HOME FRONT OF WORLD WAR I
The home front was a major aspect of World War I and played a key role in the history and significance of the war. The home front involved the societies for the different nations involved and the issues faced by the citizens who did not fight in the front lines of World War I. For instance, all of the countries involved in World War I were impacted on the home front in different ways. With that said, there were some similar issues faced by all of the nations involved. This article focuses on the similar issues faced by most countries on the home front during World War I. Click on the list of links below to read more specific details about individual countries and their home fronts during the war.
First and foremost, despite World War I being devastating for the soldiers on the front lines, it was also terrible for the civilians on the home front. For instance, historians estimate that as many as 7 million civilians died as a result of the events of World War I. This large death toll was the result of a few different factors. First, civilians suffered due to battles that affected cities and towns across the battlefields of Europe. For example, the trenches of the Western Front stretched through areas across Belgium and northeastern France, including through farms, towns and cities. This displaced numerous people in the region and led to casualties among the civilian populations of Europe. Another issue for civilian populations was the lack of resources. For instance, the German home front went through a period of hardship during the course of the war. The period from 1916 until 1917 is referred to as the ‘Turnip Winter’ in Germany due to the lack of food choices for the German citizens. Instead, citizens were left to eat turnips, which were most often used to feed livestock. Furthermore, historians estimate that as many as 474,000 German citizens died as a result of malnutrition. Finally, the home front was impact by the events of the Flu Pandemic of 1918 (Spanish Flu). This pandemic hit the home fronts of World War I near the end of the war, but devastated the lives for both soldiers and civilians. As such, these factors combined to create a terrible situation for civilians on the home front.
Another common impact of the home fronts of World War I was the impacts for women. World War I is considered to be an example of a total war, which involves all aspects of society being used towards the war effort. For example, during World War I many men volunteered for war while agriculture and factories on the home front were all producing to further the cause of war. Since many of the men in these societies were gone to the front lines, World War I saw women enter the workforce in large numbers for the first time. These women took jobs in factories that produced the weapons of war. As well, they worked in in office buildings and other positions. This new role for women occurred at the same time as popular feminist and suffrage movements across North America and Europe wherein women fought for and won the right to vote in general elections. This was a transformative event in the history of these countries and seriously affected the home fronts of many countries involved in World War I.
Related to total war, governments across North American and Europe controlled the production and use of resources to ensure that as many resources were being put towards the war effort as possible. For example, citizens on the home front were required to ration food items and other resources in order to make them for use on the frontlines. It was the belief of military generals that well fed soldiers would help overcome the enemy and bring about an end to the war. The rationing of food included items such as: sugar, butter, meat and bread. For Britain, an island nation, the rationing was even more important because German submarines in the North Atlantic sunk merchant ships and slowed the supply of trade to and from the country.
In order to promote rationing and other initiatives, the governments of the time used propaganda to convince citizens of certain messages. Propaganda is a form of political messaging that promotes certain initiatives and other government sponsored goals. For example, governments issued propaganda that worked to recruit soldiers for the war, ration certain items and to demonize the enemy. Citizens on the home front were subjected to constant messaging to ensure they supported the war effort and to maintain the push towards victory.
Finally, citizens on the home front were impacted when their governments decided to draft or conscript soldiers for war. This means that the government had passed laws making military service mandatory. Countries did this in order to increase numbers in the armed service in the hopes of making the final advance towards victory and to bring an end to the fighting in World War I.
In all, life on the home front changed dramatically during the course of World War I, and the civilians on the home front faced many different challenges. While all of the nations of World War I experienced similar challenges on the home front, there were also many differences, which were unique to each individual country. As such, in order to understand the impact of World War I on the home front of each nation, it is important to learn about the history of each country during the war. Click on the links below to read more detailed information about the home front of the different major nations of World War I:
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