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Other Combatants, Other Fronts:
Competing Histories of the First World War

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This volume presents research arising from the society’s fifth conference in London.

The First World War is a subject that has fascinated the public as well as the academic community since the close of hostilities in 1918. Over the past thirty years in particular, the historiography associated with the conflict has expanded considerably to include studies whose emphases range between the economic, social, cultural, literary, and imperial aspects of the war, all coinciding with revisions to perceptions of its military context. Nevertheless, much of the discussion of the First World War remains confined to the experiences of a narrow collection of European armies on the battlefields of Northern France and Belgium.

This volume seeks to push the focus away from the Western Front and to draw out the multi-spectral nature of the conflict, examining forgotten theatres and neglected experiences. The chapters explore the question of what ‘total war’ meant for the lives of people around the world implicated in this momentous event, broadening current debates on the First World War as well as developing, reinforcing, and refining the existing categories of analysis. The chapters are grouped into sections that reflect neglected elements of the transnational interpretation of the conflict and aspects of the total war debate. These encompass alternative forms of mobilisation, issues of neutrality, ideas of racial identity, and the scope of violence. The volume thus not only expands First World War studies but also contributes to the wider discourse on the shifting nature of warfare in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

With chapters by leading scholars and early career researchers, this volume draws on a diverse range of original archival research undertaken across disciplinary and national boundaries. The contributions to the volume provide an analysis of the conflict that draws out its full breadth and complexity. The First World War demonstrated the critically important relationship between national mobilisation and total war, and saw multiple mobilisations and re-mobilisations of European populations. This theme is explored at the national, regional, and local levels through examinations of the Sicilian province of Catania, the role of science in France and Britain, and the utilisation of the narrative of maritime heroism surrounding the British sailor Jack Cornwell. For Europe’s neutrals the First World War was often as total in its effects as for those states engaged in military operations. Chapters analyse the diverse range of these experiences of neutrality, from the economy and people of the Netherlands to the attitudes of Switzerland’s intellectuals. Racial interpretations of modern conflict have defined much of the historiography of total war. The complexities of racial analysis with respect to total war are highlighted in chapters dealing with white colonial internees in German East Africa, the treatment of prisoners of war in Europe, and the recruitment of India’s ‘primitive’ peoples for service in labour units. The final section of the volume considers the scale and broad scope of the violence unleashed during the First World War. Chapters on the continuation of German naval war culture after the conflict, the shaping of personal narratives of the war in the Ottoman Empire, and anti-alien violence among veterans in Canada serve to reinforce the extent to which the conflict affected wider aspects of twentieth-century history around the globe.

Other Combatants, Other Fronts sheds light on the diverse experiences of neutral and belligerent states, and their combatants and civilians, during the tumultuous events of 1914-18. This brings to the fore the extent to which the mechanisms of conflict developed during the struggle had a truly global reach, and the impact this has had ever since in defining modern conflict. The collection reinforces the notion that although the First World War was a vast and often bewildering industrial conflict, it was ultimately a very human phenomenon.

Table of Contents

  • Contributors
  • Acknowledgements

Introduction: James E. Kitchen, Alisa Miller and Laura Rowe

  1. Foreword
  2. From Peacetime to Wartime: The Sicilian Province of Catania and Italian Intervention in the Great War, June 1914 – September 1915
  3. ‘The Aims of Science are the Antithesis to those of War’: Academic Scientists at War in Britain and France, 1914-18
  4. ‘Faithful unto Death’: Commemorating Jack Cornwell’s Service in the Battle of Jutland
  5. ‘A Wonderful Something’: The Netherlands and the War in 1914
  6. Government by Committee: Dutch Economic Neutrality and the First World War
  7. La Suisse pendant la Grande Guerre, ‘front de la dissidence’ et plate-forme d’éxchanges franco-allemands
  8. Challenging European Colonial Supremacy: The Internment of ‘Enemy Aliens’ in British and German East Africa during the First World War
  9. ‘Racial’ Mixing of Prisoners of War in the First World War
  10. The Recruiter’s Eye on ‘The Primitive’: To France – and Back – in the Indian Labour Corps, 1917-18
  11. Beyond the bonhomme Banania: Lucie Cousturier’s Encounters with West African Soldiers during the First World War
  12. From ‘Skagerrak’ to the ‘Organisation Consul’: War Culture and the Imperial German Navy, 1914-22
  13. Perceptions of the First World War in Turkish Autobiography
  14. Fighting the Alien Problem in a British Country: Returned Soldiers and Anti-alien Activism in Wartime Canada, 1916-19
  15. Index