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World War 1 Term Paper


My term paper deals with the role of the USA in the First World War (1914-1918). I will try to point out major events of this period and their influenced economical, political and social spheres of American life. My research is based on two primary sources. These are abstracts from Levack’s “The West: Encounters and transformations” Volume 2. Chapter 24 is devoted to the First World War in the USA: “the Expectations vs. Reality” (p. 787) and “the Revolution in the Front Lines” (p. 801). Besides I’ll focus attention on two illustrations related to the topic: “Women in the War” and “Role Reversal”. They impressed me most of all and made me ponder over dangers and threats of military service, reasons and consequences of certain changes in it during the war. These four sources provide detailed information on the topic stated before. I will analyze the points which I consider to be the most important. I’ve chosen Gerd Hardach’s book and a newspaper article “The Unsung Women of World War”. The first one helps to understand economical problems in America during the war and after it. The second source is a nice supplement to the investigated topic of women’s rights. Chosen sources are close to each other and will give readers a clear picture of what was before the war and what happened afterwards. Authors managed to trace connection between past and present events. It would help to understand errors and misreckoning of military leaders of the past. On the whole the main point I’ll try to emphasize is what has changed in the USA due to certain events and circumstances during the war.

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The First World War also known as the Great War caused the greatest number of victims in comparison with any other military conflict. People had never known so much violence and aggression before. The war became business of the whole society, not only political authorities [Levack, 2000]. It caused revolution in the fronts. New kinds of weapon and technical equipment were invented at this time. The role of them became more and more significant in the course of time.

It is important to point out its purposes, ambitions and real state of things during the war [Levack, Expectations vs. Reality, 2000]. The First World War gave stimulus to the economic development of the USA and strengthened its political authority. Unlike Europe the USA actually was not affected by mass destruction in the industrial sphere. New York replaced London as a financial capital of the whole world. US economy rapidly grew, while its transatlantic rivals competed with each other. His ideas however never came true because of postwar policy in the USA as well as in other countries. Historians admit that instead of military affairs, the USA has chosen policy of “Empire without tears”: it hold leadership in the world market and at the same time had very few political duties [http://www.greatwardifferent.com/].

Any war brings pain to a great number of women all over the world. Many of them become widows, lose contact with relatives and suffer from violence and threatening. In spite of all these hazardous obstacles, women show amazing tenacity. The illustration “Women in the war” [Levack, chapter 24] helps to understand position of women in the war. Many women joined regular army and fought with praiseworthy bravery and courage. In case they got injured they were treated like men. International human right supports all war victims of any sex. For a long time war was considered to be male business. But already during the First World War women’s participation in war affairs became more and more frequent. Women proved that they could work not only as medical personnel.

During the First World War this tendency was still an innovation but it soon became a usual thing. In the USA as well as in many other countries tendency to draw women into the war influenced the development of emancipation. It accordingly led to unpleasant consequences. During the war women made first steps to reveal true sex equality and eliminate ‘home slavery’. When the war broke out, thousands of women joined army to keep pace with men. They felt themselves ready to endure sufferings of military service, although it was hard to get used to it. And it was twice harder for women. Strict discipline, military uniform, hard physical training weren’t an easy undertaking. War left an incurable trace in the mind of every woman. Women went through postwar psychological rehabilitation harder in comparison with men. Phenomenon of women in the war is complex due to peculiarities of female psychology. All those pains and sorrows which women had to witness were a dreadful contradiction with their inner nature. The illustration “Women in the war” made me think over women’s position during the First World War in particular. I dare say it brought first revolution changes. ‘Domestic keepers’ turned into ‘draught horses’. Not all women were willing to join military service instead of their husbands. Being deprived of any help, many of them had to work, resigning themselves to economical necessity.

Before the war relatively well-to-do family could afford hiring servants. The war however brought radical changes. More and more women became engaged in high-paid male job. On the other hand women acquired certain taste to freedom, being no longer dependant on men. Another illustration called “Role reversal” [p. 798] is also relative to the position of women during the war. It is an image of a soldier infantilized in the arms of a nurse. When I looked at it for the first time, it occurred to me that in spite of men’s strength, women possess many important for military affairs qualities. Women often join army as medical nurses and need to be brave enough to endure the sight of wounds and blood. They have to be able to lessen soldiers’ sufferings somehow. The picture made me think that men also depend on women. Wounded soldiers need care, tenderness and tranquility. Who would provide it better than women? Although military service is undoubtedly male business, women play a considerable role in it. When American people started thinking like this, women got more rights and freedoms. And on the other hand men began to treat them with more respect and care.

Gerd Hardach’s book “The First World War 1914-1918” contains much information in the form of historic overview. In order to form steady international relations, the USA has been looking for various economical opportunities. Historians often concentrate on the dramatic military events, political and diplomatic ties. It’s important to remind that Americans have always been striving to get access to world market. Economy was the major factor, which gradually formed foreign policy of the USA. As a result it became an economic leader and greatly contributed into the world development. Phenomenal economic growth however existed within the country for a long time to pass [Marshal, 1992]. Businessmen saved up great sums of money especially on oil industry.

At the beginning of 1914 the USA was a true economic leader, providing 1/3 of global productions [Hardach, 1977]. In order to understand the role of America in World War I better I’d like to figure out its main points. Germany and Austria declared war against an alliance of three states – Britain, France and Russia. The USA however proclaimed neutral policy. I must admit that it actually reflected the ideas of Adams: free trade shouldn’t be influenced by politics [Venzon, 1995]. Although trade with Germany almost broke off, the USA still had firm relations with other states. In 1916 Germany challenged neutral position of the USA and it was forced to join the war in 1917. By the year 1918 position of Germany became completely hopeless. Its armies retreated in the face of inexorably growing American military power. As a result Germany had to ask for armistice [Fisher, 1967].

It’s curious to learn that in the postwar years different political leaders discussed American interference into the war from different points of view. In 1930s, for instance, it was considered to be an absolute blunder. Isolationists admit that weapon tradesmen wanted to get more profit during the war. That’s why they somehow influenced the government’s decision to participate in the war. At the same time the US Congress passed certain laws concerning neutrality. Trade was supposed to guarantee the shield from war [Hardach, 1977]. Personally I consider that “Empire without tears” reminds serenity of colonial prosperity under Britain’s control. Many expectations never came true after the war.

Much has been written about the First World War in the history books. Different events are being investigated and analyzed as history still has gaps in it. Due to this fact I took a newspaper article under the title “The Unsung Women of World War” as a secondary source [http://europeanhistory.about.com/od/womeninww1/Women_in_WW1.htm]. I think it may shed light on a dark side in the history of the USA during the war. It tells about women who weren’t recognized as veterans. 300 women served abroad during the First World War. I doubt it was the only accident of this kind in the history. But the matter is that one would never learn about it from history manuals. Hundreds of women were sent to France as volunteers. They ought to be not less than 25 years of age. The only exception was those who could speak French fluently. They were later trained to join armies. But after the war, their activity was not recognized by the Government, as the law didn’t allow women to join army. It took them 60 years to prove they participated in the war at all. But when their actions were finally recognized there remained only 70 of those women. Having read the article I couldn’t help sharing my impressions. Heroic praiseworthy actions remained unknown. Women sacrificed their lives for the sake of homeland but faced careless attitude towards their actions. I’ve chosen this article as an appeal to read about such unknown heroes just to know about them. Their feat is still omitted in the history book.

To make a conclusion I’d like to remind that the First World War caused numerous changes in different spheres of life. Women’s position has changed during the war. They gained more freedom and independence. They made first attempts to gain right to vote. I think that this war was first to change the status of women to some extent. Nowadays nobody would doubt that women are absolutely equal with men. On the other hand I tried to show economical changes in the USA. Using different sources, mainly Gerd Hardach’s one, I analyzed past and present place of the USA in the world’s economy. The First World War also caused changes in the US society and politics. In the postwar years government passed more and more laws concerning different aspects of people’s life. Speaking about casualties, it seems clear that before the 20th century people have never been engaged in such grave conflicts. I think everybody understands inanity of wars but they still take place. Today the majority of western armies involve women into the military service. The greatest number of female soldiers belongs to US army (10%).

Brian Levack. 2000. The West: Encounters and Transformations. The First World War. Volume 2, ch. 24. Pearson Education Press.
Gerd Hardach. 1977. The First World War 1914-1918. History of the world economy in the 20th century. London: Allen Lane.
Fritz Fischer. 1967. Germany’s Aims in the First World War. London: Chatto and Windus.
Marshall S. 1992. World War One. Boston: Houghton Miflin. 56.
Ivanyan E. 2004. History of the USA. Moscow University Press.
Martin Gilbert. 1996. The First World War: A Complete History. New York: Henry Holt.
Venzon A. 1995. The United States in the First World War: An Encyclopedia.
The Great War In Different Light. 2000. Period newspaper and magazine articles. http://www.greatwardifferent.com/
Pearton М. 1984. The knowledgeable state: diplomacy, war and technology since 1830. University Press of Kansas.
Women in the war – the role of woman in the World War I. 2005. The Unsung Women of World War One http://europeanhistory.about.com/od/womeninww1/Women_in_WW1.htm
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