Was World War One a Total War?
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Was it a "Total War"? Define and conclusion A Total War can be defined as a conflict that encompasses a total mobilization of resources such as human, industrial, agricultural, military with an aim to have such an output that the enemy won't be able to overcome. Perhaps the largest difference between a Total War and a normal war is that there is no difference between those who are fighting and the civilians; they are all seen as an enemy. From this point of view, World War One could definitely be considered a Total War because it was a complete contrast to the limited wars of the 18th Century which were small, trying to avoid battles, not touching the society and continuing the trading systems. Firstly, WW1 had an all encompassing character which although it began with the Germans and Austrians fighting against Russia, Britain and France. Within a few months all other European powers such as Turkey, Italy, Rumania and USA ended up joining the war. What at first could have been only a small conflict in the Balkans region, due to the alliance system it became a total war because it suddenly involved everyone else in Europe.
Even though there was a law that prisoners would not be ill treated, this time there was ill treatment of prisoners, and a bitterness that only grew between populations and other powers, due to all the propaganda and hate "installed" over the people. The Germans used an anti-British campaign through the means of the press, the Belgian people who were supposed to be a neutral country were deported in order to work in German factories, and the Turks who massacred and treated Armenians as slaves, an act of genocide. With war raging throughout Europe, there was a significant amount of government interference in the life of the people, they eradicated child labour, built new sewage systems, thus turning public life more organized in order to increase in intensity and detail their output in the war. Britain which had a policy of home liberalism shifted its views and the government took over railways, encouraged food rationing, conscription into key industries such as coal mining, taxation was increased. Even women managed to work in factories and farms in order to increase production.
Thus USA began providing great economic contribution. In addition, since U-boats were threatening Britain, they started transporting materials in convoys which would be surrounded by warships, thus warships would be targets before the supply ships sank. Agriculture also suffered loses because the blockades caused a shortage of food for civilians leading to many deaths. German farmers were conscripted so while Germany was being blockaded, agriculture was extremely significant, however it was being halved. In turn, the governments completely misjudged the military, and gave them too much power, believing that war would be over soon. Now, after power had been given to the military, it was hard to take back to take control over the situation. In conclusion, World War One was a Total War because countries needed to re-direct national economies to attend to demands of war supply, this made countries enter into alliances with both business and labour creating a kind of corporate state. It however undermined social and political structures, it mobilized all of the nations' resources for victory and it was extremely severe with everyone.
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