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Civilians in a World at War, 1914-1918

Civilians in a World at War, 1914-1918

Tammy M. Proctor
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 377
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  • Book Info
    Civilians in a World at War, 1914-1918
    Book Description:

    World War I heralded a new global era of warfare, consolidating and expanding changes that had been building throughout the previous century, while also instituting new notions of war. The 1914-18 conflict witnessed the first aerial bombing of civilian populations, the first widespread concentration camps for the internment of enemy alien civilians, and an unprecedented use of civilian labor and resources for the war effort. Humanitarian relief programs for civilians became a common feature of modern society, while food became as significant as weaponry in the fight to win.Tammy M. Proctor argues that it was World War I - the first modern, global war - that witnessed the invention of both the modern civilian and the home front, where a totalizing war strategy pitted industrial nations and their citizenries against each other. Civilians in a World at War, 1914-1918, explores the different ways civilians work and function in a war situation, and broadens our understanding of the civilian to encompass munitions workers, nurses, laundresses, refugees, aid workers, and children who lived and worked in occupied zones, on home and battle fronts, and in the spaces in between. Comprehensive and global in scope, spanning the Eastern, Western, Italian, East African, and Mediterranean fronts, Proctor examines in lucid and evocative detail the role of experts in the war, the use of forced labor, and the experiences of children in the combatant countries.As in many wars, civilians on both sides of WWI were affected, and vast displacements of the populations shaped the contemporary world in countless ways, redrawing boundaries and creating or reviving lines of ethnic conflict. Exploring primary source materials and secondary studies of combatant and neutral nations, while synthesizing French, German, Dutch, and English language sources, Proctor transcends the artificial boundaries of national histories and the exclusive focus on soldiers. Instead she tells the fascinating and long-buried story of the civilian in the Great War, allowing voices from the period to speak for themselves.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6852-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    “I would make a good soldier,” twelve-year-old Elfriede “Piete” Kuhr confided to her war diary on August 4, 1914, in her East Prussian town of Schneidemühl.¹ That same month on the other side of the developing battle lines, ten-year-old Yves Congar was playing with his toy soldiers when the Germans marched into his home town of Sedan, France.² Across the Channel in England, a teenaged Girl Guide packed a special bag with provisions, which she tied around her waist at night in order to “be prepared” for the call to active service in the war.³ Meanwhile her fellow Girl Guides...

  6. 1 Citizens in Uniform
    (pp. 13-39)

    On a cold November day in 1914, Edward Casey interrupted his walk along the Barking Road in East London to enter the army recruiting office. Born of Irish parents and living in the slums of Britain’s capital, sixteen-year-old Casey thought of war service as a novelty that would enliven his dreary life. Casey lied about his age to get past the first hurdle, then went for the medical inspection with “posh-looking men” in white coats who asked him,

    “Have you ever had measles, scarlet fever, sore throats?” and [a] lot of other names I had never heard of. I said...

  7. 2 Civilians and the Labor of War
    (pp. 40-75)

    In his autobiography, Stimela “Jason” Jingoes spends considerable time describing his service in the First World War, writing fondly of the adventure the war represented for him and his youthful companions:

    We were a mixed bag of recruits…. We were young, scared and excited, and we got up to some amazing high jinks. Whenever we stopped at a station, we simply poured out of the train, and took whatever we wanted from the railside stalls: food, fruit, magazines, anything that took our fancy. When people tried to get us to pay, we told them gleefully to ask the Government, for...

  8. 3 Constructing Home Fronts
    (pp. 76-112)

    On August 1, 1914, twelve-year-old Elfriede “Piete” Kuhr decided to start a war diary to record the events around her in her East Prussian hometown of Schneidemühl, Germany. Life changed for her almost immediately, but in small ways at first. Piete recorded the new school rules in her diary for August 3, 1914:

    At school the teachers say it is our patriotic duty to stop using foreign words. I didn’t know what they meant by this at first, but now I see it—you must no longer say “adieu” because that is French. It is in order to say “lebwohl”...

  9. 4 Caught between the Lines
    (pp. 113-152)

    Virginie Loveling, a well-known novelist living in Ghent (Belgium), faced the prospect of war with resignation in 1914, when she began a war diary at age seventy-eight. From the time Belgium mobilized to face the German threat in August until the armistice in 1918, Loveling kept a secret journal, describing life in theEtappen(staging zone for the German army) of Belgium. While she recorded the occasional fright of an air raid warning or an encounter with soldiers on the streets of town, her diary, like many other civilian accounts of war in the front-line and occupation zones, showed the...

  10. 5 Caring for the Wounded
    (pp. 153-176)

    When the United States army sent out a call for a new group of civilian employees called “Reconstruction Aides” in January 1918, both Katrine Fairclough and Lena Hitchcock volunteered. These new “RAs” provided specialized care for recuperating soldiers in the areas of massage therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. While Katrine Fairclough worked full-time at a hospital in Liverpool (U.K.) as a medical masseuse, Lena Hitchcock was sent to France in 1918, where she worked as a nurse’s aide in the wards. As Hitchcock described it,

    I make beds, first sweeping them out with a whisk broom, twice daily; rub...

  11. 6 Creating War Experts
    (pp. 177-202)

    More than any other war prior to 1914, the First World War spawned the modern phenomenon of “expert” assistance in the management and maintenance of war. Scientists, humanitarians, diplomats, clergy, social scientists, and voluntary aid workers devoted countless hours, and sometimes their own lives, to the war, often not as patriots for a particular nation but as international arbitrators, observers, and aid workers. Like medical personnel, such civilian experts provided services to the war effort but also had an uncertain identity within the wartime establishment. This chapter focuses on the varied groups of people who managed and inhabited the space...

  12. 7 Civilians behind the Wire
    (pp. 203-238)

    The nightmares began almost as soon as he reached neutral territory. The dreams were vivid, featuring faceless officials wresting him from his comfortable Dutch hotel room and returning him to the horse stall where he’d spent the last three years. Gilbert Graham, a 28-year-old Australian electrical engineer released into Dutch custody in late April 1918 from a German civilian internment camp, wrote to his wife about the dreams:

    Here I usually sleep too heavily to dream but when I do it is quite disturbing, because I always find myself back in Ruhleben, awake, with the knowledge that Holland was only...

  13. 8 Civil War and Revolution
    (pp. 239-266)

    Between August 1914 and the signing of the peace treaty in June 1919, civil revolts, rioting, and revolutions broke out in dozens of countries around the world as the strain of wartime demands pushed crowds to desperate actions while also creating opportunities for dissident groups. Because many of these disturbances were civilian in nature, they have often been treated as separate from the war, but in fact, most of them were shaped fundamentally by the events of 1914–1918. Historians have categorized revolutions and revolts as “civilian” and as separate from the First World War for a century. While the...

  14. Conclusion: Consequences of World War I
    (pp. 267-276)

    Countless times over the past few years as I have worked on this book, the following scenario has played out with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. They ask me about my current project, and when I reply that I am writing a civilian history of the First World War, the common response elicited is, “Oh, the home front.” For most people who consider the history of war at all, “civilians” equal “home front”—people removed from the battle front. This book has demonstrated that while home fronts do help create the lifelines that make modern war possible, they constitute only a...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 277-326)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 327-352)
  17. Index
    (pp. 353-362)
  18. About the Author
    (pp. 363-363)