Crises, sudden changes, and unexpected events - dove world news

Crises, sudden changes, and unexpected events

Historians are studying what the past can tell us about the daily responses to the Covid-19 epidemic.

Crises make us all normal when they reveal our struggle to cope with sudden changes and unexpected events. Before, during, and after World War II, the British were faced with a series of interconnected and interconnected crises. For people of the day, it was often difficult to judge the importance of what was going on. They were absorbed in daily activities and sometimes lacked what was going on. In other cases, focus on the most captivating drama, even if it was not important. In late February 1942, for example, they were much more annoyed by German war traffickers fleeing the canal (a tactical defeat brought about by a strategic defeat of the enemy) than the fall of Singapore, the military disaster that greatly accelerated the end. . of British imperial power in Asia. At the same time, local influences from the world can cause unseen individual crises in the global hype. Causing a prisoner husband or wife, or daughter summoned to work in war, the horror of a loose Luftwaffe bomb or the tragic arrival of geographical indications, all of which led to devastating upheaval for families, even during apparently “calm” periods of war.

In his poem “Museum of Fine Arts” of 1939, WH Auden explained how ancient masters such as Peter Bruegel the Elder grasped the stupidity of ordinary life that occurs alongside unusual events – comic dogs and the horse scratching during the crucifixion. However, in the era of total war, the massive national efforts necessary to preserve the huge conflicts meant that everyone was affected and this clear division became admissible. The warrior Odin, who did not turn his head during the fall of Icarus, would have felt himself during the war being sprayed on his back since the fall of the failing pilot in the sea. However, he may have continued to plow it. Despite all these problematic crises, when they continue, the addiction and the new natural are confirmed. Our brains may be confused when we live in history, but their resilience lies in our resilience.

“As we embrace physical distance, the virtual world offers endless opportunities for emotion”

Julie V. Gottlieb, professor of modern history at the University of Sheffield and author of “Guilty Women”, Foreign Policy and Appeasement in Interwar Britain (Palgrave, 2015)

This is a vital issue for governments, the media, employers and trade, researchers, and, above all, citizens themselves. Today the “people”, each of us, have a voice and reach social media. As we move towards physical distance, the virtual world offers infinite possibilities of emotion and confession rewarded by the instant acquittal of friends and followers. In panic as the nation talks about life and health, food security, economic survival and the loss of our freedoms, we are also competing for emotional resources.

The analogies with the 1930s may seem scrupulous; the impact on physical and mental health of an international political crisis should not be confused with the political symptoms of a global health crisis.

What he remembers is the profound impact on our inner life, as well as the desire to record and preserve the experience of the man and woman apparently on the street – or, today, the man and woman away from the road. This happened during the Munich crisis in the autumn of 1938.

Politicians, artists and academics have always provided information on the personal ramifications of public events, sharing their impressions of collective sentiment. But efforts have also been made to record people’s voices. The collision of emerging social science methods, psychoanalysis and the desire to provide information to people as a means of resisting fascism explain the creation of the British Institute of Public Opinion (Gallup Polling) and mass observation ( anthropology of us themselves ”) at the beginning of 1937. They reveal the way in which ordinary people spoke, dreamed, understood or misunderstood life in times of crisis, in real time rather than in retrospect. M-O’s ambition was to “give both the ear and the voice to what millions of people hear and do in the shadow of these great events”. These sources revealed responses ranging from “crisis fatigue” to high levels of anxiety. Today, those who wish to express themselves in more than 280 characters can again volunteer for mass observation. Millions more can record their voices on social media – best described, perhaps, as mass self-observation.

“Blitzkrieg and rigid upper lip have colorful thoughts about the British”

In recent weeks, many have suggested that the experience of living in the Second World War sets a precedent for the current national crisis. As an emotional historian, I have been particularly concerned with how nostalgic notions of the Blitz mind and rigid upper lip have colored ideas about Britain and expressions of fear of sadness past and present. What can we learn from the experiences of people who went through World War II?

In his first speech from the Prime Minister in May 1940, Winston Churchill said that he could only offer the nation “blood, fatigue, tears and sweat”. Churchill kept tears repeatedly over this promise – crying in the House of Commons, public journeys through bombed London streets and many private visions to cry for her favorite film – this Hamilton woman by Alexander Korda, in descending in a shortage of alcohol from the mistress of Admiral Nelson.

But how did ordinary people express their emotions during the raid? Some of the documents kept in the collective watch archives, started in 1937, are particularly impressive. The 1940 document describes a 40-year-old middle-class woman who lived on a street where houses were recently destroyed in an air strike. He becomes nervous and bothered by the dark every day, shaking and running over and over on the toilet. When the air strike warning sounded, “he immediately peed and burst into tears.”

In 1941 the London priest wrote about the funeral processions of civil defense workers, housekeepers, pilots, women and children, who roamed the streets, followed by crying families. They wrote: “These are hard people who worked”, these people do not cry easily, these people. Pain, pain and suffering are not new to them. They are tough people, more used to a curse than to crying. “But” the horror of death is above everything and there are only tears left. ”

The tears and fears of our ancestors who experienced the raid are part of the cultural line of emotions of our time.

“People questioned the motivations of the elites who benefited from the crises”

Caroline Boswell, Associate Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and author of Disaffection and Everyday Life in Interregnum England (Boydell Press, 2017)

How ordinary people reacted to the British crisis of the mid-seventeenth century was complex and depended on their personal values, identities and experiences. The debates about political authority and legitimacy depended on local power struggles that opposed the habit of local landowners’ policies and practices. “Ordinary” competitions on the customary rights of common lands and resources have become political strengths, where the legitimacy of the monarchical or republican regime has been discussed in communities and in the press. People questioned the motives of the elites who benefited from the crises, whether politicians such as Sir Arthur Hesilrige were expanding, or new tax collectors who confiscated the property of those who had not paid. Through direct action and printed controversy, individuals and communities could reject those who violated customary rights or exercised questionable authority for personal gain.

The relationship between national politics and personal values ​​has grown stronger as cultural clashes have reached new levels. The decision to engage in the practice of drinking health – in the Stuarts, in Parliament or in Oliver Cromwell – could turn into a burning question in the communities in which the alliances were divided and the clashes with the usual practices were intertwined with the politics of the civil war. Loyalty to the republic or king can be interpreted as loyalty to his companions. Behavior regulation became a growing form of political agency, as the men and women who guarded their neighbors described those who did not respect politically dissatisfied.

Common people’s responses to mid-17th century crises fueled broader debates about good governance. Men and women turned to local and national leaders for guidance during times of crisis, but they were ready to exercise authority when policies were lacking or in conflict with personal and community values. While some popular responses to the crisis have promoted the rights of the vulnerable in England, others have sparked violence against those who have come to represent general anxiety in the face of unhindered change. Personal responses to crises continue to have national implications.

It may surprise us to learn that some sectors of European public opinion were in favor of the war in 1914. The impact of modern weapons was not well understood and many people in the government, in the military and civilian population imagined that the conflict would be brief. Ultimately the essential question about the First World War is not why it happened – there have been countless studies written on this question – but rather what prompted it. Its main root was the strong patriotic and national sentiment of the rural and urban middle classes of central and western Europe.

Knowing what we do with the nature of the First World War, it is difficult to understand the fact that the outbreak of the war in 1914 was welcomed by some sectors of public opinion in Europe. Although this varied considerably from country to country and within populations, it was still true that, for some, the news of the war was viewed positively. This article will explore the reasons for this.

A simple explanation, of course, was that practically no one, from ordinary citizens to heads of government and military generals, imagined or could begin to imagine the reality of the war that would take place. There was little awareness of the terrible effects of modern weapons or of the fact that they would provoke a long war, although books, articles and newspapers referred to the negative impact that a conflict could have had. There were of course exceptions: notoriously Horatio Herbert Kitchener (1850-1916), as well as Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke (1800-1891) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), had foreseen a long war; Jan Gotlib Bloch (1836-1902) predicted that modern warfare would prove long and an economic catastrophe. Western military observers, however, have largely ignored the lessons of attrition and the difficulty of making quick offensives that were evident in the Russo-Japanese and Balkan wars.

The “brief war illusion” was, in part, a consequence of the lessons drawn from history: the most recent war between the major European powers, the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, which remained a relatively new memory for the populations of 1914, it lasted only from July 19, 1870 to January 29, 1871, about six months. There was awareness of the first revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, especially among the European military; in fact, the Napoleonic wars received particular attention. But although this previous period of war cumulatively lasted more than twenty years, it consisted of a series of much shorter individual wars and between them there had also been short periods of peace. Before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the plans of the future belligerents all included a rapid conflict whose outcome would have been decided by one or two major decisive battles.

This was far from irrational – in fact, if the German army had won the battle of the Marne, which was very close to that, this was what could very well have happened: in this scenario, the war would have been more or the western front was less finished and it wouldn’t take long for it to end on the eastern front as well.

It is therefore important to realize that when the threat of war loomed in 1914, European populations therefore did not react in response to what was about to happen – rather, they reacted to what they imagined or what they were able to imagine, would have been the likely result.

A European war

This was especially true in the three countries that were at the center of the conflict: the French Republic and the German and Russian empires. This was the context of the images of enthusiastic soldiers leaving for the war in 1914 and the trains of mobilized troops covered in warlike graffiti – however it is important not to exaggerate this phenomenon; these cases were always and only a small minority of troops and overall populations.


In France, although there had been some obvious public concern in the weeks leading up to the outbreak of the conflict, the atmosphere was not pro-war, despite the significant hawk-like change to the previous year’s military service law, 1913, which extended the period of service from two to three years. At the end of July 1914, the French press was much more concentrated on a domestic scandal: the trial of Henriette Caillaux (1874-1943), wife of one of the main politicians of the Third French Republic, which took place from 22 to 29 July. Her husband was president of the country’s most important political party, the Radical Party. She was on trial for her actions on March 16, 1914 when she shot and killed Gaston Calmette (1858-1914), editor of Le Figaro, a newspaper that had conducted an ongoing campaign against her husband. He feared that Calmette would publish “intimate letters” which she had exchanged with her husband Joseph Caillaux (1863-1944) before their marriage while he was his lover and Caillaux was still married to his first wife, whom he divorced in March 1911.

When the war suddenly turned into a threat in the last days of July, French public opinion was far from unanimous. Some relatively significant nationalist demonstrations took place in Paris and larger cities, but the pacifist demonstrations organized by the Socialist Party and the CGT union were more numerous. In contrast, in rural France there was little knowledge of international developments; the campaign was focused on working in the fields at this time of year and few of its inhabitants had free time to read newspapers, practically the only means of information during this period. When the church bells started ringing on August 1 and it became clear that this was not to warn of the fire but to announce the mobilization for the war, the first reaction was shocked and dismayed. But opinion in the cities and countryside was radically changed by the German invasion of Belgium and Luxembourg. In the face of what, for many French people, seemed to be a typical German act of aggression, the vast majority of the public believed that it was necessary to defend the country. Only in a handful of cases, however, was this situation aroused enthusiasm; the overwhelming attitude was one of resolution and resignation.


German public opinion has evolved quite differently, largely because, as Wolfgang J. Mommsen (1930-2004) has shown, “the idea that a war was inevitable” was relatively widespread in Germany. One reason was that since the Moroccan crisis of 1911, the Germans had convinced themselves that their legitimate colonial expansion had been blocked by the French and the British. Another extremely influential idea in German public opinion was the fear of encirclement resulting from the coalition between France, Britain and Russia, an idea exacerbated by another largely unfounded fear, which had continued to grow, however, of a Russian threat to Germany: there was a widespread belief that in the event of a war, Germany risked being overwhelmed by the Russian masses within a few years, Russia had recently reformed its army to increase its strength. This helps to explain why, when the threat of war loomed in July 1914, there was evidence of real enthusiasm for the war between the middle classes in Germany, often accompanied by deeply anti-Russian attitudes. Recent historical work by Roger Chickering and Jeffrey Verhey has highlighted this and the extent to which these patriotic demonstrations were also aimed at the German socialist movement, whose patriotism was suspected by the German right in the weeks leading up to Germany’s conflict. The enthusiasm of the war was much less evident among the working classes and, although, as in France, it was impossible to organize a large strike movement against the war in time to actually stop the conflict, there were a number of major demonstrations throughout Germany, cities that have mobilized hundreds of thousands of workers under the banners of the Social Democratic Party to oppose the German war that went to war in the last week of July, as Jeffrey Verhey has shown. As Gerd Krumeich pointed out, the response to the threat of war in the urban areas of the working class was often of depression and desolation, and the SPD leadership fully gathered to support the war only after the Russian invasion of East Prussia.

These first reactions to the news of the war were soon followed by a second phase during which a sense of concern dominated the German population. The idea of ​​a fresh and joyful war, according to a model dating back to 1859, quickly dissipated in 1914; despair at the news of the war continued among the workers. Indeed, recent historical research by Jeffrey Verhey, Benjamin Ziemann and Wolfgang Kruse has shown that the mood between German workers and peasants was not in favor of war; many were frightened but practically nobody was able to speak out against the war after deputies from the SPD Reichstag decided to vote for war credits. The rapid drop in war enthusiasm in Germany has also been linked to the difficult war conditions that have occurred. For the German military leadership, it was necessary to first fight the French army before moving on to focus on fighting the Russians. The German public considered the latter contest to be much more important and threatening.


In the case of Russia, there was no general monolithic reaction to the outbreak of war. Responses varied widely from patriotic fervor to discouragement, activism, and disorderly warfare. [3] Urban Russian populations have generally responded to German Russophobia with a wave of anti-German sentiment. Patriotic fervor was widespread among the Russian educated classes; the enthusiasm for the war was considerably more moderate among the workers. However, it should be noted that in St. Petersburg – a name that was immediately deemed too German and replaced by Petrograd – although the previous period was one of the city’s social and political troubles, with barricades and strikes, a situation that bordered on the revolutionary, this social protest ceased in the face of the outbreak of international war. The Russian Duma held a historic session during which all the parties affirmed their patriotism, except for the Bolshevik and Menshevik deputies who refused to vote for war credits; however, they were very few, with nine and five members respectively.

Unlike the mass patriotic mobilization in the cities, there has been a generalized overthrow, open dissent and desertion in many rural districts where the enlisted peasants were engaged in drunken riots suppressed by the army, causing hundreds of dead. The vast majority of the Russian population was made up of peasants who did not understand the reasons for the mobilization or experienced patriotic fervor. But their point of view didn’t matter. Furthermore, their discontent did not turn into an organized refusal of mass mobilization, even if those who referred to the mobilization points complied with the severe demands of the Russian army. Once enlisted, many turned out to be disciplined and obedient soldiers; however, the massive desertions before 1917 show that precise distinctions must be made, since morale and obedience fluctuate considerably, and the Russian military has also used widespread coercive discipline to keep troops in line, making it difficult to assessment of troops’ views on the war.


It was Austria-Hungary which assumed the greatest share of responsibility in the start of this war which had seen large swathes of Europe mobilize in several days. Austria-Hungary had acted to take revenge on Serbia, which it considered responsible for the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Franz Ferdinand, archduke of Austria-East (1863-1914), earlier, on June 28, 1914, in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, territory recently annexed by Austria-Hungary. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was an unusually structured multinational state and it was conceivable that the many different groups of the population, especially the German and Slavic populations, would react to the news of the war in different ways. In reality, although the sudden outbreak of a European war was a shock, the attitude of the Austro-Hungarian population was even more a surprise in its relative coherence: there was very little difference in the way Germans, Hungarians, Poles and the Czech people of the empire, and even the Serb population of Bosnia and Herzegovina, responded to the war. They displayed patriotic reactions very similar to the populations of the nation states in their defensive rally around the state and the emperor. This behavior was so unexpected and difficult to understand that Leon Trotsky (1879-1940), who was in Vienna during this period, thought that it was not possible to find a theoretical explanation, suggesting rather than those who mobilized for war were just happy to escape the boredom of everyday life. Although he wrote on the basis of his experiences in a German part of the Empire, the situation was more or less similar throughout Austria-Hungary.


Britain has intervened militarily in a conflict on the continent for more than fifty years. The Liberal Party, in power since 1906, wanted to continue this state of affairs and avoid mixing Britain, which, as a world power, had other concerns abroad in India and Persia to weigh against the continental concerns. The internal situation of the United Kingdom is unstable given the tense Irish political situation surrounding the application of the Home Rule, various social problems and suffragette unrest. This only reinforced the idea that getting involved on the continent was not in the best interests of Great Britain. Foreign Minister Sir Edward Gray (1862-1933) was convinced that European problems could be resolved by negotiation and had long resisted accepting any transformation of the British agreement with France and Russia into a real alliance . At the start of the July 1914 crisis, Britain focused on the crisis in Ireland rather than Serbia, with widespread indifference after the Austro-Hungarian-Serbian confrontation among the general British public. In addition, when Sunday August 2, Germany issued its ultimatum to Belgium, the British were enjoying a long holiday weekend, which meant that while the most unprecedented war in history was triggered, the British public was literally “on vacation”, enjoying a Monday off. The cabinet, however, was very divided on whether or not to go to war, and concerned about public reaction: there have been large anti-war protests, including one that brought thousands of people together in Trafalgar Square in London in the days before entering the war. In the end, it was the German invasion of Belgium that allowed cabinet figures in favor of aid to France – Edward Gray and Winston Churchill (1874-1965) in particular – to win. Arguably, it was only during Grey’s speech in the House of Commons the day before the British war broke out on August 4, 1914, that public opinion firmly turned behind the intervention.

But public opinion quickly reacted to the government’s action, responding with almost unanimous approval – the Liberals, Tories, and Labor all voted for war credits, while even the very liberal newspaper The Manchester Guardian s joined the war effort in response to the invasion of Belgium. Men from all walks of life, but especially the middle class, answered hundreds of thousands to the call for military volunteers to serve – Britain had no conscription in the first two years of the war and the 2 million men who have volunteered are proof of a general, if not universal, commitment to the national cause. As British historian John Keiger pointed out, in the British case, an extremely divided country in 1914 was suddenly united by war.

Serbia and Belgium

Serbia and Belgium, as small states, faced a simple dilemma in 1914 – to fight or to surrender – unlike the large European countries which were generally masters of their own fate when the conflict broke out. Faced with the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum, Serbia finds itself in a difficult situation, already exhausted by the two Balkan wars of 1912-1913 which ended barely a year earlier, on August 10, 1913, with the Treaty of Bucharest . Serbia had no real means of effectively resisting the much more powerful forces of Austria-Hungary; however, this did not prevent the Serbian press from aggravating the situation with patriotic and belligerent articles. There was, however, almost national unanimity in Serbia around the decision to refuse to capitulate, with the exception of two Socialist deputies. It should be noted that these two men represented rural areas since Serbia almost completely lacked industry.

Belgium had no interest in the current war and was only involved in the conflict because the German Schlieffen Plan provided for the German army to cross Belgium as part of its invasion of France. Germany offered to pay the costs that would result from this military invasion of Belgium, presenting it as a simple process of military transit in France, and was convinced that the Belgians would allow the passage of the powerful German army. However, this did not turn out to be the case – the Walloon and Flemish populations of the country were outraged by the prospect of what was effectively an invasion of their sovereign territory and a violation of Belgian neutrality. According to Belgian historians, like Jean Stengers (1922-2002), and in particular the contemporary of war Henri Pirenne (1862-1935), it is a feeling of national honor which motivated the majority of Belgians, irritated by the way which Germany, one of the signatories of the treaty which was committed to guaranteeing Belgian neutrality, had broken its obligations.

Colonies and dominions

The European war assumed the appearance of a world conflict from the start due to the use of colonial troops. France is the only state to have used black African troops on the European battlefield. It also employs Maghreb troops, mobilized from its territories in North Africa. Britain used Indian soldiers on the Western Front. The “white” British Dominions also went to war when Britain did. On July 31, 1914, Australian Prime Minister Joseph Cook (1860-1947) declared that “when the Empire is at war, Australia is the same”. [6] During the conflict, more than one million Australians, Canadians, South African, New Zealand and Newfoundland volunteers would fight in Europe, while large numbers of Indian soldiers would also fight in Mesopotamia , in Egypt and elsewhere.


Japan, which was allied with Great Britain, was also obliged to go to war on the side of the Allies within the framework of the terms of its treaty of alliance which had been renewed in 1911 [7]. The Japanese army supported the entry and part of the national press provoked an anti-German movement. Nevertheless, Japan refused to send combat troops to Europe and concentrated its war contribution on the conquest of the German colonial enclave in Tsing-tau in China, which it quickly took in 1914.

Non-participating states

Within days, much of Europe had entered the war, with the exception of the Netherlands, Switzerland, the Scandinavian states and, in the south, the Ottoman Empire, Italy and the Iberian Peninsula. The case of Switzerland is special. The 69% of the German-speaking population were favorable to Germany, while the 22% of the French-speaking population were largely pro-French in their attitude towards the conflict. [8] The internal situation in Switzerland was therefore fragile. However, the army, mobilized from August 1, 1914, remained neutral and helped maintain the country’s neutrality, even if its commander General Ulrich Wille (1848-1925) was openly pro-German. The Swiss economy was severely disrupted by the war, but none of the belligerents had an interest in violating Swiss neutrality – quite the contrary. They sought to benefit from the communication and transport channels between the belligerents that a neutral Switzerland maintained in the center of Europe. The Netherlands has also been affected economically, notably by the temporary influx of one million Belgian refugees. The Scandinavian countries were also affected economically and politically by the war: in Denmark, the majority of the population was hostile to Germany, in Norway, there was a majority in favor of Great Britain, while the Swedish public favored Germany, insofar as an important element called Sweden to go to war alongside the central powers. In southern Europe, neutral Spain was divided by the conflict into two parts, the pro-Allied and pro-central powers, Alfonso XIII, King of Spain (1886-1941), effectively maintaining the position of neutrality of the country throughout the war.


The situation has developed differently elsewhere where other neutral countries have finally found it impossible to stay out of the conflict. Portugal had little real interest in this war, other than being an old ally of the United Kingdom. [9] The British government considered it preferable for Portugal to remain neutral and the Portuguese population was largely indifferent. However, since the revolution of 1910, which had established the Portuguese Republic, the Democratic Party, the most radical of the republican factions, believed that it would be in the interest of the Republic to unite the country behind a great national cause, and that war offered this opportunity. Following German provocations, particularly in Africa, where Portuguese Angola bordered the colony of southwest Germany, Portugal declared war on Germany on March 9, 1916. Two unfortunate Portuguese divisions were the victims of the Portugal’s bet on the First World War – they were “routed” by the German offensive in Flanders in April 1918. There was hardly a Portuguese church which did not erect a memorial to the dead of the conflict.


Italy was the only major European power not to go to war immediately and was the subject of intense lobbying on both sides to join them. The situation in Italy is unique, because before the conflict, it had been allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary within the framework of the Triple Alliance, but had also coveted Trieste and Trentino which were territories austro -Hungarian. The majority of the Italian population – the peasantry – was indifferent to the European conflict and largely illiterate and focused on local problems; however, in the cities, a pro-Entente movement which called on Italy to intervene on the Entente side has developed. It was a mainly middle class movement, which saw war as an opportunity for Italy to seize these coveted Austro-Hungarian territories known as “irredent” lands – regions largely Italian speakers of Trentino and Trieste in particular. In contrast, the Italian urban working class was largely pacifist. Important demonstrations took place in Rome and Milan in favor of an intervention. The Italian right, which was originally more favorable to the central powers, is now rallying to the pro-Entente national interventionist movement. The interventionist demonstrations finally gave birth to what became known as the “radiant May” which ended with the entry into the Italian war on the side of the Entente powers in May 1915. Patriotic fervor in the cities were real and the peasantry mobilized, although often not knowing the causes of the war would in many cases come up against significant determination, although, as in the Russian case, morale had fluctuated and the army displayed severe coercive discipline, making it difficult to assess soldiers’ views on the war.

The balkans

War had emerged from the Balkans but in the first few months had overtaken most of the Balkan states. However, as the conflict continued, the belligerents increased their efforts and pressures to drag the Balkan states into war on their side.

Despite its defeat in the First Balkan War, the Ottoman Empire is no longer “the sick man of Europe”. He had been supported by the rise of the pre-war Turkish youth movement, which had become resolutely nationalist after its successful coup, and which planned to rebuild the Empire on the model of a Turkish national state in order to strengthen it . The Young Turks leadership also aspired to extend the state’s borders to include the Turkish populations of the Caucasus and Turkestan who were under Russian rule, and some members saw the outbreak of war as a potential chance to take this territory from Russia while Russia was distracted on other fronts. However, not all the leaders of the young Turks were in favor of going to war, and it was ultimately Ismail Enver Paşa (1881-1922), deeply pro-German, who dragged Turkey into the war against Russia by attacking Russian warships in the Black Sea. The Ottoman Empire declared war with the central powers on November 2, 1914.

As far as the Balkan states of Romania, Bulgaria and Greece were concerned, all three had monarchs of German origin and sympathizers for Germany. However, the position of each of these three countries was different. The mass of the population was made up of rural peasants who, again, played little role in the decisions taken to go to war. Public opinion was determined by the middle classes in urban centers – a small segment of the overall population. Germany badly needed Bulgaria as an ally because it would facilitate its communication links with the Ottoman Empire; however, exhausted by the wars in the Balkans, Bulgaria was reluctant to get involved in the conflict even if it wished to take back the part of Macedonia that was within the borders of Serbia. Finally, Germany and Austria-Hungary bought the Bulgarian intervention by offering the country a huge financial subsidy, and Bulgaria declared war on Serbia on October 14, 1915. Romania, which coveted the territory of the Russia and Austria-Hungary, focused on an opportunistic entry into the war against the side of whoever was most likely to be victorious. In 1916, Romania thought it would be the Entente camp, after a series of Russian successes, and declared war on Austria-Hungary on August 27, 1916. As for Greece, its main political figure, Eleutherios Venizelos (1864-1936) hoped that by supporting the Allies so that he could realize his “big idea” of reconstituting a modern version of the Byzantine Empire; however, he faced strong opposition from the pro-German Greek court which wanted Greece to remain neutral. In the end, it was France that removed Greece’s diplomatic options regarding the conflict, sending French troops to Salonica (modern Thessaloniki) on October 1, 1915, in a sort of fait accompli, and creating there an Allied army that the French labeled “Army of the East”. In June 1917, the Allies deposed Constantine I, king of Greece (1868-1923) and, led by Venizelos, Greece officially entered the war on the side of the Allies on June 29.

So in 1917, for a wide variety of reasons, almost all of Europe had gone to war – although each state’s view of the conflict was so different that it is fair to say that in many ways, they entered different wars ”. Indeed, for the Balkan States, the First World War can reasonably be described as the third Balkan war. Public opinion has also played a varied role in decision-making depending on the sophistication of a state’s political structures and response systems to citizens, levels of literacy and saturation of the press, and industrial development. .

A world war

United States

In 1917 the war became even more of a world conflict with the entry of the United States. When the conflict broke out in 1914, the United States had no reason to enter what it considered a European war. The American population was divided in its attitude towards the conflict. Some groups supported Britain or Germany, while the mass of the immigrant population was largely indifferent – having left Europe to start a new life in America, many were not interested in European affairs. As for the president, the democrat Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), elected in 1912, even if he believed that the mission of the United States was to promote democracy in the world, he did not think that it should go to war . . Wilson had officially declared American neutrality at the start of the conflict. In a message to the Senate on August 19, 1914, he called on the Americans to remain neutral – “impartial both in thought and in action.” During the presidential election campaign of 1916, he defended the popular slogan “he kept us out of the war”.

What led Wilson to change his mind about the American entry into the conflict, as well as a change in attitude of American public opinion in favor of intervention on the side of the Entente, with the obvious exception of the German Americans? One answer is the disputed question of “freedom of the seas” in wartime. At the start of the war, Wilson had vigorously protested against the Allied maritime blockade of Germany; however, the president was louder in condemning the German response, which was an unrestricted submarine war. Following the torpedoing of the British liner Lusitania on May 7, 1915, with the loss of nearly 1,200 lives, including 128 American victims, there was such an uproar in the United States that Germany was forced to moderate its practices of submarine warfare. However, as the conflict continued and the blockade tightened, Germany believed that the adoption of a restricted form of submarine warfare was much less effective and, on January 31, 1917, it again declared unrestricted submarine warfare, which posed a major threat to American shipping and trade. routes and resulted in the sinking of American ships. In addition, because of the blockade, American agriculture and industry had largely focused on providing the Allied war effort. If the Allies had lost the war, the American financial losses would have been considerable. In addition, once the Germans relaunched unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917, American goods destined for transatlantic transportation to supply the Allies piled on the docks as ships were reluctant to leave the port due of the underwater threat, causing considerable disruption. We still wonder to what extent these economic considerations influenced Wilson; the German declaration of unrestricted submarine warfare, however, marked a humiliation of his peace efforts to bring the belligerents to negotiations and the Zimmerman telegram of spring 1917 strengthened it. In addition, they have certainly had an impact on the change of perspective of the American population in general. The President focused on action, not on the basis of the material interests of the United States, but rather on the basis of considerations such as American prestige, the promotion of democratic ideals and the rights of neutrals. On April 2, 1917, the United States entered the war as an “Associate” of the Entente countries, and not as an ally, a binding obligation which the United States rejected. The majority of Americans now sympathized with the Entente, but that did not translate into a general desire to volunteer to fight for themselves in the war, and there was some resistance to conscription. America had only a small army that few Americans considered a major force; when the government decided to expand it to the large army necessary for the war, there were very few volunteers. However, when the state introduced conscription to provide the necessary workforce, mobilizing 4.8 million men, the Americans reacted stoically, largely with patriotism.

Latin American countries

The United States government believed that other states on the American continent should share their views on the war. However, this did not turn out to be the case; Among the twenty Latin American states, only one, Brazil, went to war in October 1917 and participated in it only to a very limited extent, although he sent a few soldiers to Europe. Cuba and Panama also entered the conflict; both were strongly dominated by the United States and, in addition, the small Central American states participated: Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Others, such as Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay and the Dominican Republic have simply broken off diplomatic relations with the central powers. The other major states – Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina and Chile – remained neutral. In fact, Latin America felt far from the conflict and little affected by it; as historians Armelle Enders and Olivier Compagnon note: “seen from Latin America, the memory of the First World War is so inexistent and inaudible that it is as if the conflict never took place”.


There was another major power that entered the war – China, a weak and divided state at the time, despite its huge population. China entered the conflict on August 1, 1917 for one main reason, namely to prevent Japan from retaining control of the German colonies in the Far East after the end of the war. The Chinese state saw little active participation in the war; the main Chinese contribution was made by Chinese workers, who were brought to Europe by the Allies to provide manual labor for their demanding war efforts. However, negotiations to obtain most of these workers, as well as their transportation to and employment there, took place before the Chinese state officially entered the conflict.


The war that broke out in 1914 quickly became the “Great War” in Great Britain and France, to the point that the first edition of the major history of the conflict of Pierre Renouvin (1893-1974) published in 1934 was entitled: The Crisis European and the Great War (The European crisis and the Great War). Obviously, it was only after 1945 that the term “World War I” came into common use. However, among historians, the debate continues on the extent to which the conflict of 1914-1918 was really a “world” war compared to its successive conflagration of 1939-1945. Certainly, in terms of public opinion, apart from the “white” dominions, the colonial populations had no say in their involvement in the conflict of 1914-1918 or in the decision-making of the State concerning entering the war.

Ultimately, the key question regarding the First World War is not why it happened – there have been countless written studies on this issue – but rather what motivated it. Here the attitude of the audience is very important. Leaving aside the huge Russian peasantry who fought with courage and determination without really knowing what it was, especially at the beginning, it is the strong patriotic and national feeling of the rural and urban middle classes d ‘Central and Western Europe which was the main engine which led and supported the conflict. Perhaps therein lies the main original aspect of the Great War – its main root was the national sentiment which, during the 19th century, had spread to the majority of European populations and had dominated other ideas. such as pacifism or internationalism. While socialism had become a movement of considerable importance during the same period, it could finally resist the more dominant forces of nationalism and patriotism, which crushed other public attitudes after the war broke out.

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