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date: 03 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This essay explores how Europeans experienced the First World War. Consent in wartime was generated from the bottom up rather than choreographed by the state. Civil society and commercial mass entertainment played a vital role in sustaining morale among civilians and the troops. Far from being alienated from each other, people in and out of uniform remained in constant communication. Moreover, the drive towards ‘total war’ broke down the barrier between military and non-military spheres and transformed enemy civilians into targets and one’s own civilians into an important resource. Atrocities were committed, people at the home front attacked from the air, civilians forced to flee their homes, soldiers brutalized and prisoners of war maltreated; and yet, the war cannot be described as an unmitigated demographic catastrophe. To be sure, it left a legacy of mass bereavement and a memory culture that endured long beyond the caesura of 1918.

Keywords: conscription, First World War 1914–1918, genocide, Great War, home front, paramilitary groups, propaganda, total war, veterans, war memorials

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