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First World War - Essay Example

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The First World War, commonly called the Great War, was the first war which involved large portions of the population, and while there was a lesser death toll than the terrible Influenza which followed in its wake, the loss of life made it shocking to all those who participated in it…
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First World War
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Download file to see previous pages This is a reflection of the large numbers of deaths, which finally made the war unpopular on all sides.
None of this means, however, that the war was unpopular in some countries to begin with. The European powers were still rivals for the spoils of Africa, and certainly Britain suffered from 'Jingoism' (A popular term for what is almost outward-directed xenophobia, extreme rivalry and bigotry aimed at Britain's economic rivals), and the majority of the other nations involved in the war did so too. Perhaps the only member of the Great War who was not a willing combatant is Russia, who entered into battle almost by accident, having become a third party in the Anglo-French Entente. Even there, however, public feeling was partially aroused by the 'neo Slav' movement "The Neo-Slavs envisaged truly independent Slavic nations in a free association"2.
Other nations, such as America, also mobilised, but here the conditions of the popular movement are not always clear. While Woodrow Wilson's government swept into action: "People were ordered to 'work or fight'. Every adult male registered with a draft board"3. Although America joined the war too late to count as a subject for analysis here, the support which the war received when they finally joined provides an interesting parallel with the nations of Europe.
In addition to the loss of life, the Great War had a number of consequences for all of the nations involved. Britain was obliged to grant women the vote after their war contribution; Russia collapsed into the Bolshevik Revolution, and then Communism; and Germany was damaged so severely that it also effectively disintegrated, and of course the mighty and powerful Austro-Hungarian Empire was finished. None of these consequences could have been foreseen at the beginning of the war.


The war in Europe came as no real surprise to anyone in Europe. For most of the first decade of the twentieth century, the continental powers were involved in a rapid series of peace talks and treaties. England and France became allies in 1905, with the Entente Cordial (Which became the Triple Entente when Russia joined). Forces such as the National Service League ensured that the general populace was prepared for war: " Unbelievably glib assertions that 'war is not murderwar is sacrifice - which is the soul of Christianity"4.
In many ways, Britain was well placed for a short, sharp war with her continental rivals: the last decade of the nineteenth century has produced "An increase of 98.3 per cent in the size of the Army and a 70.9 per cent in the Navy"5. Marsh suggests the reason for this was the South African (Boer) War, but the ultimate result of this massive increase is that there were a large number of servicemen in the British Army at the outbreak of the war. Furthermore, there were pressing needs to develop a distraction for the British populace: the situation in Ulster was growing increasingly tense. As late as May 1914, the government was passing Home Rule legislation in order to contain the threat of war6. In a game of consequences with the Irish Nationalists, the Prime Minister Asquith was prepared to force a state of war in order to keep as much power in English hands as he could.
Asquith was in trouble at home too, where the 1913 act that enabled Suffragettes to be force-fed was coming under fire.7 The additional problems of "intensified industrial unrest"8 ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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