AP European Essay 2-2 The First World War brought about a phenomenon known as “total war”. Total war is a war fought on all fronts. A total war has the full support of the country and all human resources, from civilians to soldiers, are considered a part of the war effort. Total war during the first world war had a direct impact on the social, political, and economic structures of the European powers. Total war saw many changes in the social structures of Europe.
With millions of men at the front unheard of numbers of jobs were available to those who had become accustomed to unemployment and poverty.
This type of situation was seldom seen before 1914 where unemployment and poverty had been facts of everyday life. The role of women in everyday life changed immensely with the arrival of total war. With such large number of positions that were typically worked by men opening up many women took roles in society that they had never considered before, such as police officers, mail carriers, and even industry workers.
The presence of Total war also promoted social equality, blurring class lines and closing the gap between the rich and the poor.
This greater social equality was very apparent in Great Britain where wartime hardships were never extreme and where the bottom one third of the population actually lived better than they had before the war. The advent of total war also brought about change in the political structure of the European powers. During the first two years of the war both soldiers and civilians supported their governments and saw their county as having a just cause for fighting in the war. European governments employed rigorous censorship and propaganda in order to control the public opinion and maintain popular support.
By 1916 the stain of a total war began to wear on the people of Europe and some groups attempted to take advantage of this strain. One group who took advantage of this was the group of Irish nationalists in Dublin in who rose up against British rule in the Easter rebellion. Similar strikes and protests flared up all over Europe due to inadequate food rations. Total war not only changed the economy of Europe but also helped to bring about a war economy that would have lasting effects.
When the war began Germany went about setting up the War Raw Materials Board to ration and distribute raw materials. Under the direction of Walter Rathenau every useful material from foreign oil to barnyard manure was inventoried and rationed. Food also suffered from rationing with those who worked longer, harder days being allotted more food. This rationing of all useful resources facilitated the mobilization for total war and marked the first instance of state socialism functioning realistically rather than as a utopian program.
Without these drastic economic changes the total war phenomenon would have never have come to fruition. The effort of both citizen and soldier were vital in bringing about the total war phenomenon. The social, political, and economic structures of the European powers were changed in great ways due to many nations embracing the ideas that make up total war. But through all of the many changes one thing was certain; war is a vital facet in the changing of societies and countries will shape themselves around it. Not only had the lives of Europeans changed due to total war, but war had changed.
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