World War I

"At the sound of the first droning . . .

...of the shells we rush back, in one part of our being, a thousand years. By the animal instinct that is awakened in us we are led and protected. It is not conscious; it is far quicker, much more sure, less fallible, than consciousness. . . . It is this other, this second sight in us, that has thrown us to the ground and saved us, without our knowing how. . . . We march up, moody or good-tempered soldiers—we reach the zone where the front begins and become on the instant human animals."

— Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front

World War I

— from the series America in the 20th Century

One could argue that many issues of American foreign policy in the twentieth century had their origins in the emergence of the United States as a major world power at the end of the 19th century. The Spanish-American war was the great conflict of the era, Teddy Roosevelt its great warrior. For nationalist Americans, empire building was intoxicating. The Washington Post editorialized:

“A new consciousness seems to have come upon us—the consciousness of strength—and with it a new appetite, the yearning to show our strength. . . . Ambition, interest, land hunger, pride, the mere joy of fighting, whatever it may be, we are animated by a new sensation. We are face to face with a strange destiny. The taste of Empire is in the mouth of the people even as the taste of blood in the jungle. It means an Imperial policy, the Republic, renascent, taking her place with the armed nations.”

Of course, not everyone was infected with the blood fever. Sober citizens, Mark Twain among them, vehemently opposed American imperialism in general and the Spanish-American War in particular. With the benefit of more than a century of hindsight, we know the consequences of that "splendid little war" were monumental. Indeed, its lesson endures today: "'Tis much easier to win the war than to secure the peace."

World War I doughboy

Video Chapters

World War I is the third installment in the award-winning video series America in the 20th Century. It examines the causes, conduct, and collateral effects of the Great War, including advances in battlefield technology, the American role in the conflict, and efforts to secure a peace settlement. The program also explores the wartime repercussions on the American home front: efforts to garner public support, changing roles of women and African-Americans, and the war’s impact on civil rights and civil liberties.

World War I is presented in eight video chapters. Preview them here or log in to the members-only Streaming Room™ to access the complete videos. Not a member? It's easy to subscribe now.

Roots of War
Roots of War
Supporting the War
Supporting the War
Peace, Diplomacy, and Reparations
Peace, Diplomacy, and Reparations
The European Conflict
The European Conflict
Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
Wilson's Last Days
Wilson's Last Days
America Joins the Ranks
America Joins the Ranks
Fear on the Homefront
Fear on the Homefront

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