Domestic Impact of World War I
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What was the domestic impact of World War 1?

Consequences for each country involved in the war varied depending on their circumstances. It isn’t easy to estimate the cost because there is also the wasted potential to consider. It should also be remembered that some of the developments would probably have occurred even without the war


  • 10 million men killed (most aged under 40)
  • Compare with years 1802-1913 total lost in all wars 4.5 million
  • Considerable variation in ratio of loss e.g. France – 1.75 million = 10% of male population
  • All involved countries suffered a ‘deficit of men’ and erratic birth rate legacy
  • 10 million refugees
  • 5 million widows
  • 9 million orphans

Destruction of resources

  • 1920 European manufacturing production 25% lower than 1913
  • France and Belgium severely damaged – production much reduced
  • Total cost of war - £45,000 million without inclusion of ‘opportunity costs’


  • Disruption of international trade
  • Great Britain affected more than anyone by growth of competition; from USA and Japan especially
  • Loss of trade to substitution of home-produced goods

Increased participation

  • Total war led to some groups gaining a more valued position

Industrial workers

  • Increased trade union membership e.g. Great Britain 1914 - 4million, 1920 – 8 million
  • France up from 2 to 3 million
  • Power of workers enhanced - increasing number of days lost through strikes
  • Relative increase in family income

Emancipation of women

  • Women doing jobs once held by men boosted cause of emancipation
  • Implicit recognition of equality, increased confidence and economic independence

Middle class leadership

  • Especially in Russia role of middle classes enhanced via a number of War Industries Committees and other organisations connected with war effort
  • Also able to press for constitutional reform

State intervention

  • At first it was ‘business as usual’ but as the war became a war between economic systems things had to change

Central planning

  • In Great Britain started with formation of Ministry of Munitions (1915)
  • In Germany the War Raw Materials Department had vast powers
  • France February 1918 Clemenceau empowered to legislate by decree for the whole economic system

Controls of manpower and resources

  • State control of railways/rationing/prices
  • Also power to requisition crops and raw materials
  • Control of labour: France 1915, Great Britain 1916
  • Germany conscription of all males aged 17-60 (1916)

Political system modified

  • Germany 1916 semi-dictatorship of Hindenburg and Ludendorff
  • Great Britain shell shortage crisis 1916 led to centralisation of policy-making by Lloyd George and a War Cabinet
  • France had military dictatorship by Joffre and Nivelle before 1917
  • After the mutinies Clemenceau set up strong civilian dictatorship
  • Austrian parliament stopped meeting 1917
  • Defeat led to vast changes in political systems of Russia, Austria and Germany

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