help draft the Treaty of Versailles as well as to help create the League of Nations, the precursor to today’s UN. While something akin to the United Nations may have been created eventually no matter what, America was vital in creating the League.

Interestingly enough, while America had a say in much of what happened at the end of the war, they were never a part of the League of Nations itself. In much the same way as they were not involved in the war at the time Wall Street was contributing to the effort, America contributed to post-war accommodations without formally becoming a part of them. Their biggest hand was in the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, which failed to ensure the peace it promised, the Business Insider reports.

The contributions of Wall Street to the First World War likely had a lot to do with America’s growing prominence as a nation. Although they were soon to enter a period of heavy depression, followed by more war, America began to grow in the world’s consciousness. The drafting of post-war treaties and the formation of the League of Nations demonstrated that Wall Street had bought America a sense of respect, which would only continue to grow.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE