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About this book

We have often heard about the brutal world of the trenches, the willingness of brave young soldiers and the apparent indifference of the generals, but reevaluations of the Great War in previous decades have shown us much more complexity, and in many cases some surprising reconstructions of very standard narratives of the war.

The traditional isolation of the battle front from the home front, which historians have tended to observe, has given us an incomplete understanding of both fronts. In this study of Word War I, Hunt Tooley crosses the boundaries of national histories to examine the various connections between the 400-mile-long Western Front and the home fronts of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Australia and the United States. Tooley draws on recent research and the wealth of primary souce material available to provide a broad synthesis of a complex event, and to create a more holistic view of the war - as men stayed in touch with those at home, as governments responded to events on the battlefield, and as writers, poets and artists brought the cultural impulses of Europe to the deadly world of the Western Front.

In his clearly-written, wide-ranging study, Tooley argues that the seeds of much of the twentieth century may have been planted well before the First World War, but - as many social critics, politicians, soldiers, women's movement leaders, and others predicted - the cultivation of these seeds in war would have a powerful and formative effect on the social, political and cultural processes which shaped the twentieth century.

Table of Contents

1. Origins, Preconditions, Outbreak

Abstract
World War I broke out during the late summer of 1914 as the result of a crisis in the diplomatic relations between two antagonistic states: the rambling, jaded, multinational Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the young but proud country of Serbia, the most dynamic of successor states to the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans. The antagonisms were both long-standing and real, and the interconnected nature of European power relations brought the two basic prewar camps into open hostilities in the first days of August 1914.
Hunt Tooley

2. Mobility and Unity

Abstract
The extraordinary events of August, September, and October 1914 offer crucial insights into the interconnections between battle front and home front. The horror of the fighting itself was unknown to the belligerent publics, but the mediated (or euphemized) version of battle front events exercised its own influence on the dynamics of war, governance, culture, and society. In this sense, the first months of the Western Front give us a look into the formation of both home and battle fronts. It cannot be surprising that home and battlefield would influence, constrain, and shape each other.
Hunt Tooley

3. Stalemate and Mobilization, 1915/1916

Abstract
The metaphor of “stalemate” is apt to mislead us as much as enlighten us if we apply it too literally to the Western Front. It was a potent concept of the era, which influenced the actions of participants, decision-makers, and bystanders, and in large measure, the history of the Western Front has been envisioned in terms of stalemate.1 Since the 1980s, on the other hand, historians have begun to emphasize change and development rather than stasis. Yet even in light of new material emphasizing the extent to which the battle front itself changed during the four years of war, the idea of stalemate is still a useful analytical tool for thinking about the course of the war, both on the battle front and on the home front. It is necessary first, of course, to comprehend the nature of this stalemate, and we make a good start by understanding that individuals and armies in 1915 were not inactive, hamstrung, or otherwise unable to introduce new ideas and adopt clear courses of action. Indeed, in some ways, the military behaviors of the Western Front powers in the period from November 1914 to the crucial year 1916 represented sometimes frantic, sometimes fatalistic, plans in reaction to or even in fear of stalemate itself.
Hunt Tooley

4. Innovation, Persuasion, Centralization

Abstract
Maverick American intellectual Randolph Bourne wrote in the midst of the great conflict that “war is the health of the state.”1 Without question, the Western Front belligerent societies give powerful evidence of this aphorism: even the defeated would, after the war, draw on wartime behaviors and structures to fashion their new states. In fact, the governments of the defeated might fall, but their states would prove to be significantly strengthened in many ways. The victorious powers could point to their new modes of governance and management with the pride of survivors. This chapter departs from the general “narrative” of the war to examine a number of smaller “narratives” — we might look at these as subplots or different perspectives — which help us take the measure of the range of relationships between the home front and the battle front in World War I.
Hunt Tooley

5. The Crucible of War: 1916

Abstract
Without becoming too teleological about it, one might suggest that 1916 was one of the most significant years of the twentieth century. It was certainly the year in which the Great War changed in its character, size, and intensity. By and large, the war took on an increasingly mechanized, even automated aspect, above all in the Western Front armies, where the “automaton-like” steel helmet replaced soft caps during the last months of 1915 and early 1916. The great Western Front battles of 1916 were larger in size and scope than previous struggles, partly because commanders were pressured to “break through,” but partly, as will be seen, because a whole new conception of war by “attrition,” or “wearing out,” came to influence the thinking of European leaders. Huge battles also took place on other fronts, expending both lives and wealth, making plain in particular the enormous costs of high-explosive artillery preparation.
Hunt Tooley

6. 1917: New Strains, New War

Abstract
Change, not stasis, dominated 1917. Military men responded to the battles of 1916 in ways that produced a new synthesis even as they produced new strains. Change dominated the domestic and diplomatic fronts as well. Strike activity rose sharply in the United Kingdom and Germany. The first Russian Revolution in March 1917 and the Bolshevik Revolution in the following November took Russia out of the war. The United States entered the war in April 1917. By the spring of 1917, new war leaders were in place in Germany, France, and Britain, leaders who would remain in charge until the end. A large mutiny in the French army in May altered the dynamic of Allied strategy, as did the arrival of the American commanding general, John G. Pershing. Both at home and on the battle fronts, soldiers, medics, nurses, and a host of others increasingly saw in the war an unremitting horror.
Hunt Tooley

7. Transformations: Politics, Culture, Warfare

Abstract
German war aims and peace aims, their reasons for fighting the war, were many and various. They fought because they were “encircled,” or because it was their responsibility, or because the Russians had threatened. Some ordinary Germans may have thought of the war as a crusade for the expansion of German culture and influence, and some German leaders undoubtedly did. But hardly any Germans at any level thought of the war as a crusade for freedom or democracy. In authoritarian Germany, such sentiments would have made little sense.1
Hunt Tooley

8. Collapse, Armistice, Conclusions

Abstract
Most scholarly writing about the end of World War I used to confine the discussion primarily to state-related concerns: the peace conference, the collapse of the German government, the demands of the victors, the “powerlessness” of the vanquished, and so forth. Historians now recognize that there is more to the end of World War I than the signing of some documents in the Palace of Versailles in the summer of 1919. In this closing chapter, as we look at the peace terms and the shape of the new Europe — indeed, we will really find ourselves once again facing issues which connect the battle fronts of World War I with the home fronts.
Hunt Tooley
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