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A History of World Societies, Sixth Edition
Web Exercises
Chapter 29: 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.

Helpful Hints:
  • 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.
Activity One:
  • 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?
Activity Two:
  • 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 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 at Paul Fussell, University of Pennsylvania on 19th Century Optimism. Do you agree with his observation? Why or why not? Use specific examples to defend your argument.
Activity Three:
  • 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?
Activity Four:
  • 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.
Activity Five: Activity Six:
  • 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 at The 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.