The Great War as Global Conflict

Saturday, January 4, 2014: 9:00 AM
Columbia Hall 11 (Washington Hilton)
Erez Manela, Harvard University
The mobilization of millions of imperial subjects on both sides of the conflict proved quintessential for all combatant states, from Germany to the Ottoman, Habsburg and Romanov empires and, of course, the Entente powers. Indian, African, Canadian, and Australian soldiers among others all served on the Western Front, as well as in a range of ancillary theatres and hundreds of thousands of them died for the imperial order, willingly or not. Non-combatant laborers – notably from China - also proved vital to the conduct of the war. Their involvement in the events of 1914-18 turned a European conflict into a world war. Furthermore, actual fighting did take place outside the European theatre of war – from China to the Middle East, from the South Pacific to the protracted campaigns in East Africa. Moreover, the impact of the war was profoundly felt by hundreds of millions living across the imperial world, as the war brought conscription, occupation, inflation, and economic dislocation, while also in many instances kindling new opportunities, ideas, plans, and hopes. It is only when the war is viewed though this expansive set of lenses that its scope, significance, and implications can be grasped in their fullest sense.
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