Was World War I a Total War? Essay

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Was World War One a total war? Why? Why not?

The First World War of 1914-1918, also known as the Great War, was the first total war in history. What began as a European struggle over the balance of power between the triple alliance of France, Britain and Russia on one side and the central powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary on the other, soon became a global conflict that involved the imperial powers of Europe, their colonies and lands such as the Ottoman Empire, Japan and the United States. Although the sheer number of countries involved in the conflict is enough to describe the First World War as a mass war, what makes it total is the fact that it was waged not only against the enemy's armies, but also against the civilian
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The use of propaganda and the war of words between belligerents played a big part in making the First World War total, as "the orgy of killing on the battlefield took place against the backdrop of an orgy of loaded words." The government and press were able to manipulate public opinion during the war using words as tools to inspire national spirit, breed hatred, sacrifice, courage and endurance. Such propaganda included posters asking people to "Wake up America! Civilisation calls every man, woman and child!" A British poster that emphasises the involvement of the total population in the war effort shows different kinds of people engaging in war responsibilities – men at battle, women in the workforce making uniforms, men making weapons – and it asks "Are YOU in this?" This kind of all-embracing propaganda had the aim to brainwash whole nations. The combination of the public's thirst for information about the war and various governments' urgent need to mobilise entire civilian populations for the war effort led to a moulding of the public's thinking through the printed word. In Germany, for example, the military had the right to censor the press and any information that could distress the people was suppressed, while unfavourable news about a situation on the front was passed over silence, delayed or toned down. This was the same in Britain and France. The First World War was total because propaganda and censored news were
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