Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the Making of the Modern American Citizen

Synopsis

In April 1917, the United States embarked on World War I--with little history of conscription, an army smaller than Romania's, and a political culture that saw little role for the federal government other than delivering the mail.Uncle Sam Wants Youtells the gripping story of the American homefront in World War I, revealing how the tensions of mass mobilization led to a significant increase in power in Washington.

Christopher Capozzola shows how, in the absence of a strong federal government, Americans at first mobilized society by stressing duty, obligation, and responsibility over rights and freedoms. In clubs, schools, churches, and workplaces, Americans governed each other. But the heated temper of war quickly unleashed coercion on an unprecedented scale, making wartime America the scene of some of the nation's most serious political violence, including notorious episodes of outright mob violence. To solve this problem, Americans turned over increasing amounts of power to state institutions. In the end, whether they were some of the four million men drafted under the Selective Service Act or the tens of millions of homefront volunteers--or counted themselves among the thousands of conscientious objectors, anti-war radicals, or German enemy aliens--Americans of the World War I era created a new American state, and new ways of being American citizens.

Based on a rich array of sources that capture the voices of both political leaders and ordinary Americans,Uncle Sam Wants Youoffers a vivid and provocative new interpretation of American political history.