In the course of the horrors of the two World Wars, Europeans threw away their position of world leadership: Europe was eclipsed through European folly. In 1914 Europe’s power and prestige were unrivalled: Europeans led the field in almost any sphere one cared to mention - science, culture, economics, fashion. Through their colonial empires and trading companies, European powers dominated the globe.
By 1945 almost all had been lost: the Europeans had fought each other to the point of utter exhaustion. European political power was greatly diminished; Europe’s military and economic power was overtaken; European colonial power was no longer sustainable. European culture lost its confidence; European prestige, and moral standing, all but evaporated. With one notable exception, every single European state that entered the fray in 1914 was destined to suffer military defeat and political annihilation by 1945.
The one country to avoid total disaster was only able to survive by surrendering its political and financial independence. When the wartime dust finally settled, the European ruins were controlled by two extra-European powers, the USA and the USSR, neither of which had even been present at the start.
Norman Davies. Europe - a history