Brill’s Digital Library of World War I

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Balkan Wars

(957 words)

Author(s): Kröger, Martin
Balkan Wars Two wars in the Balkans region (1912–1913) that caused the Ottoman Empire to lose most of its European territories. …

League of Nations

(487 words)

Author(s): Dülffer, Jost
League of Nations (German: Völkerbund, French: Société des Nations). The measures instituted by the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907 proved insufficient to prevent war. Therefore, during the World War, the peace movements of several nations considered founding a new institution. After 1917–1918 government representatives in Great Britain, France, the United States, and also the German Reich increasingly considered the possibilities. For American President Woodrow Wilson, the creation of a League…

January Strikes

(1,075 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
January Strikes Between January 28 and February 2, 1918, there arose in Berlin and other industrial and economic centers (Kiel, Hamburg, and the Rhine-Westphalia industrial area) mass protests and strike actions, in which between 200,000 and 500,000 workers took part. In contrast with the 1917 strikes, which may be understood primarily as social protest, the January Strikes had to a great extent a direct political motive. In light of the Soviet government’s offer of peace, and the brutally extreme claims for annexation of the German S…

Scorched Earth Tactics

(1,283 words)

Author(s): Geyer, Michael
Scorched Earth Tactics Systematically laying waste to enemy territory as a battle tactic, rendering the area militarily useless for a time, sometimes lastingly. Scorched earth as a combat strategy was described by Carl von Clausewitz in his work Vom Kriege, as follows: First, all that the country has to offer will be taken for the benefit of the retreating army, and mostly consumed. Nothing will remain but wasted villages and towns; fields emptied of their crops and then trampled; wells run dry; and contaminated brooks. Thus right from …

Occupation (East)

(1,730 words)

Author(s): Liulevicius, Vejas Gabriel
Occupation (East) In 1915, the German Reich and Austria-Hungary conquered enormous areas of Eastern Europe, and subjected them to an occupation regime. Among the areas in question were Russian Poland and Lithuania, and parts of the Baltic provinces (now Estonia and Latvia), Belarus (White Russia), the Ukraine, Russia, and Serbia. These conquests were joined by Romania in 1916. As there was no detailed prewar planning for such an event, the occupation was initially characterized by improvisation and ad hoc policies with various different plans being proposed for the future…

Parliamentarization

(630 words)

Author(s): Mai, Günther
Parliamentarization From 1871 the German Reich was a constitutional monarchy. The Kaiser appointed and dismissed the chancellor, who was the only member of the imperial government responsible to the Reichstag (the lower house of parliament), and without whose agreement the Kaiser could not take political action. The chancellor could not rule for long against a majority of the Reichstag, since the Reichstag had the right to adopt the budget. Even before 1914, constitutional reality had changed in …

Burgfrieden (Fortress Truce)

(937 words)

Author(s): Verhey, Jeffrey
Burgfrieden (Fortress Truce) On August 1, 1914, Emperor Wilhelm II spoke the following words from his balcony: “Should it now come to a battle, then there will be no more political parties. Today we are all German brothers.” These words mark the beginning of the propagated state of peace within German society of which the term Burgfrieden (“fortress truce”) became constitutive. Wilhelm repeated his message, in slightly altered form, when he opened the Reichstag on August 4: “I no longer recognize any parties, I recognize only Germans.” Wilhelm thus m…

July Crisis

(720 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
July Crisis Few topics from the history of the First World War have been discussed more intensively by historians and in the public arena than the July Crisis of 1914. Into the 1930s in Germany, the foremost question was that of the justice of the accusation of “war guilt” as expressed in Article 231 of the Versailles Treaty. In this case the predominant opinion initially, and even after the Second World War, was that all the powers “stumbled” into war. In the 1960s, Fritz Fischer brought to the c…

Dumdum Bullets

(219 words)

Author(s): Gross, Gerhard P.
Dumdum Bullets Bullets having their lead core left uncovered at the point (semi-jacketed bullet), or having an unjacketed, but cylindrically bored point (hollow-point bullet). Owing to their construction, the bullets have a somewhat reduced power of penetration. At a short distance, however, they produce large wounds that heal with difficulty. The bullets are named after the Indian town of Dum Dum, where a munitions factory first produced semi-jacketed bullets for the British forces in the 1890s. …

Scheer, Reinhard

(408 words)

Author(s): Herwig, Holger H.
Scheer, Reinhard (September 30, 1863, Obernkirchen [Kreis Schaumburg] – November 26, 1928, Marktredwitz [Bavaria]), German admiral. Scheer entered the German navy in 1879, and, after several overseas postings, was employed from 1890 in the torpedo service. Transferred to the Reichsmarineamt (Reich Naval Office) in 1903, in 1907 he became commander of the pre-dreadnought battleship Elsass and two years later became chief of staff of the High Seas Fleet. In 1911 he became the director of the general naval department within the Reich Naval office. Sch…

Women’s Movement

(601 words)

Author(s): Süchting-Hänger, Andrea
Women’s Movement The women’s movement in the World War embraced a number of efforts working for the improvement of the economic, social and political position of women. There was a distinction between the moderate and radical middle class, and the proletarian and the confessional women’s movement. Whereas, before the war, lines of conflict were mostly drawn between a middle-class and a proletarian women’s movement, during the war the women’s movement was divided between the large majority of supporters of the war and the small minority of those who opposed it. At the start of the war…

Fraternizing

(470 words)

Author(s): Jahr, Christoph
Fraternizing Spontaneous and unauthorized ending of fighting and leaving one’s own position with a view to making direct contact with enemy soldiers. Precise details of the extent of fraternizing are, of course, not available. The available sources, however, show clearly that the center of these events is to be found in those sectors of the Western Front in which German and British soldiers faced one another. Individual acts of camaraderie at Christmas, and informal truces, were also reported from German-French sectors and from the Eastern Front. The most spectacular case of frat…

Antisemitism

(880 words)

Author(s): Sieg, Ulrich
Antisemitism The First World War constituted a sharp turning point in the history of Antisemitism. It brought the radicalization of anti-Jewish stereotypes and gave rise to ideologies demanding the exclusion of Jews from what was perceived to be a völkisch (i.e. racially homogenous) German nation. The Burgfrieden (literally Fortress Truce: an agreement among political parties not to criticize the government or the war effort) declared by the Kaiser on August 4, 1914, was soon revealed to be no more than a “fair-weather” concept. In the very…

Raw Materials, Rationing, and Procurement

(2,348 words)

Author(s): Zilch, Reinhold
Raw Materials, Rationing, and Procurement The war had scarcely begun before the mass armies ran short of vital raw materials and replacement supplies. State intervention in the procurement and distribution of raw materials followed in the warring nations’ economies with the goal of making maximum use of the raw materials available for the war effort. This effort was linked with intense efforts to depress private consumption. To this end, the state intervened in the economy to requisition and distribu…

Kerensky Offensive

(725 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Kerensky Offensive Contrary to the expectations and hopes of the Central Powers, the Russian February Revolution initially brought a considerable improvement of Russia’s political and military fighting morale. Alexander Kerensky, minister of war from May 19, 1917, onward, followed the motto that Russia was by and large in favor of a “peace without annexations and contributions,” but under certain circumstances also ready to fight for a “peace without defeat.” In July 1917, Kerensky toured the fron…

Moroccan Crises, First and Second

(692 words)

Author(s): Kröger, Martin | Allain, Jean-Claude
Moroccan Crises, First and Second Two situations of international tension (1905, 1911) that were provoked by the rivalry between the German Reich and France over influence in Morocco. France’s interest in Morocco resulted from the latter’s proximity to Algeria. The aim was to extend French rule to the entire Maghreb. By concluding bilateral agreements with Italy (1902), England (Entente Cordiale), and Spain (1904), as well as by weakening Moroccan rule in the areas bordering on Algeria, France strove to establish itself as the dominant political power in the region. The German Reich…

Kessler, Harry Graf

(817 words)

Author(s): Riederer, Günter
Kessler, Harry Graf (May 5, 1868, Paris – November 30, 1937, Lyon), German author, journalist, politician and diplomat. Kessler spent his childhood and youth in France, Germany and England. After studying law in Bonn and Leipzig, he fulfilled his one-year military obligation serving with the 3rd Guard Uhlan Regiment in Potsdam. Kessler did not enter the diplomatic service as originally planned, owing to his developing talents and interests. He served instead as a patron of the arts, supporting arti…

Conscientious Objection

(630 words)

Author(s): Jahr, Christoph
Conscientious Objection The rejection of the legal obligation to fulfill one’s military duty in times of war. A distinction must be drawn between conscientious objection in the narrow sense and other ways of evading wartime military service. Conscientious objection, which was also an important motive for emigrating from Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, was traditionally practiced by a number of religious communities, for instance by the Quakers and Mennonites. In 1914, however, no country with a conscript army had made provis…

Merrheim, Alphonse

(302 words)

Author(s): Mollenhauer, Daniel
Merrheim, Alphonse (May 7, 1871, La Madeleine [Département Nord] – October 22, 1925 [unknown]), French trade union leader. Merrheim was born into a working class family in the industrial region of Northern France. In the 1890s he joined the Syndicalist movement aimed at the takeover of the means of production by autonomous trade unions, as advocated by the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT), in which he himself took on a leading role after the turn of the century. At the outbreak of the First World War, Merrheim differed from the leadership of the CGT under Léon Jouhaux in rejecting the U…

Trotsky, Leon

(372 words)

Author(s): Kochanek, Hildegard
Trotsky, Leon (October 28, 1879, Yanovka [Kherson Province] – August 21, 1940, Coyoacán [near Mexico City – assassinated]; born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein), Russian politician. Already toward the end of his school years in Kherson Province, Trotsky became involved in revolutionary Marxist circles. Banished for the first time in 1899, in 1902 he succeeded in fleeing to Western Europe. In 1903, at the second congress of the Russian Social Democratic Party, he led a fierce attack against Vladimir Ilyi…
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