Over Here: The First World War and American Society

By David M. Kennedy | Go to book overview

1

The War for the American Mind

"If the war didn't happen to kill you," one of George Orwell's characters observed, "it was bound to start you thinking." 1. The remark might have been applied with special accuracy to Americans. Safely distant from the war zone, they had unique opportunities for reflection. In Europe the swift crisis of 1914 had swept both governments and peoples over the brink with scant time for thought about the war's meaning. In the months that followed, the proximity of the fighting had helped to keep men's minds fastened closely on the war's immediate tasks, rather than its ultimate significance. But during more than two and a half years of neutrality, Americans felt no such restraints on their thinking, and they elaborated vigorous and quite various ideas about the war and its meaning for America. Even the submarine attacks that finally provoked the United States to belligerency had a certain remoteness, and did not instantly clear the national mind about America's relation to the European conflict. President Wilson himself had responded deliberately, even haltingly, to the U-boat assaults, first severing diplomatic relations and then arming American merchant ships before at last asking for a declaration of war. The congressional debate on the war resolution had further reflected the persistent confusion

____________________
1.
George Orwell, Coming Up for Air ( New York: Harcourt Brace, 1950), 144.

-45-

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Over Here: The First World War and American Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Over Here - The First World War and American Society *
  • Preface *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Contents *
  • Prologue: - Spring, 1917 3
  • 1 - The War for the American Mind 45
  • 2 - The Political Economy of War: the Home Front 93
  • 3 - "You'Re in the Army Now" 144
  • 4 - Over There - and Back 191
  • 5 - Armistice and Aftermath 231
  • 6 - The Political Economy of War: the International Dimension 296
  • Epilogue: - Promises of Glory 348
  • Bibliography 371
  • Index 389
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