From industrial to total war? Dynamics of the military conflicts' evolution during the first half of the 20th century
This essay aims at defining the "white spots" in the conception of the growing totalisation and industrialisation of warfare in the first half of the century. The author tries to explore the events and circumstances which fall out of the idea that there was a direct link between WWI and WWII, defended by some scholars, who prefer to speak about the "Second Thirty Years' War" of 1914 – 1945. The article does not seek to debunk the conception of the warfare totalisation, but to precise the field of its application and to outline the ways of its further development. Firstly, the author analyses the inner factors which limited the totalisation process; secondly, he explores the events which did not match precisely the total war conception; finally, he gives his opinion about the lines to improve and to enrich the set of ideas about the war evolution in the first half of the 20th century.
The main conclusions of the essay are as follows. The definition of a military conflict as "total" could be an instrument of its analysis; nevertheless, the situation could be the opposite one. The "totality" of the conflict itself often should be the object of the explanation, being the result of the many different factors, the constellation of the unique circumstances, as it happens not infrequently in the human history. The idea of the growing totalisation and industrialisation of warfare as the trunk line of the military evolution in the first half of the 20th century does not cover the whole range of the historical events in their diversity. The factors which stimulated the totalisation of warfare (states, technologies, and ideologies) in the same time put the inner limits on this process, preventing it from becoming absolute. The "total war" conception also leaves aside some important circumstances, which influenced the military conflicts and doctrine in 1914 – 1945, eg., the role of the "human factor", the specific operative and strategic environment of a conflict, the significance of the colonial and "small" wars of the interwar period. Nevertheless, this conception continues to be a valuable research instrument, especially, if it is enriched with the ideas taken from social and economic history and the "world system" theory.
Total war, industrial war, military conflicts, First World War, Second World War, interwar period.
Iskander Magadeev
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