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One of the central questions of the history of the First World War is whether autocracies or democracies were better at waging war. This chapter surveys the way in which different political structures responded to the challenge of war. The global character of military conflict was limited, except with respect to Japan and to the United States at a late stage, both with great consequences. When the First World War broke out, five European states were at the centre of events: Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary, France and the United Kingdom. The first non-European state to enter the war when it had barely begun was, paradoxically, Japan. Woodrow Wilson engaged the United States in the war for the freedom of the seas and the survival of democracy in the world. Georges Clemenceau's government is considered as the first war government. It was the most representative regimes which won the war and that everywhere in Europe, after the war, democracy was predominant.
Chemical processing routes to advanced ceramic materials are gaining importance as a convenient approach to control the stoichiometry, purity, microstructure and final form of the ceramic products . The pyrolytic conversion of organometallic molecules and polymers is one such chemical processing route that has been widely applied in ceramic fiber technology [1,2], in coating processes [1,2], and in the sintering of bulk ceramic objects . Despite these advances in practical applications, there is a continuing need in this area for a better fundamental understanding of the chemistry involved during the precursor-to-ceramic conversion process and for the development of new precursors which yield the desired ceramic(s) in high yield and purity.
We have used the technique of molecular beam mass spectrometry, with time of flight measurement, to study the vaporization of two organoaluminum precursors to AIN. The compounds studied were the isomers (CH3)3Al·NH3 (I) and (CH3)3N·AIH3 (II). Compound I was synthesized in house by reaction of (CH3)3Al with NH3. Compound II was obtained commercially. Mass spectrometric measurements of Compound I indicated a room temperature vapor pressure below 1 Torr, and slow decomposition at room temperature to yield CH4 and a solid product, identified as the trimer, [(CH3)2AlNH2]3, as well as possible concentrations of the corresponding monomer and dimer. Similar measurements on Compound II indicated partial decomposition to metallic aluminum and gaseous trimethylamine and hydrogen.
The victory of the Marne and the “race to the sea” left France triumphant, but gravely weakened. In stark contrast to 1870, the armies of the Republic had thrown back the invader in the greatest feat of French arms since Napoleon. But all or in part, the departments of the Nord, the Pas-de-Calais, the Somme, the Aisne, the Ardennes, the Marne, the Meuse, and the Meurthe et Moselle, had fallen into enemy hands, and with them hundreds of thousands of French citizens. France had lost some of its most productive agricultural lands and its second most industrialized region. The occupied territories set the stage for the “totalization” of the war. For those living under German rule, deportations, forced labor, and martial law quickly blurred the line between soldiers and civilians. Northeastern France and Belgium became virtual German colonies, governed by repressive regimes directed toward economic extraction rather than production. In the rest of France, expelling the invaders and making the nation whole came to justify unprecedented and open-ended national mobilization. As the war totalized, the French confronted the shift from “the imaginary war,” dreamed of and feared before August 1914, to the real war, here and now. They had to face up to an extended confrontation and to the immense war effort that it engendered.
On November 6, 1915, Sarah Bernhardt performed a dramatic poem by Eugène Morand, Les Cathédrales, at the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt in Paris. Even the “Divine Sarah,” then seventy-one years old and still the greatest actress of the French stage after a career spanning more than fifty years, had seldom taken to the stage under more remarkable circumstances. It was her first performance in Paris after her return from the Bordeaux region, where she had fled as the Germans approached Paris in August 1914. Bernhardt herself was no stranger to war. She had opened a hospital for the wounded at the Odéon theatre in Paris during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870–1. According to legend, she left Paris in 1914 only after her friend and future wartime premier Georges Clemenceau told her she was on a list of hostages to be taken by the Germans if they captured the city. Moreover, the aging star was herself recuperating from major surgery – the amputation of her leg, which had finally become gangrenous after years of mistreatment of an old injury.
In itself, Les Cathédrales is a work remote in form and content from today's aesthetic sensibilities. It recounted the dream of a young and courageous French soldier who has grabbed a few moments of sleep near the front, in the department of the Nord, invaded by the Germans.
As France celebrated its triumph and continued to mourn its sacrifice in the victory parade of 1919 and the burial of the Unknown Soldier in 1920, it appeared as though the nation and the Third Republic had not only survived its supreme test, but had emerged from it stronger than ever. Alsace and Lorraine had again become wholly French. Through much of the interwar period, France had the most feared army in Europe. At least in terms of shaded areas on a map, the French Empire attained its zenith between the wars, through territories acquired with the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and the distribution of the German colonies in Africa and the Pacific. The German enemy lay disarmed and paying reparations to the victors.
Yet the limits of the bitter peace made at Versailles became clear within a few years. With the United States pointedly abstaining from postwar security arrangements in Europe, with Britain again holding affairs on the continent at arm's length, with the Soviet Union banned from the family of nations, and with Eastern Europe weak, embittered, and troubled, victorious France faced the future created at Versailles remarkably alone. The peace came to rest on a bluff – that Germany would accept defeat, disarmament, and reparations indefinitely, without an effective enforcement mechanism on the part of the Allies. The Versailles treaty had sought to delegitimize the enemy, as the party solely responsible for the war.
The last year of the Great War proved the most paradoxical, and remains even today the year least understood by historians. Germany finalized its victory over Russia in March 1918, by concluding a harsh peace with the Bolshevik successors to the tsar's regime with the Treaty of Brest Litovsk. That same month, the Germans began a drive for total victory along the Western Front that again brought them within a two-day march of Paris. Yet at no time in the war would success prove so deceptive, or so perilous. By November, the Germans had to request an armistice, and it seemed as though the Allies had won. But to the end, the Great War remained a war of attrition. To the end, attrition weakened both sides. The Allies, and particularly France, had good reasons to stop the war when they did. No one could be sure just how long support for the war would hold up anywhere, and leaders through Europe feared that the communist revolution preached by the new regime in Russia might overwhelm them all. As hard as the French tried to make it look like one, the Armistice signed in November 1918 was not quite a German surrender. The German army returned home in good order, greeted by an explanation of what had happened that would come to haunt all of Europe – that the German army had not been defeated, but had been “stabbed in the back” on the home front, by socialists and by Jews.
The stalemate produced by the battles of August and September 1914 transformed the character of warfare in Europe, for generals as much as for common soldiers. Throughout the nineteenth century, military theory had rested on the assumption of decisive battle. Battle had been conceived as having a definite beginning and end. Most importantly, it had long been held that battle produced clear winners and losers. Certainly, the war plans of 1914 rested on the assumption of battles that would prove nasty and brutish, but also decisive and short. But as the war on the Western Front descended into the trench system, the very meanings of “battle” and “the front” changed. Pitched battle in its conventional sense proved relatively rare in the conflict of 1914–18, mostly because of its horrendous cost in men and materiel when it did occur. But in the trenches, a grinding and inherently indecisive form of “combat” was supposed to be constant. The spatial configuration of warfare changed radically as well. Millions of men fought for four years along hundreds of kilometers of trenches, a far longer front than had ever existed in European military history.
This book is a work of synthesis rather than original research, in which we tell the story of France and the French in the Great War in the context of a huge and mostly new historiographical literature. The elements of “conventional” history are all here – diplomacy, strategy, battles, and the “high politics” of the National Assembly and prime ministers. But we focus more on the society and culture of the French at war. What, throughout the book, we call “war culture” refers to a broad-based system of representations through which the French made sense of the war, and persuaded themselves to continue fighting it. Much of this book recounts the social and cultural history of a national community that mobilized, remobilized, suffered, mourned its sacrifices, and in the end “won,” or at least failed to lose the most terrible war in its long history. We argue that traces of the Great War are still visible in France today. We note aspects of the war still not well understood by historians, and thus in a general way point to directions for future research.
In keeping with the practice of the New Approaches to European History series, we have kept footnotes to a minimum. We include a comprehensive bibliography of works in French and in English. Most of our footnotes are there to avoid disruption of the main body of the text.