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.
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