A History of World Societies,
The Great Break: War and Revolution
Industrialization changed the nature
of global warfare. Locomotives, steamers, telegraphs, and telephones allowed
for greater mobilization and movement of troops. The factory system provided
larger numbers of munitions and armaments. Technological advancements in explosives
and chemicals created new weapons of mass destruction. Governments had more
potential than ever before to raise vast, prolific, and destructive armies.
It was the age of total war, and World War I epitomized these trends. Governments
drafted most men of fighting age into the military, created new agencies to
mobilize the economy, and instituted propaganda campaigns to ensure public
support for the war effort. In short, they called on all citizens to participate
like never before. These efforts dramatically transformed world history. The
following activities will explore how World War I symbolized a new age of
total war and the repercussions of this development for the twentieth century.
- You may want to begin by printing this page. As you explore
different sites, use the printout to refer back to the instructions and
questions detailed in each activity.
- On many web sites you can increase the size of the images
by clicking on them. Whenever possible, use the larger images to examine
fine details in photographs.
- The origins of World War I were complex
and multifaceted. From a broad perspective, the war was the culmination
of various trends and conflicts that appeared in Europe during the nineteenth
century. These developments were explored in Chapter 25, "Ideologies
and Upheavals, 1815 -1871," and Chapter 26, "European Life in
the Age of Nationalism." Throughout this era, Europe struggled to come
to terms with industrialization, the growth of nationalism, the strengthening
of nation states, and increased participation in politics.
- In 1914, the continent was tense and divided.
Two armed camps, the Entente between Great Britain, France, and Russia and
the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria Hungary, and Italy, dominated
the political landscape. In June, the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria Hungary
was assassinated by a Serbian terrorist in Sarajevo. Go to Sarajevo,
June 28, 1914. Analyze the nature of the conflict between Austria Hungary
and Serbia, and explain the extent of the Serbian government's complicity
in the archduke's assassination. How does this event symbolize underlying
stresses and strains on European societies at the turn of the century? In
other words, how does it reflect the growth of nationalism, the strengthening
of nation states, and increased participation in politics?
- At the end of the essay, the author states
that "as Vienna took a hard line against Serbia, the other powers in
Europe took sides." Read the "Willy-Nicky"
Telegrams, 29 July - 1 August, 1914. Who sided with Serbia? Who sided
with Austria? This communication between Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and
Czar Nicholas II is quite revealing about military preparation in Europe
in 1914. Go to Trenches
on the Web: Timeline, 1905-1914 War Plans. Describe the German Schlieffen
Plan and France's Plan 17. How do they reflect the impact of industrialization
on military preparedness? Evaluate how these strategies contributed to the
sense of urgency conveyed in the "Willy-Nicky Telegrams." Why
would Russian mobilization against Austria alarm Germany?
- The diplomatic tensions surrounding the
archduke's assassination led to the first continent-wide war in Europe since
the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, and World War I eventually involved other
powers, such as the United States and Japan. Battles were fought in Europe,
the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Go to Trenches
on the Web: 1914-1918 - Casualty Figures. These figures express the
magnitude of the struggle. In total, how many troops were mobilized to fight
in World War I? How many died? Which countries mobilized the largest number
of troops? Which countries suffered the most deaths?
- To place these figures in a contemporary
context, go to Infoplease.com:
Population by State and locate the population of your state. Does this
figure compare to the amount of troops mobilized by the major combatants
in World War I, such as Britain, Germany, France, Russia, and the United
States? How does this figure compare to the amount of deaths these countries
suffered? Imagine the United States today suffering a loss in population
equal to that of a state such as Hawaii or Idaho. For many nations, this
was one of the costs of World War I.
- One reason that casualty figures were so
high was the devastating new weapons developed at the end of the nineteenth
century and the beginning of the twentieth. For images of these new weapons
of mass destruction, go to Trenches
on the Web: Armory. (Click on "view set" on the left-hand
side of the screen to view the images.) Read the essays at The
Western Front, 1914-1918 and The
Eastern Front, 1914-1916. After reviewing these sites, analyze the statement
Fussell, University of Pennsylvania on 19th Century Optimism. Do you
agree with his observation? Why or why not? Use specific examples to defend
- Go to Financial
Cost of War. How much did all the belligerent countries spend on the
war? What did they spend it on? How did they raise it? Obviously, the power
of government increased, since governments had to continually mobilize troops
and supply them with weapons, food, and clothing. Historians of all persuasions
view World War I as a turning point in the growth of government. (You already
explored growing government responsibilities in Europe in Chapter 26, "European
Life in the Age of Nationalism, " Activity Eight.)
- Read a libertarian perspective at Libertarianism:
The State and War. According to the author, what powers did the United
States government assume during the war? Why does he view this development
negatively? Others, he acknowledges, viewed this growth in responsibility
positively. What was their political persuasion? Why did they view the growth
in government positively?
- World War I introduced the age of propaganda. In order to mobilize
their societies for the war effort, governments often tried to persuade
people to adopt certain behavior. Go to Recruitment
(be sure to study the hyperlinks) and Alcohol
Consumption. What were the British government's goals in these two campaigns?
What strategies did they employ? How effective were they?
- All countries used propaganda during World War I. For some examples
of American efforts, study the images at The
Forum on line Art Gallery: World War I Posters. For French efforts,
go to Library
of Congress (you find out information about the posters by clicking
on the images). What behavior were the French and American governments encouraging?
How did these posters accomplish these goals? What strategies did they take?
- To explore the impact of these efforts, read the essays at Wartime
Propaganda: World War I: The Committee on Public Information, Wartime
Propaganda: World War I: Demons,
Atrocities, and Lies, and Wartime
Propaganda: World War I Post-War Propaganda. According to these sites,
what were some of the negative consequences of American propaganda during
World War I? What kinds of conflicts emerged in democratic societies when
governments employed these propaganda campaigns? In other words, what happened
if someone disagreed with the government? By focusing on propaganda campaigns,
analyze how the increased size of government affected individual lives during
World War I. Summarize your answer in essay form. You might want to print
out specific examples of propaganda to use in your argument.
- World War I was a turning point in world
history in numerous ways. The war showed the horror of industrial warfare
and scarred an entire generation's psyche. Governments, particularly those
in industrialized nations, grew in power and gained more influence over
economic production and individual lives. Propaganda campaigns showed how
societies could be mobilized to behave in certain manners without any overt
coercion. Women assumed new roles in society and gained the right to vote
in some countries such as the United States and Britain. Thus, World War
I encouraged people to question old assumptions. For example, read the essays
Russian Revolution of 1917 and The
German Revolution of 1918. Why were so many people in Russia and Germany
willing to support the socialist goals of these revolutions?
- Another challenge to the status quo was
President Woodrow Wilson's "Fourteen Points," found at Modern
History Sourcebook: Woodrow Wilson: Speech on the Fourteen Points Jan 8,
1918. How did Wilson's goals for the postwar world challenge conventional
international relations of the nineteenth century in Europe? For example,
what was his attitude toward multinational empires such as Austria Hungary?
These are only a few areas in which World War I challenged traditional assumptions
and attitudes. Chapters 30 and 31 will explore this theme further.