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Food and the First World War - Essay Example

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WWI was optimistically (but naively) called the "war to end all wars", but in fact it can be regarded as perhaps the first international example of total war. Total war involves war, not just between rival armies, but between whole populations, including non-combatant men, women and children…
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Food and the First World War
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Download file to see previous pages These include high explosive, perfected machine guns, hand grenades and poison gas among a whole host of other 'advances'. The social changes wrought by WWI are also commonly known, from the end of Victorian England to the growth of a middle class to the new independence of women. However, one important advance that occurred both before and during the war; one that would change the world profoundly, was the method of production, storing and transportation of food.
This analysis detail the differences between the importance of food in previous wars versus WWI, as well as the wider cultural changes that were placed on European people because of a concentration upon the supply (and disruption thereof) in the war. It will also consider that technological advances in the food industry as a result of the prolonged war. Food was a very important wartime commodity, and new types of warfare, including the u-boats, were aimed at sinking ships transporting supplies, and especially food supplies.
In previous wars, food had been important to armies, indeed, it was a matter of prime importance for an army o the move. Julius Caesar, in one of the greatest, and first, works describing warfare, suggests that the need for food is perhaps the most vital component of an army's activity. Food, according to Caesar, is the prime "weapon" of warfare, because without it, none of the others are effective (Caesar, 1983)
Before the advent of modern warfare, which can in some ways traced to both the American Civil War (in terms of numbers of men/devastation) and to WWI (in terms of technology/deaths), armies needed to live off the land that they passed through. While some supplies could be taken with them, sue to the lack of storage/preservation these could only the very basics such as corn, oats and some salted meats. But because roads were unpaved and slow, the transport of large amounts of food would bring an army to a stand-still. So the major source of land would be the land that was being passed through. Indeed, cutting off that food supply brought many great armies to their knees. Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812, and the subsequent destruction of his army stemmed from two major factors: first traveling too far, too fast without access to a reliable source and second, the Russian winter. The Russians adopted a "scorched earth" policy in which they destroyed their own landscape by setting it on fire in order to starve the French army (Schom, 1998). As Napoleon stated in what has become something of a clich. "an army marches on its stomach" (Schom, 1998).
As the fate of Napoleon's army illustrated, as well as that of many others over the centuries, reliance upon the native sources of food rather than transporting one's own individual supply leads to a great vulnerability, even for what is superficially the strongest army. The larger the army the greater are needs for food, and the greater logistical problems involved in supplying it.
The Industrial revolution, which started in England and eventually spread to much of the rest of Europe and the United States, caused a massive transformation in the cultural and economic landscape of food production.
In the century between Napoleon's disastrous defeat at the hands of the Russians and the beginning of WWI in 1914, many advances in both the production and preservation of food had occurred. One of the great improvements was the invention of ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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