HIS20560: International History 1914-1991
Student Name: Kilian Skinnader
Student Number: 11480002
Is the concept of ‘total war’ useful for understanding the history of the two world wars?
The oxford dictionary defines total war as “a war which is unrestricted in terms of the weapons used, the territory or combatants involved, or the objectives pursued, especially one in which the accepted rules of war are disregarded”. Total war affects all of society, not only the armed forces but even innocent civilians. It uses all the available resources in order to win. Ultimately it’s the mobilization of the entire population and its resources for the war effort. Both World War 1 and 2 have often been described as total wars for a number of reasons. Firstly, the First World War had a major impact on Europe, borders changed dramatically and significantly with the creation of many new countries like Austria and Hungry. Emperors and kings lost their thrones and political revolutions broke out in many countries. Secondly, World War 2 has been acknowledged as the “most catastrophic event in human history”, which left over 50million people dead. World War 2 gave way to the construction of newer and deadlier weaponry. It had the mass murder of Europe’s Jews, which became known as the Holocaust. This essay will look at how the concept of ‘total war’ is very useful in understanding the history of the two world wars.
There are numerous examples that show World War 1 as a ‘total war’. To begin with, World War 1 was the first war that didn’t only affect the armies that fought it. It was a war that affected and changed the lives of the ordinary people. Before 1914, when World War 1 started, small professional armies fought the wars in a field. World War 1 brought about change. It didn’t matter whether the person was skilled or unskilled, old or young, male or female. A very clear example could be seen in Britain. Here, in a male-dominated society, women were believed to only be...