With what justification can World War 1 be called a “Total War”? Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 9 September 2017

With what justification can World War 1 be called a “Total War”?

A definition of a total war is a war in which the all of the resources of a nation such as manpower’s, industry, weapons and raw materials are used in the national interest and which the attack is made not only on the armed forces of the enemy, but also (subject to certain limitations) on all its civilian people and industry. Total wars have total aims such total destruction of your enemy, total destruction on a total geographical scale, which leads to total participation of all countries as well as total destruction of the world. Now compared to World War Two, it has been argued whether ort not the First World War was total or not as the second d World War had an even greater impact on the world than the first one.

One factor, which allows us to be able to judge whether or not, the First World War was a total war is the geographical area, which it covers. The First World War, I believe, cannot be considered as a total war, because total; was by geographical scaling would mean that the war would involve all of the countries of the world, and it would indeed mean that the world would end up in total global destruction. The First World Wart had been mainly concentrated in Western Europe the main battles had been fought in, Neuve Chapelle, Vimy, Loos, The Somme, Champagne, and Verdun, which were all located in France. Then the other area of Europe where great battles were fought was in Lodz, Tannenberg, Masurian Lakes, and Dardanelles, which were located in Eastern Europe.

However, there were some other battles, which had been fought in Belgium, France, and parts of Eastern Europe, which took place, but the fact still remains that the battles had been focused in Europe, rather than the rest of the world, even though they had attempted to spread it out to other countries. The war had also been fought in places like Japan, the United States, Liberia and also, they fought in Brazil from October 1917. One also has to consider the fact that there had been a certain amount of fighting at sea, where the German submarine, the “U9” sank three British cruisers within minutes (on 22 September 1915). This then lead to further conflicts, and battles such as the battle of the Falkans and the sinking of the “Dresden”. The battle of Jutland (which took place on 31 May 1916), which was fought in the North Sea, and which resulted in the German Commander tempting sanctions of the Grand Fleet out of their ports into the open sea where they could be attacked without any protection.

Another factor, which allows us to be able to evaluate to what extent the First World War (WWI), was a total war is the use of all weapons available along with all of the resources. By the First World War, there had been several new interventions, which had come in place, and therefore, it meant that there had been new weapons which had been discovered, and which in turn meant that WWI would be more of a total war than any previous wars fought. By the time WWI had arrived, there had already been; internal combustion engines, which allowed cars to be produced, and which therefore meant that people were able to travel more quickly, there had also been aircrafts built by 1903. Other weapons, which had been used during WWI, included tanks (which were first used by the British against the Germans at the battle of Le Somme in 1916), and gas which was made up of chlorine, a lung irritant and was used for the first time by the Germans in 1915. However, these weapons (gas and tanks) had been, mostly used towards the middle of the war and not at the beginning.

However, the weapons, which had been there from the beginning of the war, included weapons like the machine gun (which allowed the gun to be fired continuously as long as the soldier could feed the fun with ammunition which meant that they could easily fire more ammunition and kill more, with booth less energy, and less time), smokeless powders (which allowed the gunners to see where their shells landed, enabling them to inflict more accurate fire on the enemy), high explosives (which gave the artillery firepower at least four times as great as that if the old guns, which in turn meant that there could be more destruction done and it could be done a lot faster and with a greater effect), and quick firing artillery (which mean that after a soldier had fired, then the guns would automatically return to their firing position). However, the war not only used all of its weapons, but there seemed to be a great use if available resources in order to help each country win the war. The fighting countries had used resources such as the telephones and calculators in order to try to locate their opponent.

In terms of mobilization of finance and industry, one could claim that WWI was indeed a total war, but at the same time, one has to consider the fact that the mobilization of finance and industry (for some countries) did not take place until the 1915-1918. By the 3rd of August 1914, Walther Rathneau had persuaded Falkenhayer’s War Ministry to set up a War Raw Materials Department (KRA) and this had been designed to have all the raw materials including labour to be officially declared as a state of emergency. This meant that all of these resources would be going towards war production of which the military had first priority. Any raw materials, which were unavailable, were often procured in foreign or occupied countries, and German scientist were being given a lot of support in developing substitute products seeing as certain resources were beginning to run scarce. During this reallocation of resources, the whole of the German industry including a series pf Raw Materials Companies were co-opting into the whole war production industry.

The food was also being focused in the military side, as in January 1915; the Imperial Grain Office introduced bread rationing, followed by the rationing of all foodstuff, which was because all food, which was being produced, had been going towards fighting the war, and therefore lead to food shortages in Germany. By September 1914, Germany had reorganized the nation’s industry into 12 regions and distributing massive orders for thousands of shells and guns. However, even though Germany had reorganized her economy to be more war based (production being focused especially for the war), there were still some private firms, which were allowed to continue producing armaments. This therefore meant that Germany had not completely mobilized her economy for the war, but she had mobilized her economy most of her economy.

Britain on the other hand was not doing as well as Germany at that same stage because most of Britain’s industry as more privatised, and there were private firms which produced armaments for the government to buy. The British economy had not been reorganized or mobilized for the war simply because they believed or at least they felt that the war would not last because they thought it would be a war of movement, and therefore they would not have to go to such extreme measures. As the war proceeded, the army had few guns and needed heavy artillery due to the change of warfare (which they did not expect)- the existing munitions factories had ill-trained workers, and ill-organized processes which prevented the British from producing an extremely highly skilled enterprise. Due to this drawback, Britain was only able to produce 700shells per day whereas Germany, with her mobilized, and skilled economy was able to produce 250000 shells a day.

This shell production difference provoked demands for greater central direction of labour and industry, which basically meant that Britain was going to start mobilizing her economy for the war. This then lead to the appointing of Lloyd George as the Minister of Munitions and who had the task of delivering adequate military supplies to the front. He then introduced the “Munitions Act” which claimed that there would a considerable extension of the government’s economic control.

This new act meant that not only did it provide subsidies to allow private firms to increase production, but it also gave the ministry power to establish state-owned munitions factories and shipyards with state-of-the-art equipment and production techniques, but none of this equipment could become available until October 1915, and none in quantity until 1916, and the reorganization of the British industry and economy was unable to have an impact until 1917. All in all, this meant that Britain had not dedicated her industry to the war until the middle; close to the end of the war therefore, on can argue that the war was not total for Britain until 1915 to 1917.

Russia on the other hand was even worse than Britain in the beginning. In the beginning of the war, the Russian army had such few rifles that it issued some of its men with cudgels and in some units; only one in five soldiers had a bayonet. The mobilisation of the economy to produce weapons for the war had robbed Russia of 40% of her skilled workers, which at the time, was a big amount. During the process of mobilising the economy, the railways transport was requisitioned by the army, leaving raw materials sitting idle in the sidings. This had been a disastrous attempt by the Russians to mobilise their economy because even though they had been using the railway as transport, the raw materials which they had left lying there were essential to be able to produce more rifles and artillery to fight the war. Russia had attempted to mobilise her economy by using up 40% of the skilled workers and also by taking control of the railway for military use, but it just seemed to be insufficient.

There have also been some obvious consequences of the war, which determine whether it was a total war, or not. On of these factor s was political which resulted in the collapse of the German, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Ottoman Empire was one of the largest in Europe and its collapse resulted in newly formed “successor states” such as Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, indirectly Poland and Yugoslavia. In Russia, the Tsarist regime had been overthrown and replaced by a most radical regime in Europe, which was to have an impact on the rest of Europe over a period of 75years. Not only had there been political changes after the war, there had been some social changes which had taken place as well, such as the role of women in the society.

The participation that women had during the war had been enormous, and that lead to them finally being recognised as equals in the society. The stereotype attitude that “a woman’s place is at the home” had altered. Woman, during the war, no longer stayed home and cooked, instead they began to do the jobs, which the men (in the army-fighting the war) were previously doing, which were mainly working in the industry to produce armaments for the men who were working in the battlefield. In places like France-25% of the labour force droning the war was a female. After the war, there was another transformation with the role that women could play in society. After the war, females were allowed to join the army, and they in fact even set up an organisation called the WAAC () which allowed the to work and serve in the army…something which was previously not allowed.

Free With what justification can World War 1 be called a “Total War”? Essay Sample


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 9 September 2017

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