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[Detail] A French officer and his British ally at the front read the New York Times.

Historical Research Capabilities: Explaining Total War

Historians have called World War I the first “total war.” Total war is an international war in which nations organize all their resources to support the war effort, seeking to destroy the enemy’s ability to engage in war. While soldiers are obviously engaged in warfare, the civilian population is also expected to make sacrifices and contribute to the war cause, and the nation’s economy is redirected to support the war effort. Because civilians and the economic infrastructure contribute to the war effort in total war, they also become targets. Appeals to a sense of national identity are used to develop the willingness of a nation’s people to contribute to a total war effort.

Use the Newspaper Pictorials collection to explain how World War I represents the concept of total war. Don’t forget that the Essays accompanying the collection, especially “Events and Statistics,” may be useful in constructing your explanation. Display your work on a poster with photographs, other visuals, and text that define total war and show how World War I is an example of the concept.