What Were Some of the Most Important Effects of World War II?

World War II resulted in many far-reaching and long-term effects on the course of history, some of which included a major rearrangement of the power balance between nations, the beginning of the Atomic Age and the Cold War, the end of colonial empires and the rise of nationalism within former colonies, the creation of the United Nations and the European Union, numerous border changes and a restrengthening of the United States economy which had been previously debilitated by the Great Depression. The balance of power shifted to two major post-war alliances: NATO, which was led by the United States, and the Warsaw Pact led by the Soviet Union. This resulted in the Cold War power struggle and the eruption of several proxy wars, such as the Vietnam Conflict.

The revulsion experienced by the international community as a result of the many atrocities and human rights violations that came to light after World War II ended gave rise to a global movement focused on human rights protections. In 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or UDHR, the provisions of which set a standard for both times of conflict and peace.

In addition to the economic recovery and dominance that the U.S. saw as a result of the war, a sense of empowerment was experienced by the women, African-Americans and Mexican-Americans who contributed to the war effort both overseas and on the home front. This helped foster and support a heightened post-war movement to achieve greater equality and economic parity across racial and gender lines within the U.S., and it helped bring about significant changes to American society in the years following the war.