After examining the concept of total war, how was World War I different than earlier wars and how important was the home front?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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World War I can be seen as different from earlier wars because it was more of a total war.  This meant that more of the various nations’ resources had to be mobilized in order to fight the war.  This made the home front more important than in previous wars because they had to participate more fully in the war effort.

With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, war became much more of an endeavor that needed all of society’s resources.  Modern, industrialized warfare needed huge numbers of soldiers.  It also needed tremendous amounts of materiel.  It required bullets and artillery shells and bombs.  It required huge stockpiles of food to feed the soldiers.  It required airplanes and tanks, ships and submarines.  All of these things had to be produced even as large proportions of the male population went off to war.  World War I was the first war that truly required a large number of countries to mobilize their resources in such a complete way.

Because the countries’ resources had to be completely mobilized, the home front became very important.  It was important for almost every able-bodied person to be involved in the war effort.  Most of the younger men entered the military, meaning that older men and many women were needed to work on the farms and in the factories to produce all the things needed for the war.  Since everyone was needed for the war effort, it was important to make them believe in the necessity and the justice of the war.  This gave rise to tremendous propaganda efforts in the various countries. 

World War I was more of a total war than any previous war.  It required countries to mobilize more of their resources than past wars had.  This meant that the home front was more important than ever because the entire population needed to participate in order to successfully prosecute the war.

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