America in the Great War: The Rise of the War Welfare State

Oxford University Press
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After such conflicts as World War II, Vietnam, and now the Persian Gulf, the First World War seems a distant, almost ancient event. It conjures up images of trenches, horse-drawn wagons, and old-fashioned wide-brimmed helmets--a conflict closer to the Civil War than to our own time. It hardly seems an American war at all, considering we fought for scarcely over a year in a primarily European struggle. But, as Ronald Schaffer recounts in this fascinating new book, the Great War wrought a dramatic revolution in America, wrenching a diverse, unregulated, nineteenth-century society into the modern age. Ranging from the Oval Office to corporate boardroom, from the farmyard to the battlefield, America in the Great War details a nation reshaped by the demands of total war. Schaffer shows how the Wilson Administration used persuasion, manipulation, direct control, and the cooperation of private industries and organizations to mobilize a freewheeling, individualist country. The result was a war-welfare state, imposing the federal government on almost every aspect of American life. He describes how it spread propaganda, enforced censorship, and stifled dissent. Political radicals, religious pacifists, German-Americans, even average people who voiced honest doubts about the war suffered arrest and imprisonment. The government extended its control over most of the nation's economic life through a series of new agencies--largely filled with managers from private business, who used their new positions to eliminate competition and secure other personal and corporate gains. Schaffer also details the efforts of scholars, scientists, workers, women, African- Americans, and of social, medical, and moral reformers, to use the war to advance their own agendas even as they contributed to the drive for victory. And not the least important is his account of how soldiers reacted to the reality of war--both at the front lines and at the rear--revealing what brought the doughboys to the battlefield, and how they went through not only horror and disillusionment but felt a fervent patriotism as well. Some of the upheavals Schaffer describes were fleeting--as seen in the thousands of women who had to leave their wartime jobs when the boys came home--but others meant permanent change and set precedents for such future programs as the New Deal. By showing how American life would never be the same again after the Armistice, America in the Great War lays a new foundation for understanding both the First World War and twentieth-century America.
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About the author

Ronald Schaffer is Professor of History at California State University, Northridge, and is the author of Wings of Judgment: American Bombing in World War II.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Apr 28, 1994
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Pages
264
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ISBN
9780199923311
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Americas (North, Central, South, West Indies)
History / Military / World War I
History / United States / 20th Century
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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When war broke out in Europe in August of 1914, it seemed, to observers in the United States, the height of madness. The Old World and its empires were tearing each other apart, and while most Americans blamed the Germans, pitied the Belgians, and felt kinship with the Allies, they wanted no part in the carnage. Two years into war President Woodrow Wilson won re-election by pledging to keep out of the conflict. Yet by the spring of 1917-by which point millions had been killed for little apparent gain or purpose-the fervor to head "Over There" swept the country. America wanted in. The Path to War shows us how that happened. Entry into the war resulted from lengthy debate and soul-searching about national identity, as so-called "hyphenated citizens" of Irish and German heritage wrestled with what it meant to be American. Many hoped to keep to the moral high ground, condemning German aggression while withholding from the Allies active support, offering to mediate between the belligerents while keeping clear. Others, including the immensely popular former president Theodore Roosevelt, were convinced that war offered the country the only way to assume its rightful place in world affairs. Neiberg follows American reaction to such events as the sinking of the Lusitania, German terrorism, and the incriminating Zimmermann telegram, shedding light on the dilemmas and crises the country faced as it moved from ambivalence to belligerence. As we approach the centenary of the war, the effects of the pivot from peace to war still resonate, as Michael Neiberg's compelling book makes clear. The war transformed the United States into a financial powerhouse and global player, despite the reassertion of isolationism in the years that followed. Examining the social, political, and financial forces at work as well as the role of public opinion and popular culture, The Path to War offers both a compelling narrative and the inescapable conclusion that World War One was no parenthetical exception in the American story but a moment of national self-determination.
A New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestseller!
Emma Watson's Our Shared Shelf Bookclub Selection - May/June 2018

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The incredible true story of the women who fought America's Undark danger

The Curies' newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.

Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these "shining girls" are the luckiest alive — until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.

But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women's cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America's early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers' rights that will echo for centuries to come.

Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the "wonder" substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives...

Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time

The Proud Tower, the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Guns of August, and The Zimmerman Telegram comprise Barbara W. Tuchman’s classic histories of the First World War era

In this landmark, Pulitzer Prize–winning account, renowned historian Barbara W. Tuchman re-creates the first month of World War I: thirty days in the summer of 1914 that determined the course of the conflict, the century, and ultimately our present world. Beginning with the funeral of Edward VII, Tuchman traces each step that led to the inevitable clash. And inevitable it was, with all sides plotting their war for a generation. Dizzyingly comprehensive and spectacularly portrayed with her famous talent for evoking the characters of the war’s key players, Tuchman’s magnum opus is a classic for the ages.
 
Praise for The Guns of August
 
“A brilliant piece of military history which proves up to the hilt the force of Winston Churchill’s statement that the first month of World War I was ‘a drama never surpassed.’”—Newsweek
 
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From the bestselling author and master of narrative nonfiction comes the enthralling story of the sinking of the Lusitania

On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. 

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Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history.
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