World War I: A History in Documents

By Frans Coetzee; Marilyn Shevin-Coetzee | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Chapter Four
War Without
Mercy

“Total war” is the term some participants (such as Germany’s general Erich Ludendorff) and many subsequent historians adopted to express the sheer magnitude and impact of the First World War. By this interpretation, it was not the geographic breadth of the war that distinguished it. Previous conflicts had been sufficiently far-flung that the First World War’s global reach was not quite unique. Rather, what appeared to so many observers to give the four years from 1914 to 1918 their special character were the repercussions of industrialized war on a massive scale. To them the war was “total” because of the appalling casualties it produced, the unchecked ferocity and technological inventiveness with which it was waged (including poison gas and submarines), the strains it placed upon civilians who were now endangered by aerial bombing, long-range artillery bombardment, blockade, and the harsh conditions and long hours in wartime factories. Above all, it was a war which demanded each citizen’s engagement with the war effort on a practical, intellectual, and emotional level. World War I prompted people to demonize their enemies and scrutinize their neighbors for any flaw or deviation that could obstruct the search for victory.

The contrasts between World War I and its predecessors can be overdrawn. The Thirty Years War (1618–48) had a devastating impact, especially in Central Europe, and it had been fueled by savage religious strife. But in at least two ways the industrialized killing of 1914–18 was a marked departure. First, in the wake of technological innovation, the war could be fought differently, with new and terrible weapons. Second, after a century of population growth, educational expansion, and political reform, most governments required some degree of consent from their populations to wage war on so massive a scale. They were then challenged by the persistent stalemate to devise unlikely to be spared.

-81-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
World War I: A History in Documents
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 176

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?