- Union of Democratic Control
- No-Conscription Fellowship
- Government Press Bureau
- War Propaganda Bureau
- Order of the White Feather
- International Red Cross
- Military Intelligence (MI5)
- Military Intelligence (MI6)
- Voluntary Aid Detachments
- Women's Patrols
- Women's Hospital Corps
- Women's Police Service
- Women's Land Army
- Women's Royal Airfore
- Scottish Women's Unit
- Women's Army Auxiliary Corps
- Women's Royal Navy Service
- Women's Peace Party
- Women's International League
- The Army Corps
- Army Division
The First World War: A Very Short Introduction
By the time the First World War ended in 1918, eight million people had died in what had been perhaps the most apocalyptic episode the world had known. This Very Short Introduction provides a concise and insightful history of the 'Great War', focusing on why it happened, how it was fought, and why it had the consequences it did.
It examines the state of Europe in 1914 and the outbreak of war the onset of attrition and crisis the role of the US the collapse of Russia and the weakening and eventual surrender of the Central Powers. Looking at the historical controversies surrounding the causes and conduct of war, Michael Howard also describes how peace was ultimately made, and the potent legacy of resentment left to Germany.
ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
Why World War I Matters in American History
Understanding World War I is perhaps more important than ever. The war, quite simply, shaped the world in which we live. The conflict also presented Americans with challenges remarkably similar to those confronting contemporary American society. The centennial of the war has spurred a flurry of new scholarly works and has garnered much media attention. Yet many historians still remain largely uncertain about the war's importance for the United States. The centennial offers an ideal moment to clarify the war's role in the development of the nation and to integrate the war more fully into the broader narrative of U.S. history.
Defining exactly how World War I changed American society remains difficult, in part because the answer is complex. Another difficulty arises when historians compare (as they inevitably do) the American experience to the longer, bloodier, and more socially disruptive war that Europe fought. Because the war was so obviously traumatic for Europe, these comparisons tend to obscure the harder-to-see impact of World War I on the United States.
Recent scholarship, however, underscores how the war transformed American society and why the war is relevant for understanding our contemporary world. Many of the most recent trends in World War I scholarship stem from the post-9/11 political, cultural, and social environment, which has encouraged scholars to examine World War I with fresh eyes. 9/11 was a turning point for the nation that changed governmental policies and Americans' conception of their role in the world. The same was true of World War I. Then, as now, overseas conflicts and the actions of authoritarian regimes suddenly threatened the security and well-being of Americans. Then, as now, citizens vigorously debated whether the war was America's to fight and ultimately embraced war in the name of both humanitarianism and self-defense. There are further, rather striking, parallels. Internal threats from potential terrorist cells located within the United States justified an unprecedented abridgement of civil rights, prompting disagreements over the right way to handle internal subversion. Poorly equipped men were sent into battle, and the nation failed to prepare adequately for their return home.
In this essay I review some of the recent scholarship on the war and how it is changing the way we think about the American experience in World War I. Recently, scholars of the war have re-examined Woodrow Wilson's foreign policies, investigated American humanitarian intervention overseas, established the war as a turning point in the long civil rights movement, evaluated the coercive aspects of home-front war culture, considered the role of women during the war years, investigated the battlefield with an eye on the enlisted man's experience, and examined the difficulties of war veterans coming home.
Woodrow Wilson and Wilsonianism
It is impossible to disentangle the story of how the United States entered the war and negotiated the peace without considering the personality, decision-making, and rhetoric of the nation's twenty-eighth president. A recent major biography of Woodrow Wilson by John Milton Cooper Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography (2009), takes up the reasons why the United States went to war and the genesis of Wilson's peace proposals. Cooper contends that by 1917 Wilson believed that the United States needed to take an active part in the fighting to earn a leading role at the peace table.(1) However, Cooper concludes that the American military contribution was too minor for Wilson to dictate the terms of peace. The United States' unwillingness to join the League of Nations ultimately doomed Wilson's vision of using a system of collective security to safeguard world peace.
In contrast, Ross A. Kennedy's The Will to Believe: Woodrow Wilson, World War I, and America's Strategy for Peace and Security (2009) offers a national-security explanation for Wilson's eventual decision to lead the country into war. Kennedy argues that Wilson increasingly saw a German victory as a threat to America's ability to steer clear of European power politics. Traditional accounts of U.S. entry into the war, he contends, overemphasize the importance of U.S. trade with the Allies or Wilson's missionary zeal to spread democracy. Kennedy instead believes that with the naval war bringing the war ever closer to American shores, Wilson wanted to rebuild the international political system to protect the United States from the global reverberations of European power struggles.(2) Kennedy emphasizes the flaws in Wilson's collective-security vision, which required all nations of the world to see war anywhere as a threat to their own national interests. He nonetheless notes the long shadow that Wilson's views cast over American foreign policy throughout the twentieth century.
Erez Manuela takes the debate over Wilsonianism in a new direction by investigating how the colonized world responded to Wilsonian ideals in The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism (2007).(3) Manuela investigates how intellectuals in Egypt, India, China, and Korea harnessed Wilson's phrases of "self-determination" and "consent of the governed" to create the intellectual basis for nascent anticolonial movements. Those interpretations often departed quite dramatically from what Wilson intended and illustrate the power of words and ideas to move world history.
From Manuela's perspective, the failure of international liberalism lay in its refusal to embrace the principle of equality of nations inherent in Wilsonian rhetoric, rather than the American failure to join the League of Nations (Cooper's view) or the flawed concept of collective security (Kennedy's view). Debates over Wilson and Wilsonianism clearly remain very much alive.(4) Despite their disagreements, all three historians assert that Wilsonianism had far-reaching consequences for American foreign policy and America's rise as a world power. Whether Wilsonianism represents a desirable or attainable ideal will continue to be debated as the United States seeks to make the post-9/11 world safer for its citizens.
Another intriguing new trend in World War I scholarship involves reconsidering the traditional chronology of the era. The most common chronology divides the war years into a period of neutrality racked by debates over potential American involvement in the war, followed by the war years of active engagement. Discussion of the war then ends with the Senate's refusal to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. Recent scholarship, however, rejects this chronology.
Julia F. Irwin and John Branden Little challenge the prevailing view of 1914–1917 as a time of neutrality—if by neutrality one means non-involvement.(5) They contend that the strong trading and financial ties between the Allies and U.S. industrial and banking elites suggest only a fraction of the monetary, emotional, and physical engagement of American citizens in the war. Examining the humanitarian efforts of groups such as the Red Cross and the Commission for Relief in Belgium, Irwin and Little suggest that millions of Americans sought to define an active, humanitarian role for the United States in the international arena. In particular, Little chides historians for overlooking the $6 billion American humanitarian relief effort to alleviate civilian suffering in Europe, the Soviet Union, and the Near East from 1914 to 1924. In Making the World Safe: The American Red Cross and a Nation's Humanitarian Awakening (2013), Irwin underscores the lasting impact of voluntary humanitarian work during World War I, which in her view established the widespread societal belief that citizen-initiated foreign aid benefited both the world and the United States. "The matter of American international humanitarianism is as vital now as it was in the Great War era. By understanding its history, we can better determine the role that foreign aid should play in U.S. relations with the world today," Irwin writes, noting that Americans then and now disagreed over whether foreign relief projects should be an alternative to, or in support of, military engagement.(6)
Recent scholarship also suggests that traditional accounts have concluded the story of the war too early. Ending with the failed ratification of the Treaty of Versailles curtails appreciation for how long and fervently the war's repercussions reverberated throughout American society. Taking their cue from the dynamic European scholarly debate over commemoration and mourning, several scholars have written pathbreaking accounts of how the war's memory shaped American society. For example, Lisa M. Budreau has contributed to a revised view of the war's cultural impact by tracing the creation of overseas military cemeteries. She contends that the "American way of remembrance" set the model for how the nation buried and honored war dead from that point onward.(7) Mark Whalen and Steven Trout have examined the forms that remembrance took, focusing on both artistic expression and popular culture.(8) Their research reveals the difficulty of establishing one unified memory of the war in a society fractured by race, class, and ethnicity. Americans remembered the war in multiple, and often contradictory, ways. These disagreements made it hard to establish a clear, satisfying war narrative to repeat to future generations another reason why Americans today have a hard time understanding World War I's place in American history.
There were also political, not just cultural, ramifications. Stephen R. Ortiz and I have researched the impact of veteran political activism in the postwar period.(9) Ortiz argues that the 1932 Bonus March incorporated World War I veterans into the left-leaning political coalition of New Deal dissidents who pushed President Franklin D. Roosevelt to embrace income redistribution programs such as Social Security. I focus on the links between the bonus crusade and the 1944 G.I. Bill of Rights, arguing that the law represented a final attempt to distill lessons from the past twenty years of tumultuous veteran political activism. By granting World War II veterans comprehensive educational, housing, and unemployment benefits, the government recognized the error of sending World War I veterans home with little more than the clothes on their backs. A legacy of World War I, the G.I. Bill set the benchmark against which future veteran homecomings would be measured.
The missteps after World War I included inadequate care for wounded veterans, even as veterans gained permanent access to federally funded healthcare in veterans' hospitals. Attaining the veneer of normality became the guiding ethos of veteran rehabilitation. In War's Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America (2011), Beth Linker notes that President George W. Bush was often photographed jogging with amputee war veterans. In both World War I and the present day, repairing dismembered bodies with prosthetic devices created and creates "the momentary illusion that there is no human cost of war—that there is no 'waste' in war," Linker writes.(10)
Taken together, this scholarship underscores the long involvement of Americans in the war and its reverberations in American society. It makes a strong case for the war's importance by connecting the war to pivotal historic transformations in the twentieth century, such as the rise of international humanitarianism, the development of the commemoration landscape, the potency of veteran political activism, the passage of key social welfare legislation in the 1930s and 1940s, and the creation of a federal medical bureaucracy dedicated to the care of veterans.
The War State
Our post-9/11 preoccupation with government surveillance of potential terrorist groups and the abrogation of civil liberties has prompted renewed historical attention to the growth of state power in the World War I era, when the nation mobilized to fight its first modern, total war. The scholarship in this area reinterprets the era as a pivotal moment in state-society relations, and the scholarly debate centers on how much citizens resisted or abetted the war-fueled expansion of state power.
During World War I the United States broke with its tradition of relying primarily on volunteers and used conscription to raise the bulk of its military force. Jeannette Keith's Rich Man's War, Poor Man's Fight: Race, Class, and Power in the Rural South during the First World War (2004) takes a grassroots approach to studying draft resistance in the rural South. The creative means that men devised to evade the draft impresses Keith more than the centralization of state police power.(11) In Good Americans: Italian and Jewish Immigrants during the First World War (2003), Christopher M. Sterba challenges the longstanding assumption that nativist demands for complete assimilation (100% Americanism) defined the immigrant experience during the war. Sterba argues that Italian and Jewish immigrants, both on the home front and overseas, used the war to assimilate into mainstream culture on their own terms.
In contrast to Keith's and Sterba's emphasis on the haphazard application of state coercive power, Christopher Capozzola's Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the Making of the Modern American Citizen (2008) argues that the modern surveillance state took shape during World War I. He sees the willingness of local communities to cooperate with federal directives as essential to the government's success in mobilizing for war. Capozzola coins the term "coercive voluntarism" to describe how local civic groups secured their communities' compliance with wartime edicts on food conservation, the purchases of liberty bonds, and dissent. Self-policing by community leaders on the local and state level, Capozzola contends, helped the federal government create a culture of patriotic obligation that successfully pressured citizens to provide manpower, material, and food. Even more importantly, World War I militarized the notion of citizenship, forever linking civic rights to the male obligation to serve. The present-day requirement that all male residents between the ages of 18 to 25, citizen and immigrant alike, register for selective service perpetuates this notion.
The Long Civil Rights Movement
In the aftermath of the Civil War, the ratification of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments represented tremendous civil rights achievements. However, civil rights activists were disappointed when Wilson's war for democracy failed to topple Jim Crow at home. For a long time, the historiography ended there. Recent histories, however, argue that the war was a pivotal moment when new militancy, ideologies, members, and strategies infused the civil rights movement.
In Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I (2009), Adrianne Lentz- Smith traces how African American soldiers and their civilian advocates experienced a rising political consciousness. Within the black community, wartime committees sold liberty bonds, publicized food conservation measures, and recruited volunteers. Lentz-Smith contends that those wartime committees served as incubators in which future civil rights leaders learned how to organize, publicize, and fund community-based grassroots campaigns. In Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era (2010), Chad L. Williams investigates the extensive postwar activism of African American veterans, emphasizing the role they played as symbols and leaders within the civil rights movement. In several articles, I trace how military service served as a vehicle for politicizing black soldiers and consider the structural, not just ideological, opportunities for soldiers to organize. I also examine how civil rights activists took up the banner of equal medical treatment for black veterans as a strategy to advance the entire civil rights movement.(12)
These works balance an acknowledgement of the state's coercive power and pervasive racial violence with narratives that emphasize individual agency and empowerment. The predominant narrative now focuses more on movement building than it does short-term successes, which were few and far between. The recent historiography thus depicts World War I as a formative moment in the long civil rights movement, demonstrating the importance of activism by the World War I generation for the civil rights successes of the 1950s and 1960s. Then, as now, civil rights activists embraced the goal of creating an American democracy in which black lives mattered.
Writing Women into the History of the War
The 1920 ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, guarantees the World War I era a prominent place in historical works devoted to the suffrage movement. Yet the most innovative recent histories focus less on the national suffrage movement and more on incorporating the story of female leadership into the main narrative of the war. This scholarship makes it impossible to disentangle the history of the war from women's history: one cannot be understood without the other.
Capozzola and Lentz-Smith, for instance, discuss how middle-class women who belonged to an array of social clubs became essential grassroots organizers, mobilizing white and black communities across the nation to support the war. Irwin details a different sort of political awakening among women by focusing on their humanitarian relief work, often initiated to help women overseas. Moderate-leaning suffragists found multiple ways to use the war to their advantage. The service of women on federal wartime committees organized by the Food Administration, the Department of the Treasury, and the War Department helped normalize the sight of women exercising political power. On the local level, suffragists blended calls for the vote into their voluntary patriotic activities, as they promoted victory gardens and recruited volunteers for the Red Cross.(13)
In Mobilizing Minerva: American Women in the First World War (2008), Kimberly Jensen offers a less sanguine vision of female advancement during the war, exploring how violence against women became accepted as a legitimate method of controlling unruly women who protested loudly and directly (such as striking female workers and radical suffragists who picketed the White House). Military officials often looked the other way when U.S. soldiers assaulted female nurses and military workers. Jensen recovers that history of violence against women, seeing the fight for full-fledged citizenship as a struggle to both protect the female body and acquire the right to vote. Her portrait of gendered violence within the armed forces is especially timely given the recent revelations that rape and sexual harassment are too often experienced by female service members.
A New Look at the Battlefield
Violence was a defining characteristic of the World War I experience for civilian and soldier, male and female, black and white. New studies of the battlefield underscore the brutality of combat, while simultaneously investigating the learning curve that the U.S. army experienced as it fought on the western front. The fighting man's experience forms the center of these new approaches, which all seek to better understand the mindset and actions of those sent into battle.
Rather than focusing on generals and their staffs, Mark E. Grotelueschen's The AEF Way of War: The American Army and Combat in World War I (2006) and Edward G. Lengel's To Conquer Hell: The Meuse-Argonne, 1918 (2008) argue that the most substantial and effective learning on the battlefield occurred from the bottom up. The authors contend that improved decision and war-making capacities within companies and divisions enabled the entire army to improve its combat effectiveness against the German army. In Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army during World War I (2005), Carol R. Byerly considers a different foe, the influenza virus, which killed nearly as many American soldiers as enemy weapons. Byerly challenges the conventional narrative that traffic congestion and straggling during the Meuse-Argonne battle revealed ineptness and a reluctance to fight. Reinterpreting those events through the prism of the epidemic, she suggests that the onslaught of the flu sent a stream of victims to the rear to seek care.
Learning to cooperate with allies and one another served as another important adjustment to modern warfare for both generals and enlisted men. Robert Bruce's A Fraternity of Arms: America and France in the Great War (2003) and Mitchell Yockelson's Borrowed Soldiers: Americans under British Command, 1918 (2008) emphasize that the United States fought as part of an Allied coalition. In Doughboys, The Great War, and the Remaking of America (2001), I argue that discipline was often negotiated, rather than coerced, and thus gave enlisted men the power to shape the disciplinary structure of the military. Collecting and evaluating enlisted men's opinions became standard practice in the military during World War I. To this day, the military employs large numbers of sociologists and psychologists who administer survey after survey to devise manpower policies that the enlisted population will accept.
The World War I era is a rich and vibrant field of study. Challenging old paradigms, the new scholarship underscores how the war permanently transformed individuals, social movements, politics, foreign policy, culture, and the military. The historical scholarship connects the war to key issues in twentieth-century American history: the rise of the United States as a world power, the success of social justice movements, and the growth of federal power. Collectively, historians of the war make a compelling case for why the war matters in American history.
The experiences of Americans during World War I also offer important insights into our own times. Today we wonder about the ongoing relevance of Wilsonian ideals in guiding U.S. foreign policy, debate whether our humanitarian efforts do more harm than good, worry about the Patriot Act and government surveillance programs as we fight a war on terror, and lament the readjustment difficulties of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Keeping Americans "safe from terror" still goes hand in hand with making "the world safe for democracy." Defining an unambiguous and uncontested place for the war in the mainstream American historical narrative depends on disseminating these insights more broadly to the American public and in history classrooms.
JENNIFER D. KEENE is professor of history and chair of the history department at Chapman University. She has published extensively on American involvement in the First World War. Her works include Doughboys, the Great War, and the Remaking of America (2001) and World War I: The American Soldier Experience (2006). She is also lead author for the textbook Visions of America: A History of the United States (2009). She is an OAH Distinguished Lecturer.
(1) John Milton Cooper Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography (2009).
(2) Ross A. Kennedy, The Will to Believe: Woodrow Wilson, World War I, and America's Strategy for Peace and Security (2009).
(3) Erez Manela, The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism (2007).
(4) See for example the collection of historiographical essays examining Wilson and the war years in A Companion to Woodrow Wilson, ed. Ross A. Kennedy (2013).
(5) John Branden Little, "Band of Crusaders: American Humanitarians, the Great War, and the Remaking of the World" (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkley, 2009).
(6) Julia F. Irwin, Making the World Safe: The American Red Cross and a Nation's Humanitarian Awakening (2013), 212.
(7) Lisa M. Budreau, Bodies of War: World War I and the Politics of Commemoration in America, 1919–1933 (2010).
(8) Steven Trout, On the Battlefields of Memory: The First World War and American Remembrance, 1919–1941 (2010). Mark Whalen, The Great War and the Culture of the New Negro (2008).
(9) Stephen R. Ortiz, In Beyond the Bonus March and GI Bill: How Veteran Politics Shaped the New Deal Era (2010). Jennifer D. Keene, Doughboys, the Great War and the Remaking of America (2001).
(10) Beth Linker, War's Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America (2011), 181.
(11) Jeannette Keith, Rich Man's War, Poor Man's Fight: Race, Class, and Power in the Rural South during the First World War (2004).
(12) Jennifer D. Keene, "The Long Journey Home: African American World War I Veterans and Veteran Policies," in Veterans' Policies, Veterans' Politics: New Perspectives on Veterans in the Modern United States, ed. Stephen R. Ortiz (2012), 146–72. Jennifer D. Keene, "Protest and Disability: A New Look at African American Soldiers during the First World War," in Warfare and Belligerence: Perspectives in First World War Studies, ed. Pierre Purseigle (2005), 215–42.
(13) Elizabeth York Enstam, "The Dallas Equal Suffrage Association, Political Style, and Popular Culture: Grassroots Strategies of the Woman Suffrage Movement, 1913–1919," Journal of Southern History, 68 (Nov. 2002), 817–48.
This brings me onto my second key theme, which is motivation – by which I mean more broadly the question of how people reacted to the war as it went on and the question of why, in Britain, there was no breakdown in popular consent. This is I think one of the areas in which recent scholarship has done most to open up interpretations of the war. Although it’s now almost forty years since Jean-Jacques Becker’s work on French reactions to 1914  – which demonstrated that, in the countryside at least, ‘enthusiasm’ was definitely not the right word – it has taken much longer to start to unpack the highly complex range of ways in which Britons responded to the war. As that has happened, we have started to replace what is still a very strong myth of irrational enthusiasm or deceitful propaganda with a much more nuanced picture of confusion, mixed emotions and people trying to make the best of their circumstances. If not quite rescuing the poor stockinger from the condescension of history, this has at least begun to save the poor Tommy from the suspicion of stupidity.
Catriona Pennell’s groundbreaking and excellent work A Kingdom United, published earlier this year, demonstrates the huge variety of different ways in which the outbreak of war was greeted by the British population.  Catriona’s work – drawing on research in more than seventy local archives across the country, emphasises the importance of rumour, uncertainty and locality to the experience of the outbreak of war. Crucially, she has also worked to write Ireland back into the story of Britain – and the story of how Irish nationalists were willing to fight for the freedom of small countries in pursuit of their own hopes of independence within the Empire is a vital part of understanding how the beginnings of the war could be perceived. Catriona’s undermining of the myth of war enthusiasm was prefigured by Gregory, whose findings were broadly similar – that even where there were excited metropolitan crowds, this was as much to do with the bank holiday as any great desire for war, and that if there was naivety about what would follow, it was grounded as much in the expectation that any war would be so horrible and costly that it could not long continue. Adrian’s insistence on the importance of chronology in understanding the ‘rush to the colours‘ in late summer 1914 offers a brilliant example of recent re-examinations of the historical record: he points out that the surge in enlistments came not at the start of the war, but rather after news of the supposed destruction of the original BEF had already come through.  In other words, many of those joining up did so not only with an awareness that Britons were being killed, but also with the idea – shared with many other populations throughout Europe – that they were fighting a war to defend their homes.
The question of why working class servicemen in particular joined up is one that had also been examined in some depth by David Silbey, in his The British Working Class and Enthusiasm for War, 1914-1916.  Silbey’s work emphasised the diffuse patriotism which permeated much working class culture at the time, which underpinned contemporary understandings of the conflict and which largely surpassed any sense of class loyalty across the nation rather than within individual industries or communities. But he also pointed out the degree to which men – far from being swept away on a tide of emotion – took what appeared to them to be rational decisions and attempted to exert agency over their own, and their family’s situations. Silbey pointed to evidence of men ‘gaming’ the system of enlistment and reservation as a means to support the war, maximise their financial gains and protect themselves – a finding which fits interestingly with Gregory’s identification, in The Last Great War of the degree to which local conscription boards maintained consent by exempting men – not because of their objections to military service, but because of their domestic burdens or their important role in the local economy. The absence of similar work for the Second World War – perhaps because it is wrongly presumed that conscription removed any opportunity for individual agency, but also because that war is seen as undisputedly ‘good’ – is a telling indicator of the different ways in which Britain has remembered the two conflicts.
To return to the first of them: meaning and motivation changed as the war went on, both at the level of strategic decision-making – see the UK’s developing policy in the Middle East – or at the level of popular understanding. Total war by its nature generated its own emotional momentum. One of the trends in recent history has been to highlight the degree to which military contingencies served to restock both the moral and the defensive rationale for the war as it went on: German attacks on the homeland not only proving their barbarity but also proving that Britain really was under threat. In the UK, as in nearly all the European nations, one of the ironies of the conflict was that despite the exhaustion that had set in by 1917, the concomitant mobilisation of minds had made it extremely politically difficult to pursue a compromise peace even if one could have been arranged.
Crucial to that dynamic was the connection that was maintained between front and home – by the movement of letters and newspapers, by the transition of personnel and by the actions of the enemy in submarine and air attacks. Helen McCartney’s excellent work on the Liverpool Scottish has provided one much used example of how those connections were maintained at a unit and individual level despite the churn of war  – generation of interpretation tended to concentrate on the alienation between the front line and the folks at home, more recently, British historians have tended to emphasise the degree to which – however much there was anger against targets as various as politicians, profiteers, trade unionists and shirkers – actually what was more important was the degree to which soldiers remained part of a domestic as well as a military community. That does not mean that those who had seen the worst of combat chose – even if they could find the words – to tell all to their families, although Michael Roper’s work on soldiers’ letters to their mothers indicates the importance of plaintive encouragements for care as a theme.  But it does mean that most servicemen were not separated from their civilian lives. That link was a point where consent might have been fractured – note the government’s concern at censored soldiers’ letters expressing concern at food shortages on the home front which preceded the introduction of rationing. But the sense of connection also provided an ongoing justification for the continuation of hostilities. For instance, my students working on the experience of the First World War in South London found an example of a trench raid by 1/23nd London Regiment which was launched just after news had reached the battalion that some men’s relatives had been killed in a bombing raid on Southwark – the divisional historian reported with satisfaction the low ratio of prisoners to dead subsequently inflicted on the enemy and the raiding party left a board in the German trenches with the words ‘we’ll teach you to bomb London’. 
That brings us to the question of combat motivation. Alexander Watson’s recent study, for example, provides evidence both of the similiarities between British and German armies in this regard – the coping mechanisms men used to cope with fear and the prospect of horrific injury, the presence of humour, the idea that men were fighting for their mates – and the differences, for example in command culture, that help to explain the way in which German morale crumbled in 1918. A key difference there – less important in motivating action, but crucial in underpinning resilience to the prolonged deprivation, obedience and frustration of war – was the belief that victory could be won – if not quickly then at least eventually. Watson contrasts the growing sense amongst German soldiers that the war would last for another year and still not be won, versus British soldiers’ lack of surprise at the Armistice – they had still believed that the Entente was going to win, even if they were sometimes taken aback that they weren’t going to have to fight for another year. 
The relationship between home and fighting front is central to Gregory’s work – building on previous explorations, notably in Winter and Robert’s edited collection Capital Cities at War on the ‘economy of sacrifice’ created by the war – that is to say the degree to wartime loss and suffering were employed to articulate the demands of different groups within society. In the mainland UK, a potential crisis developed within that economy during the second half of the war, when the need to maintain production and domestic cohesion ran up against pay demands and strikes as workers began to demand greater recompense for their efforts. The mix of repression, concession and remobilisation of effort that resulted in 1917 kept the home front together – but it also contributed to a ratcheting up of tension and a developing divide between the urban middle class and non-unionised workers – hard hit by taxation, food shortages and the burden of bereavement – and increasingly powerful unions who – without opposing the war, were also seeking to make the best of the circumstances for their members. The Last Great War demonstrates very clearly what a nasty place Britain had become by 1918, with the lurking potential for extremist violence from the right rooted in the sense of unequal sacrifice.
A casualty, in relation to personnel, any person who is lost to his organization by reason of being declared dead, wounded, diseased, detained, captured or missing. There were five defined casualty types during World War I.
- Killed in Action (KIA) – Those killed in combat or by means of the action of hostile forces. It includes front-line combat troops, naval, air and support troops.
- Died of Wounds (DOW) – A person who incurred an injury by means of action of hostile forces and survived to reach a medical treatment facility and died of those injuries.
- Died of Disease (DOD) – Any person who died of a disease during active service. Common diseases during World War I included: infectious diseases, tetanus, trench diseases and the great influenza epidemic.
- Died of Accident (DOA) –Any person who died of an accident either overseas or in the United States. Accidents occurred during combat, in training, on furlough and while in transit. Some examples of accidents are flight training crashes, accidental shooting or explosions that were not actions of hostile forces, car crashes, drowning, and suicide.
- Missing (M) – Any person reported missing during combat operations. They may have deserted, or may have been killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
A second main theme winds through any chronological exploration of 1916.
The evidence of the year itself reveals a number of crisis points where the intensity of the war, often sharpened by a widespread sense that it might never end, began to cause fractures in the bodies politic of belligerent powers. Large-scale war can test states to destruction, as shown by the fate, not just of the Russian empire, but the German, Ottoman and Habsburg empires.
Britain did not itself escape unscathed from the war and its aftermath. The 1916 Easter Rising saw the first separatist shots fired in a campaign which was to destroy the United Kingdom of 1914 and lead to the secession of more than 20% of the country’s land-mass.
The inevitable and progressive centralisation of control in all the belligerent states also put conditional loyalties under pressure. This was a special problem for multi-national states where dynastic loyalties could be strained by national ambitions. There is evidence, for example, of a crisis of legitimacy which from the winter of 1916–17 began to affect the Habsburg lands.
The imposition of compulsory service – combatant or non-combatant – in places as far removed as Belgium, Vietnam, Nyasaland (Malawi), Syria or Senegal alienated moderate opinion and stimulated resistance, which in some cases led to violent rebellion.
When revolt occurred the wartime circumstances almost inevitably led to draconian responses. Challenge was met with exemplary state violence, which in some places – such as Dublin, Trento, Beirut and Damascus – created martyrs whose memory helped sustain and amplify opposition.
World War I Lessons: The Importance of History
Gavrilo Princip is captured in Sarajevo after assassinating the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on June 28, 1914.
One of the most destructive wars in human history started 100 years ago. What have we learned&mdashor failed to learn&mdashsince &ldquothe war to end all wars&rdquo?
On June 28, 1914, a Serbian terrorist named Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. Within a month, most of Europe, the Ottoman Empire and Japan had declared war. In the next four years, Europe would be nearly decimated the United States would be drawn into the war empires would end a bloody revolution would occur in Russia and the whole fate of the world would be drastically changed. All these were fruits of World War I.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of this world-changing war. After 100 years, what have we learned from World War I? Does the war actually have any lessons for us today? In our globalized society where some experts believe that a major war between world powers will never occur again, should such questions even be asked?
This blog begins a 4 part series on the lessons we can learn from the history of World War I.
The right question
The philosopher George Santayana famously said, &ldquoThose who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.&rdquo Time has proven this statement true.
One of the greatest, and saddest, examples of this truth is within the First World War itself. When we think of the war, we may think of soldiers rushing across the no-man&rsquos-land in a desperate attempt to overrun the enemy&rsquos trenches. On the Western Front, this is mostly what the war was. Thousands of young men were sent to their death in an attempt to capture muddy trenches protected by machine guns, barbed wire and land mines.
Yet this didn&rsquot have to be the case. The American Civil War had already proven that trench warfare created mass casualties with little reward. A brief look at a war fought barely 50 years earlier could have uncovered the flaw in trench warfare and saved countless lives.
This puts a different spin on the need to look at history. We really should ask, &ldquoCan we afford not to learn the lessons of history?&rdquo
This year marks the 100th anniversary of this world-changing war. After 100 years, what have we learned from World War I? Does the war actually have any lessons for us today? Shaky alliances
One such historical lesson that the leaders in 1914, and today, would do well to learn is that alliances are not always the answer. Nations often turn to alliances, seeking stability and safety on the international scene. The idea is that an alliance with another military power will act as a deterrent against attack from another nation.
But too often human alliances don&rsquot prevent war and only serve to draw more nations into a war.
Relying on alliances was also a mistake made by ancient Israel. God told them, &ldquoThe LORD has rejected your trusted allies&rdquo (Jeremiah 2:37). The Bible records at least one case where honoring such an alliance brought someone into direct conflict with God (2 Chronicles 35:20-22).
The Bible shows that the real answer is to trust in God (Psalm 146:3-5).
World War I escalated because of the networks of alliances between Serbia, Russia, France, Britain and Belgium on one side and Germany, Austria and Italy on the other.
After World War I, an attempt was made to correct this problem by creating the League of Nations, the first international organization dedicated to world peace. Unfortunately, while it had a few successes, the League of Nations was unable to prevent the outbreak of World War II. Its successor, the United Nations, has similarly too often been ineffective and the world still has tangled alliance systems.
How history helps
Studying history helps us know and understand more about yesterday&mdashand today. History is a collection of stories, stories that are made by and about people just like you and me.
History shows us what was done before. By determining what failed and what worked, we can use the examples of the past to shape a better future. This is the purpose of the Bible&rsquos stories as well (1 Corinthians 10:11).
History also enables us to understand today&rsquos events a little better. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to understand the current situation in the Middle East without at least a basic knowledge of the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. An understanding of history also helps us better understand today&rsquos headlines about Russia and Ukraine.
In this series about World War I, we will examine lessons that come from one of the largest conflicts in the history of humanity.
The history is there. Will we learn from it? Or will we be condemned to repeat it?.
This is the first in a four part series on World War I Lessons. For part 2 in this series, see &ldquoThe Value of Human Life.&rdquo
Joshua Travers grew up and lives in Athens, Ohio. He graduated in 2016 with a bachelor&rsquos degree in social studies and Spanish education from Ohio University. He also studied theology at Foundation Institute, Center for Biblical Education, in Allen, Texas and graduated with a certificate in biblical studies in May 2017.
The Story of Scouting
There are more than 50 million Scouts, young people and adults, male and female, in over 200 countries and territories. Some 500 million people have been Scouts, including prominent people in every field. Early Beginnings All this began with 20 boys and an experimental camp in 1907. It was held during the first nine days of August in 1907 at Brownsea Island, near Poole in Dorset, England. The camp was a great success and proved to its organiser, Robert Baden-Powell, that his training and methods appealed to young people and really worked. In January 1908, Baden-Powell published the first edition of "Scouting for Boys". It was an immediate success and has since sold over 100 million copies, making it one of the best selling books of all time. Baden-Powell had only intended to provide a method of training boys, something that existing youth organisations such as the Boys' Brigade and YMCA could adopt. To his surprise, youngsters started to organise themselves into what was to become one of the largest voluntary youth movements in the world. Expansion of the Movement The success of "Scouting for Boys" produced a Movement that quickly – automatically it seemed – adopted the name of The Boy Scouts. By 1909 "Scouting for Boys" had been translated into five languages, and a Scout rally in London attracted more than 11,000 Scouts. As a result of Baden-Powell taking a holiday in South America, Chile was one of the first countries outside Britain to begin Scouting. In 1910 he visited Canada and the United States where it had already started. The coming of World War I in 1914 could have brought about the collapse of the Movement, but the training provided through the patrol system proved its worth. Patrol leaders took over when adult leaders volunteered for active service. Scouts contributed to the war effort in England in many ways most notable perhaps were the Sea Scouts who took the place of regular coast-guardsmen, freeing them for service. The first World Scout Jamboree took place in 1920 with 8,000 participants, and proved that young people from different nations could come together to share common interests and ideals. Since that first World Jamboree at Olympia in London, there have been 21 others at different locations. During the Jamboree, the first World Scout Conference (then called “International Scout Conference”) was held with 33 National Scout Organizations represented. The Boy Scouts International Bureau, later to become the World Scout Bureau, was founded in London in 1920. In 1922 the first World Scout Committee was elected at the 2nd International Conference in Paris, where 31 National Scout Organizations were represented. World membership was just over 1 million.
The Early Scout Programme
Scouting began as a programme for boys 11 to 18 years of age. Yet almost immediately others also wanted to participate. The Girl Guides programme was started in 1910 by Baden-Powell who designated his sister Agnes to manage it. In 1915 Robert Baden-Powell became Chairman of the Girl Guides Association, and his wife Olave, whom he married in 1912, became the new Chief Guide in 1918. A Wolf Cub section was formed for younger boys. It used Rudyard Kipling's "Jungle Book", to provide an imaginative symbolic framework for activities. For older boys, a Rover Scout branch was formed.
The World Wars Between the two world wars Scouting continued to flourish in all parts of the world - except in totalitarian countries where it was banned. Scouting is voluntary and based on democratic principles. During World War II, Scouts undertook many service tasks – messengers, firewatchers, stretcher-bearers, salvage collectors and so on. In occupied countries, Scouting continued in secret with Scouts playing important roles in the resistance and underground movements. After the war ended, it was found that the numbers of Scouts in some occupied countries had, in fact, increased.
The '60s, '70s and '80s Many countries gained their independence during these years. Scouting in developing countries gradually evolved to be a youth programme which was designed by Scout leaders in each country to better meet the needs of their communities. Scouts, particularly in developing countries, became more involved with issues such as child health, low-cost housing, literacy, food production and agriculture, job skills training, etc. Drug abuse prevention, life skills training, integration of the handicapped, environmental conservation and education, and peace education became issues of concern to Scouts around the world.
Post Communistic Era By the 1990s Scouting had been reborn in every country where it existed prior to World War II, and it started throughout the newly independent countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (formerly the USSR).
100 years and beyond In 2007 the Movement celebrated its centenary - 100 years of Scouting. What started as a small camp on Brownsea Island is today a growing Movement with members in nearly every country in the world. Through its unique combination of adventure, education and fun, Scouting manages to continuously renew and adapt itself to a changing world and the different needs and interests of young people across the globe. In doing so it continues to be an inspiration for young people to become active local and global citizens, helping them in creating a better world.
A Black Delawarean at War: One Soldier’s Experience
William Henry Furrowh’s portrait
William Henry Furrowh of Wilmington was drafted into the U.S. Army on Aug. 1, 1918. Like so many African Americans who served during World War I, he was assigned to a segregated labor unit in the American Expeditionary Forces that had joined the British and French troops along the Western Front in France. To record his military experiences, Furrowh wrote brief notations in his diary. His unit sailed for France on Sept. 20, 1918 from the military port in Hoboken, N.J., and arrived in Brest, France on Oct. 1, 1918. He noted that one of his first duties with the Depot Labor Company #23 was to unload flour at the Navy yard.
While serving in France, Furrowh dealt with his feelings of homesickness by writing and sending postcards to his mother, relatives and friends. On special occasions and birthdays, he also mailed beautiful, silk-embroidered greeting cards of a type sold to soldiers. He traveled to several other towns before starting his new military duty on Nov. 2, 1918 at the American ordnance repair shop in Mehun-sur-Yèvre, located in central France. Furrowh’s skilled vocation in the Army was as a pipefitter. After 11 months of service, he returned to the United States and received an honorable discharge at Camp Dix, N.J. on July 24, 1919. In August 1919, he was issued a bronze victory lapel-button for his service.
He traveled to several other towns before starting his new military duty on Nov. 2, 1918 at the American ordnance repair shop in Mehun-sur-Yèvre, located in central France. Furrowh’s skilled vocation in the Army was as a pipefitter. After 11 months of service, he returned to the United States and received an honorable discharge at Camp Dix, N.J. on July 24, 1919. In August 1919, he was issued a bronze victory lapel-button for his service.
When World War II began most of the American public and most of the Congressmen demanded that the U.S. keep a neutral stance towards Europe. On the other hand most Americans were for a strong policy against Japan, the AFC focused their efforts on Europe and soon the public opinion would change as well, especially after the fall of France in 1940.
The America First Committee didn’t really trust that President Roosevelt would keep his pledge to stay out of the war so they started a petition with the goal of enforcing the 1939 Neutrality Act which would force the President to keep the U.S. from going to war. When Roosevelt’s lend-lease bill was submitted to Congress the AFC quickly promised that they would oppose it any way they could.
Charles Lindbergh was very active in questioning the motives of the administration even before the AFC was formed. He urged the American public to look beyond the speeches and propaganda and think critically about who was feeding them with these speeches and who had an interest in the war.