Civilians in a World at War, 1914-1918

The Home Front 1914 to 1918

Some were directly piloted by state bodies, like the very numerous solidarity days organized to raise funds for a whole series of causes: Many charities were run by a combination of state, local authority and civil society actors. Churches, associations, unions and companies owned by prominent members of the bourgeoisie created all sorts of charities, sometimes together, but also occasionally in competition with each other. No one had anticipated that the war would last so long.

And yet, against all plans, the war set in for the long term. Military and political leaders quickly realized the need to leverage the economy for the war effort. As early as 20 September , the war minister Alexandre Millerand had asked that French 75 production be ramped up tenfold, from 10, to , pieces per day. The nomination in May of socialist Albert Thomas to the position of under-secretary of state for artillery, munitions and military equipment was an additional step towards streamlining the war economy and its piloting by the government, in collaboration with industry as well as the unions.

The fact that the geography of the war had cut off France from part of its historical industrial regions in the North and East only compounded the emergency. A great deal of companies adapted their production for the war. In Lyon, the Gillet firm was the main supplier of war gas, notably of mustard gas; whereas in addition to trucks for the army, Berliet produced Renault tanks.

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In Clermont-Ferrand, Michelin supplied airplanes for the army. At the start of the war, there were 50, workers in the armament sector in France. The war economy was indeed a boon for employment. Lengthening the work day was not sufficient to palliate the lack of manpower; it was necessary to quickly find other solutions.

The Dalbiez law of 17 August allowed men to be appointed to the home front when it was deemed that they would be more useful behind the lines than at the front. Women also massively entered the industrial sector once reserved for men. Foreign and colonial workers—both at the front and behind the lines—were another pool from which labour was recruited. The employment of people from these new categories was seen as temporary and connected to the war context; this limited, as we are well aware in the case of women, the medium term effects of such changes. This resulted notably in increasingly visible protests starting in late The following year, , was defined by a three-faceted military, political and social context of crisis.

On a military level, the failure at the Somme led to the sacking of Joffre at the head of the general headquarters in December and his replacement by Robert Nivelle , who represented a decidedly offensive turn. The latter again set out to break through the front in the Aisne department in the Chemin des Dames sector. The result was close to 40, deaths, 14, missing and , wounded without the set objectives being met. What soldiers had glimpsed as the end of the war suddenly veered off course with great brutality.

Faced with an offensive that was incapable of bringing the anticipated end to the war, some soldiers revolted. It was actually those who were meant to advance to attack, despite the fact that failure was obvious, that refused to go. Those who were already facing off with the enemy continued to fight. Some demands called for peace at all cost, but others were more mundane: The revolt worried the general staff greatly.

The official figures generally given are 3, soldiers tried, sentenced to death and forty-nine executed. In addition to such repression, new measures aimed at improving the daily lives of soldiers were gradually implemented to improve the replenishing of supplies and make the leave system run more smoothly. The repression, restrictive military framework and granting of a few demands are not enough to explain everything, however. Most of the men mutinied for only a few days and, often, the denouement was negotiated by regimental officers who had remained in contact with the men.

The winter of was extremely harsh and resulted on the home front in problems with the provision of heating supplies and food, and in price hikes that were much more severe than in previous months. Prices had been relatively stable in , but increased by 25 percent on average in the first quarter of The distribution of ration cards and tickets also became widespread. The combination of these factors led to strikes: There was a large-scale labour movement in May-June that affected the entire country to varying degrees.

This movement never escalated into an all - out general strike, however, and there was no convergence with the mutinies occurring at the front at the same time. While pacifist slogans could be heard, the movement was appeased in part when its demands were granted for improved working conditions, shorter hours and wage increases, often obtained with the support of and via the unions.

They were viewed as walled up behind the lines and soldiers were often quite critical of mood swings from those behind the lines that risked delaying victory and thus the war's end. The German offensive in the spring of also helped to remobilize the population, first in the face of danger, and then via a glimmer of hope that victory was finally within sight. Other, more structural causes also played a non-negligible role.

Unlike countries such as Russia, Austria-Hungary and Germany, states like France and Great Britain managed, despite food shortages, to strike a balance between the needs of the front and those behind the lines, and between the countryside and cities. Both France and Great Britain were able to take advantage of colonial products, as well as imported goods from America, which were virtually impossible for the Central Powers to access due to the blockade.

But this balance was also very tied to the way these different countries defined their citizenship and managed to preserve it despite the staggering blows that came with totalization. For some social categories, the war period actually - and paradoxically - resulted in improved material conditions. There was indeed a strong decrease in alcoholism behind the lines - although at the front wine continued to be widely distributed to soldiers -, both because of campaigns and anti-alcohol measures like the outlawing of absinthe in , as well as due to price increases and the need for alcohol to create explosives.

In a similar vein, in cities, the Great War also encouraged the dissemination of certain new ideas in the fields of hygiene and childcare, as well as fighting tuberculosis; these were notably promoted by the American Red Cross , which was very active in France. Such measures sometimes managed to limit increases in child mortality due to worsened living conditions or even, as was the case in Paris, actually lower such mortality during the war years. Such measures, however, had structural effects over the medium term that were not visible at the time; what was visible, were the increased prices, shortages, the poorer quality of basic goods such as bread, exhaustion at work and the cold in winter.

Moreover, through their endurance, they were of great help to the men battling the storms of steel of modern war. Georges Clemenceau was able to tap into such sentiment when he came to power in November and enlisted the country to give its last effort and the final push necessary to support the poilus and their allies as they seized victory.

In his analysis of the crisis, Clemenceau actually mainly targeted the political class. There had been four successive governments between December and November The Chamber vested its broad confidence in him. Once invested, Clemenceau governed with an iron fist. He was hard on the other politicians, including the President of the Republic.

He showed no mercy towards his political enemies, notably Louis Malvy and Joseph Caillaux that he had arrested and tried by the High Court of Justice. Throughout the winter and especially in the spring of , there had been more strikes that had spread across an ever larger part of the country; their tone was also more and more revolutionary and pacifist. And yet the movement waned when the German menace was felt at the start of the summer. In the face of imminent peril, the civilian population and soldiers reunited and remobilized together.

There was a second phase to this remobilization after the balance tipped in favour of the Allies, when victory and peace finally appeared to be within reach. This group was particularly active in Such activity is illustrative of how involved the non-profit world was in what seemed more like a self-mobilizing endeavour than mobilization imposed from above. Giving meaning to the war was not the sole prerogative of those in control. Those subjected to it and those behind the lines also gave it meaning. The involvement of the non-profit sector was not unique, however: Bruno Cabanes [26] has analysed postal checks to show how the German offensive in the spring of and the Allied counter-attack spurred among soldiers a new wave of hatred towards the enemy.

The statements made in letters reveal an extremely violent desire for revenge. Ludendorff and Hindenburg had managed to transfer forty-three divisions from the Eastern front to the Western front. This transfer had begun even before the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed on 3 March Inside the ranks, however, the war had taken a greater toll in Germany than on the Allies. Among other things, the German numerical advantage on the front German divisions versus was likely to dwindle with the arrival of the Americans.

Their advantage was also challenged by the immoderate and quasi-utopian ambitions to colonise the conquered territories in the East which forced the German army to leave numerous troops stationed in the area. The time frame was as such narrow for the German general staff which decided to launch a new type of offensive. Ludendorff launched a series of offensive attacks on 21 March: Each time, German troops jostled the allied troops and broke through the front.

By early June, they had taken 50, prisoners and were only sixty-five kilometres from Paris. The capital was regularly bombed by giant German canons and Gothas bombers. France was once again stricken with fear and the exodus of was repeated. And yet the undeniable German tactical advantage was not strategically exploited since the troops were exhausted, had suffered extremely heavy losses without any relief and desperately lacked logistical support.

High on his tactical successes, Ludendorff was nonetheless set on pursuing his offensive attacks. He planned to attack in Champagne, and then along the Marne and in Flanders. From the outset, the offensive was conceived as being the final push and bore the telling name of Friedensturm. German troops attacked in Champagne on 15 July. This time, however, the Allies had anticipated the attack. They had considerably reinforced the rear and blocked the German advance within a few days. Ludendorff worsened the situation for his troops by refusing any tactical withdrawal until 2 August.

By then, he was nonetheless forced to organize what remained of his troops to be on the defensive. He had lost a battle and could no longer win the war. That day, the Allied offensive in Picardie took the Germans by surprise; they lost 30, men, including 12, prisoners and pieces of artillery. Given their impending defeat, the German army sunk into crisis. In October, some regiments had barely men. Rest and relief troops - which were indispensable - became unreliable or even impossible.

The situation was compounded by the fact that Germany was losing its allies one by one, thus enabling the Entente powers to concentrate their troops on the Western front. With the help of a French expeditionary corps, the Italians repelled an Austrian attack; the French Far East Expeditionary Force forced Bulgaria to sign an armistice on 30 September ; and the front in Palestine was broken.

It was in this context that the Germans sent a first note to the American government with their conditions for an armistice on 4 October. Given the surprisingly stalwart and violent resistance of German troops, people on the Allied side did not generally believe that the war would be over before the spring of An Allied offensive in Lorraine was meant to begin in mid-November In the meantime, on 28 October, the German government resigned itself to accept an armistice whose terms were yet to be defined.

It took the Allies over a week to negotiate these terms between them. The Allies agreed on the military clauses the retreat of troops, a massive surrender of arms , whose goal was to strip the German army of any means to resume the struggle. The following day the Kaiser abdicated before the German revolution. In Germany, France and all of the other countries, the end of the war was just beginning. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. This text is licensed under: A Second Front 9 Behind the Lines: The Home Front in the Total War 10 La France en guerre , Paris Histoire de la conscription, Paris Nationen im Gleichschritt, Gottingen How Europe went to War in , London Eine Bilanz, Paderborn Memoirs of the War, , Cambridge , p.

A History of Denial, New Haven Les refus de guerre. Une histoire des mutins, Paris , p. L'invention d'une science de guerre. See also Saint-Fuscien, Emmanuel: Les Grandes Guerres , Paris , pp. L'enfant de l'ennemi , Paris Permissionnaires dans la Grande Guerre, Paris , pp. Violence, mobilisations, deuil , Paris , pp.

United States home front during World War I - Wikipedia

France and Britain, , Oxford La France en guerre , Paris , pp. Capital Cities at War. Paris, London, Berlin , Cambridge , pp. La Grande Guerre des civils , Paris Retrouver la guerre , Paris Histoire et culture , Paris Les grandes guerres, , Paris La France en guerre, , Paris Une histoire franco-allemande , Paris French strategy and operations in the Great War , Cambridge; London Simple histoire de la grande guerre , Paris Histoire et culture, Paris Race and war in France.

Colonial subjects in the French army, , Baltimore Johns Hopkins University Press. Your death would be mine. Une histoire des mutins , Paris Publications de la Sorbonne. Les jours de guerre. Penser la Grande Guerre. Un essai d'historiographie , Paris Angleterre-France, , Paris L'armistice de Rethondes, 11 novembre , Paris La femme au temps de la guerre de 14 , Paris License This text is licensed under: Images Civilian evacuation of Douai, France Funeral of two French soldiers, France Georges Eugene Benjamin Clemenceau A heroic drawing of Louise de Bettignies Woman driving a tram French military mission to United States, French postcard from children to their father.

150 years of humanitarian action: first World War

Even without the lingering terrors of war and loss, the influenza epidemic would have been a major trauma for families, but as an ending to the war, flu added to the misery. In the decade following the war, famine also struck in areas such as Persia and the Soviet Union. All this led to a post-war world that approached the idea of everyday normalcy in a much different way. One way that civilians and soldiers alike sought to cope with fear and the tedium of a long war was through the companionship of other like-minded people.

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Selected Bibliography Alpern Engel, Barbara: When Serbia was overrun by the Central Powers in late it decided to evacuate its army across the mountains of Albania; some 40, of their Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war marched with them, many dying on route. Ethnic Pride, American Patriotism: France was once again stricken with fear and the exodus of was repeated. During the invasion and occupation of , German soldiers had sexual relations with local women in Belgium and France. War Widows By Peggy Bette.

Emotional bonds are important for humans to maintain if they are to have a sense of safety in the midst of chaos, and many organizations developed to create bonds of emotion and intellect in wartime. Because of the organization of war, social networks developed among soldiers at the fronts, and camaraderie is an important reason men chose to continue as soldiers. Trench newspapers and magazines filled a certain need, too, for news, gossip and insider humor at the front.

Likewise, underground postal services and newspapers strengthened resistance and provided information to occupied populations, despite the danger. At home, newsreels, radio, newspapers, and letters became vital lifelines during the war, providing real information about loved ones but also an imaginative connection between home and front. Even in prison camps, inmates developed newspapers to entertain themselves and create bonds within this accidental society. In addition to printed and oral news, gossip and rumor tied people together in wartime. When information was such an important part of personal safety at the front or in a prison camp, rumors could be life-saving.

Knowing the inside gossip fostered a sense of belonging as well. A multitude of organizations developed at home fronts that were designed to harness the energy and fears of the local population.

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Civilians joined charities to provide goods for soldiers and prisoners, for feeding and housing refugee populations, and for caring for the victims of war at home. From national Red Cross groups to international food aid charities, people lined up to volunteer their time and to interact with others in service. For women, the sense of purpose that war work provided them could be exciting and fulfilling, and it could take their minds off the absence of their loved ones. In Richmond, Virginia, women war workers banded together to try to create a Service Legion for civilians that would parallel the newly emergent veterans organizations for men.

Women sent in detailed descriptions of their war service in order to gain membership and legitimacy. Perhaps nowhere were the distractions of group organization more important than in internment and prisoner of war camps, where inactivity and isolation could be dangerous. In the camps of World War I, camaraderie provided an antidote to depression and boredom, but it also created alliances within the prison societies that evolved. At prison camps around the world, the trappings of everyday life reappeared. Everyday life goes on, even in the midst of madness, and humans sought ways to cling to the ordinary pleasures of daily existence even as the extraordinary events of war intervened.

Photos from the period often show juxtapositions that illustrate this contradiction between the odd circumstance of war and the ordinary lives of those caught up in it. An American soldier doing his laundry next to a French washerwomen or a mother holding a baby, who in turn clasps a piece of ammunition - war creates these moments of ordinariness in the midst of chaos.

The bigger question this essay raises is how the war generation translated and adjusted their war routines to peacetime. In wartime, people tried to build a new everyday mentality in order to cope with war, but after the conflict ends, the easy normalcy that many expected never materialized.

The Everyday as Involved in War , in: International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. This text is licensed under: The Everyday as Involved in War. Another member of the unit wrote again in September: You have, as usual, risen to the occasion, and have just been soothing our troubled spirits by a couple of delightful songs. Our one trouble with regard to your songs is that so few of them seem to be obtainable on gramophone records, and this unfortunately is the only means we have, under existing circumstances, of hearing your voice.

Caroline Ethel Cooper , living in Leipzig during the war, confided to her sister in a letter: It is no exaggeration to say that the whole day goes in the search for what is necessary to live on just for that day.

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You have literally to go three times for every article of food. Then on the next day you have to go and get that egg or whatever it is, and then you are inevitably told that they are not yet delivered, and that you must come again at 6 or whenever the time may be! In August , she complained about the quality of the bread, formerly a staple of her diet: The bread is so brittle, that is falls into pieces on the board. The best slices are eaten with a spoon, otherwise one must pick them up between thumb and fingers, piece by piece, just like a bird with its beak.

With the aid of an armoured train I got into Lwow Lemberg or Leopol with a carload of condensed milk. The children are literally dying and the town is under constant bombardment. School boys and women are armed and defending the city. It is quite the most awful sight I ever saw.

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A January report from Austria describes food queues reminiscent of wartime: The women coming for food to our depots are marvelously patient and would wait for hours without a murmur. But when one knows that they spend half their days standing in queues, coals queues, food queues, soup-kitchen queues, one does not wish to keep them a minute longer than is necessary. Today I was a laundryman, a cobbler and a tailor. Now my things are all in order.

In the evening we were finally given some hot food, pasta in soup, fairly good. Fernside described in a letter the effect of such aerial terror on life in the city: Shall have to go to Gunnersbury this afternoon, as I expect grandmother will feel a bit shaky. Testament of Youth, New York , pp. Vienna and the Fall of the Habsburg Empire: Hell in the Holy Land: My Internment in England, , New York , pp.

Your Death Would be Mine: Letters and Letter-Writers, , Aldershot French Women and the First World War: War Stories of the Home Front, Oxford , pp.

Civilians in a World at War, 1914-1918

The Journal de guerre of Henri Pirenne, Amsterdam et al. POWs and the Great War: Captivity on the Eastern Front, Oxford Civilians in a World at War, , New York , chapter 7.

Civilians in a World at War, 1914-1918

Civilians in a World at War, [Tammy M. Proctor] on * FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. World War I heralded a new global era of. Tammy M. Proctor is professor of history at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. She is the author of On My Honour: Guides and Scouts in Interwar Britain.

Daily Lives of Civilians in Wartime Africa: Virginie Lovelings Dagboek [In Wartime: Understanding the Great War, New York , pp. The Great War and German Memory: Society, Politics and Psychological Trauma, , Liverpool Selected Bibliography Alpern Engel, Barbara: Not by bread alone. Subsistence riots in Russia during World War I , in: Understanding the Great War , London An autobiographical study of the years , New York My internment in England, , New York One woman's war, The letters of Caroline Ethel Cooper, London The Great War and German memory.

Society, politics and psychological trauma, , Exeter University of Exeter Press. French women and the First World War. War stories of the home front , Oxford; New York University of North Carolina Press. Your death would be mine. Vienna and the fall of the Habsburg Empire. Virginie Lovelings dagboek In wartime. Koninklijke Academie voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde. A Turkish prisoner of war in Russia, , Gainesville University Press of Florida. Pirenne, Henri, Lyon, Bryce D. The journal de guerre of Henri Pirenne , Amsterdam Civilians in a world at war, , New York New York University Press.

POWs and the Great War. Captivity on the Eastern front , New York Hell in the holy land. University Press of Kentucky. Between death and desertion. The experience of the Ottoman soldier in World War I , in: Turcica 28, , pp. Citation Proctor, Tammy M.: License This text is licensed under: Images Belgian children eating lunch. British internees are released from Ruhleben camp. Canadian soldier writing a letter.

Embroidered postcard, reverse side. French postcard from children to their father, reverse side.

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French postcard from a wife to her husband, reverse side. An angry mob attacking a German-owned business in East London Prisoners after their release from Ruhleben camp, November Prisoners of war washing, Germany. Recipes for war cooking, Reichsfleischkarte Reich ration card , Tank officers listening to a gramophone player.