The last episode of The World at War is interesting with some reflections on the aftermath. While Germany lost the war, there was a positive outcome. Militarism was well and truly smashed and a modern democracy established, which might not have happened without a war. The generosity of the Marshall Plan also ensured a period of dramatic economic growth and wealth creation to enable Germany to mature as a nation.
The historian at the end suggested that Britain was the big loser as it bankrupted itself and lost an empire. Arguably, it took forty years and inflation to restore public sector debt to GDP to “normal” levels. The loss of the empire is an interesting one. The weakness of Britain after the war and the raised expectations of the colonies meant that there was a largely peaceful transfer of political power.
This was probably the first time in history that an empire had been dismantled peacefully and voluntarily. If there hadn’t been a war, would this have happened? Who knows, but there must have been a chance that Britain would have been embroiled in a succession of wars of independence. The fact that this, for the most part, didn’t happen was a very positive outcome for a traumatic period of history, it seems to me.