Essay on How Comprehensively Are the Characteristics of “Total War” Illustrated by the First World War?

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Pages: 5

The First World War was unlike previous conflicts in its scope and scale. While previous wars tended to be limited wars, where war only consisted of direct combat away from society, the Great War was a total war. For the purpose of this essay, total war will be defined as a type of war that involves all aspects of society and comprises of both the destruction of the enemy by direct combat and the disruption of enemy resources and morale. This essay will argue that the characteristics of total war are clearly illustrated by the direct and indirect means of warfare involved in the First World War. This will be argued by examining the political, economic and social aspects of indirect warfare in addition to the direct warfare that …show more content…
In order to maintain an efficient workforce, women were employed to substitute the roles of men in factories who were conscripted into the army. Thus, a greater emphasis was placed on directed labour as the previously untapped reserve of female labour was now vital for the economy. Another method governments used to sustain the workforce was the use of propaganda to boost morale and productive efficiency. Civilians were subjected to propaganda as governments attempted to promote and justify the length of war. For example, propaganda became a key element of Britain's war policy with the establishment of the the Ministry of Information. This is again supported by Marc ferro, who notes that “governments not only used economic and military weapons, but also intellectual ones” to motivate the workforce. Therefore, the significance of the morale and workforce as factors of indirect warfare clearly demonstrate First World War as a total war.

The First World War clearly illustrates the characteristics of total war because all of society suffered from the effects of war. Not only were civilians suffering from food shortages, they were also affected by the actual fighting. Thus, those in the army were not the only ones subjected to attack as there were many civilian casualties as well. For example, London was subjected to numerous German air-raids, resulting in the destruction of homes and hospitals and the death of 1117 British civilians. Hence, as historian