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The Legacies of Two World Wars

The Legacies of Two World Wars: European Societies in the Twentieth Century

Lothar Kettenacker
Torsten Riotte
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 334
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  • Book Info
    The Legacies of Two World Wars
    Book Description:

    The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was done mainly, if one is to believe US policy at the time, to liberate the people of Iraq from an oppressive dictator. However, the many protests in London, New York, and other cities imply that the policy of "making the world safe for democracy" was not shared by millions of people in many Western countries. Thinking about this controversy inspired the present volume, which takes a closer look at how society responded to the outbreaks and conclusions of the First and Second World Wars. In order to examine this relationship between the conduct of wars and public opinion, leading scholars trace the moods and attitudes of the people of four Western countries (Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy) before, during and after the crucial moments of the two major conflicts of the twentieth century. Focusing less on politics and more on how people experienced the wars, this volume shows how the distinction between enthusiasm for war and concern about its consequences is rarely clear-cut.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-223-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Andreas Gestrich

    Since the turn of the twenty-first century the public attitude to war and peace has become a topic of acute importance. With the end of the Cold War, and in particular the return of war to Europe in the Balkans and the Iraq wars, European public opinion can no longer just be a reaction to ‘imagined wars’ of the Cold War era – it has to discuss and take on the concrete political and humanitarian responsibility for military actions carried out in the name of their respective nations. Still today debates on the legality and proportionality of these new military...

  4. CHAPTER 1 ‘Old Europe’ and the Legacy of Two World Wars
    (pp. 1-14)
    Lothar Kettenacker and Torsten Riotte

    The aim of this book is to trace the moods and attitudes of the people of four Western countries before, during and after the First and Second World Wars. The contributions examine public opinion in Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy during the crucial moments of the two major conflicts of the twentieth century (in their differences and similarities).¹ The inspiration to look again at the attitudes of ordinary Europeans to the two wars came from the controversy surrounding the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. That decision, if one is to believe US policy at the time, was taken...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Prevention or Regulation of War? The Hague Peace Conferences as a Limited Tool for Reforming the International System before 1914
    (pp. 15-28)
    Jost Dülffer

    One of the most remarkable episodes in nineteenth-century diplomacy was a reception given by the Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail N. Murav’ev in August 1898. As every week, diplomatic representatives in St. Petersburg received invitations to the event, but this time the minister presented them with an odd text. In this diplomatic note, clearly designed to uphold the interests of Czar Nicholas II, the system of state alliances was emphatically condemned and in its place a new goal proclaimed: ‘to put an end to these incessant armaments and to seek the means of warding off the calamities which are threatening the...

  6. CHAPTER 3 ‘The Spirit of 1914’: A Critical Examination of War Enthusiasm in German Society
    (pp. 29-40)
    Gerhard Hirschfeld

    Anyone interested in the outbreak of the First World War will know those black and white photographs (now a few have also been found in colour) from the last weeks of July and the first two weeks of August 1914. They are pictures of cheerful masses gathered in the great squares and streets of European capitals, of more or less spontaneous-looking assemblies and demonstrations, mainly of middle-class young men waving their hats and caps and striking up patriotic songs; there are also young women handing the parading soldiers flowers and small presents, so-calledLiebesgaben; and finally there are railway cars...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Construction and Deconstruction of the Idea of French ‘War Enthusiasm’ in 1914
    (pp. 41-57)
    Nicolas Beaupré

    The aim of this chapter is not to present once again ‘how the French entered the war’, to use the title of the famous and pioneering thesis by Jean-Jacques Becker.¹ In fact, no serious study on the subject has ever contradicted this key work, and it would be presumptuous and dangerous to seek to do so in a single essay. In any case, my own research dedicated to a category of French people – the soldier-writers² – has not contradicted his thesis in any way at all.

    So, the object here is rather to try and understand how and why...

  8. CHAPTER 5 The Mood in Britain in 1914
    (pp. 58-76)
    Hartmut Pogge von Strandmann

    Recent historical scholarship has put Britain’s decision to join the war in 1914 under renewed scrutiny. The question as to whether the mood of the British people in July and early August 1914 forced the liberal government into war or whether it was the government which, by its decisions, influenced the mood in Britain has occupied publicists and historians for the last ninety years.¹ Contemporary British politicians were well aware of the fact that a war could not easily be declared if public opinion was set against it and ultimately a cabinet would have had to resign if this gap...

  9. CHAPTER 6 The First World War in the History of the Weimar Republic
    (pp. 77-89)
    Gerd Krumeich

    It was Erich Ludendorff who coined the sinister dictum that politics is or should be the continuation of war by other means.¹ This reversal and perversion of Carl von Clausewitz’s paradigm of the constraint politics should exercise on war is like a symbol of the devastation the Great War left on the politics of the post-war period. This war, which lasted for four and a half years, was fought with such commitment that it was impossible for reason, rather than the (temporary) exhaustion of one side, to bring it to an end and hand matters over to the political order...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Fascism and the Legacy of the Great War
    (pp. 90-119)
    Angelo Ventrone

    The First World War brought about a profound rupture in Italy, altering not only the way people led their lives, but changing the way in which the country was politically governed.¹ Between 1914 and 1918, a new political mentality came into being. This grew out of a desire for a different political model, an alternative to the liberal-democratic system, the proponents of which had been accused of mishandling the transformations which the war had brought about. What made this new mentality so particularly original was the way in which it militarized politics and demonised its adversaries.

    The leading protagonist of...

  11. CHAPTER 8 The French Desire for Peace and Security in the 1920s
    (pp. 120-129)
    Jean-Claude Allain

    At the end of the First World War France is in a peculiar position. Though one of the three great victors, it is the country most affected by the war: 1.35 million dead, that is, 3.4 per cent of the French (metropolitan) population and 10.4 per cent of the working men (in Germany, 2.9 per cent and 9.8 per cent respectively); and 1.1 million wounded and invalids, amongst them 10 per cent mutilated, specifically those with damaged faces (gueules cassées). In the combat area 17,600 public buildings and more than 500,000 houses are destroyed or damaged, miles and miles of...

  12. CHAPTER 9 Britain in the Wake of the Great War
    (pp. 130-139)
    Jay Winter

    This chapter points to the contradictions of the immediate post-war years in Britain. On the one hand, the war had been won and demobilization proceeded relatively smoothly. The paradox of the war economy was that noone had predicted it would perform so well. That very success lulled leaders from Lloyd George to Winston Churchill to imagining a prosperous future. On the other hand, labour militancy at home, violence in India and civil war in Ireland threw Britain and its empire into an uncertain state. The Versailles settlement was a pyrrhic victory for Britain, bringing neither peace nor stability. By mid...

  13. CHAPTER 10 Germany: War without Public Backing?
    (pp. 140-149)
    Hans Mommsen

    Unlike 4 July 1914, when the German population greeted the outbreak of war with exuberant rejoicing, the invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 was received in Germany with reticence and apprehension, and there was scarcely any enthusiasm for war. This was astonishing in view of the fact that for years the government had given top priority to re-armament of the Wehrmacht and at the same time carried on extensive propaganda about making the German people capable of ‘defending’ itself. How a great majority of Germans could, on the one hand, welcome Adolf Hitler as chancellor and concur with his...

  14. CHAPTER 11 The French Entry into the War in September 1939: Between Reluctance and Resignation
    (pp. 150-167)
    Barbara Lambauer

    The defeat of France in June 1940 was one of the greatest traumas in the history of French foreign policy. Along with 1870 and 1954, it sealed the nation’s final descent from a great power to a power of the second rank. In view of this, it is all the more remarkable that French historians (with the exception of Marc Bloch¹), waited patiently for over thirty years before addressing themselves to the subject. Particular attention was then given to the psychological constitution of French society in the years before the war; the standard work on French foreign policy in the...

  15. CHAPTER 12 Great Britain: Declaring War as a Matter of Honour
    (pp. 168-184)
    Lothar Kettenacker

    More than half a century after the end of the Second World War and almost two decades after the end of the Cold War, we may be permitted to pose the question whether the focus of research on the negative attributes of Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement politics does justice to the historical reality. Doubts about this way of looking at things already emerged in the critical discussion of A. J. P. Taylor’s account of the outbreak of war.¹ Here too it now appears to be time to place the Third Reich in the perspective of history, as Martin Broszat has proposed.²...

  16. CHAPTER 13 Disillusionment, Pragmatism, Indifference: German Society after the ‘Catastrophe’
    (pp. 185-203)
    Clemens Vollnhals

    In the contemporary consciousness of the German people the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942–43 became the symbol of the turn in the war which had in fact already begun with the failed advance on Moscow. It was not the first crushing defeat of the eastern army, but it was widely recognised to be a senseless sacrifice of an entire army group and led to the first doubts about the military genius of the Führer, a vabanque player whose previous successes had silenced all sceptics. Enormous losses (on the eastern front alone the Wehrmacht suffered a third of its total...

  17. CHAPTER 14 The French after 1945: Difficulties and Disappointments of an Immediate Post-War Period
    (pp. 204-224)
    Fabrice Grenard

    Today, historians prefer the term ‘immediate post-war period’ (sortie de guerre) to that of ‘post-war’ (après guerre) to characterise the years directly following the two World Wars. In place of the old tallies of casualty numbers and diplomatic resolutions of conflicts studied by traditional historiography, new approaches tend to focus on the processes of demobilising and reintegrating the former combatants, the problems associated with the reconstruction and reconversion of war economies, the question of mourning and the challenges of how to remember and commemorate the past.¹

    In the case of France, the period immediately following the First World War has...

  18. CHAPTER 15 Great Britain: Remembering a Just War (1945–1950)
    (pp. 225-256)
    Toby Haggith

    It is widely accepted that the British memory of the Second World War is overwhelmingly positive, even that it is a source of great pride for the majority of the people. Historians and commentators have referred to the war, and without irony, as ‘just’ or ‘good’ and the role of the British Army in liberating occupied Europe as ‘a noble crusade’.² This contention is supported by the evidence of popular culture where nostalgic, heroic representations of the war abound and, according to one cliché, no Sunday afternoon in the family home is complete without the ritual viewing of a British...

  19. CHAPTER 16 Italy after 1945: War and Peace, Defeat and Liberation
    (pp. 257-274)
    Gustavo Corni

    During the Second World War, Italy encountered a variety of different diplomatic-military situations which lacerated its social fabric. In an initial phase, Mussolini’s regime had taken a stand as a ‘non-belligerent’ when faced with Hitler’s unilateral decision to attack Poland, leaving Mussolini himself in a very uncomfortable position. Such a stand did not match the declarations of a ‘masculine and warrior’ Italy which had only recently conquered an Empire. On the other hand, he was well aware of the overall lack of military preparation of the armed forces and of the general absence of public enthusiasm which was carefully monitored...

  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 275-299)
  21. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 300-303)
  22. Index
    (pp. 304-323)