World War I: The "Great War"
Dr. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius is Lindsay Young Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He earned his B.A. from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Liulevicius served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University. Professor Liulevicius has won many awards and honors, including the University of Tennessee's Excellence in Teaching Award and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. At the university he teaches courses on modern German history, Western civilization, European diplomatic history, Nazi Germany, World War I, war and culture, 20th-century Europe, nationalism, and utopian thought. Dr. Liulevicius has published numerous articles and two books: War Land on the Eastern Front: Culture, National Identity, and German Occupation in World War I and The German Myth of the East, 1800 to the Present.
Professor Liulevicius participated in The Great Courses Professor Chat series. Read the chat to learn more about diplomacy and war
01: The Century's Initial Catastrophe
The opening lecture presents the main themes of the course, beginning with the concept of total war. Other themes include the role of ideology, the meanings ascribed to the war by different sides, and the war's legacy.
02: Europe in 1914
This lecture examines the state of Europe and the world before the onset of the war in 1914. The emergence of the German Empire created strains in the international balance of power, as divided among Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia.
03: Towards Crisis in Politics and Culture
Even among those who expected war, there were widespread misconceptions about the nature of the conflict to come. In this lecture you explore the prevailing ideas and attitudes in Europe and then turn to the premonitions noted by contemporaries of coming disaster.
04: Causes of the War and the July Crisis, 1914
This lecture analyzes the immediate events that led to war, from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary at Sarajevo in June 1914 to the diplomatic chain reactions that followed in the July Crisis.
05: The August Madness
Hysterical celebration known as the August Madness greeted the outbreak of war between the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary) and the Allies (France, Great Britain, and Russia). You analyze new research that questions how widespread this emotional outburst really was.
06: The Failed Gambles - War Plans Break Down
This lecture follows the unfolding of the German Schlieffen Plan, which envisioned quick victory on two fronts, and the French Plan XVII, which aimed to recover lost French territories. Both were thwarted.
07: The Western Front Experience
The Western Front soon froze into static trench warfare and horrific slaughter from attempts to break this deadlock. Generals on both sides sought a breakthrough that would allow sweeping offensives and glorious cavalry charges. These never came.
08: Life and Death in the Trenches
This lecture gives a detailed overview of the trench landscape from the perspective of ordinary soldiers: the elaborate fortifications, the omnipresence of death, and the codes of behavior such as the Christmas fraternizations between the trenches in 1914.
09: The Great Battles of Attrition
Once the new dynamics of industrial war had been recognized, there followed a series of months-long battles of attrition. You examine the battles of Verdun and Somme in 1916, and in 1917 the French Champagne Offensive and the Third Battle of Ypres, also called Passchendaele.
10: The Eastern Front Experience
This lecture illuminates the unfamiliar clash of empires in the East, beginning with the Russian invasion of German East Prussia and the ominous disasters of the Austro-Hungarian war effort. The Germans achieved victory against the Russians at Tannenberg in 1914 and followed up with the "Great Advance" of 1915 into Russian territory.
11: The Southern Fronts
Turkish entry into the war expanded its scope. Allied landings in Gallipoli in 1915 were repulsed by Turkish defenders. Italy entered the war on the Allied side but met disaster against Austria-Hungary at the battle of Caporetto.
12: War Aims and Occupations
What goals did the Allies and the Central Powers pursue from the outset of the war? How did these goals change? After examining these questions, you turn to the experience of military occupation and how it affected civilian populations.
13: Soldiers as Victims
Historians estimate that half of the soldiers mobilized in the war were killed or wounded, and some suggest that nearly half of surviving soldiers experienced psychological traumas. This lecture seeks to convey the immense scale of this carnage.
14: Storm Troopers and Future Dictators
Attempts to break the immobility of trench warfare produced storm troopers, fearless warriors habituated to the trench landscape to a disturbing degree. Two ordinary soldiers seemed to enjoy the war too much: Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.
15: The Total War of Technology
An important element of World War I was the expanding destructive potential of technology. This lecture covers such developments as the machine gun, poison gas, and the submarine, as well as the economic weapon of ersatz materials.
16: Air War
While the war in the air was not yet decisive in World War I, it was a frightening portent of what future conflict would hold. This lecture surveys the rapid improvement in early airplanes and the growth of the myth of the fighter ace.
17: War at Sea
Like the land forces, the opposing navies also reached a stalemate. The Battle of Jutland in May 1916 was the only large-scale British-German naval clash, and it ended indecisively. The naval blockade imposed by the British on Germany was of far greater effect.
18: The Global Reach of the War
This lecture surveys fighting in the European colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. The diplomatic sparring for the sympathies of neutral states is also examined, along with the economic dimension of the global war.
19: The War State
Total war put new demands on the state to mobilize populations and economies for victory. For example, Britain broke with earlier liberal traditions to give the government increased power over the economy and political speech.
20: Propaganda War
This lecture examines the increasing sophistication of official propaganda. You also study the phenomenon of spontaneous propaganda produced by citizens, which could take the form of rumors, myths, and stereotypes of the enemy.
21: Endurance and Stress on the Home Front
The home fronts in all the warring countries met privation, shortages, and surveillance with both endurance and signs of growing stress. The British blockade led to severe hunger in Germany, and the employment of women in war industries disrupted social traditions.
22: Dissent and Its Limits
A range of voices spoke out against the conflict as it deepened, including workers, pacifists, and even a decorated British officer, Siegfried Sassoon. At the same time, radical socialists saw in the war an opening for world revolution.
23: Remobilization in 1916 - 1917
Increasing war-weariness led all the combatant powers to attempt to reinvigorate the war effort. In France and Britain new civilian governments took the lead in this effort, while in Germany the de facto military dictatorship inaugurated a new propaganda campaign.
24: Armenian Massacres - Tipping into Genocide
World War I saw the launching of what is considered the first full-scale modern genocide: the 1915 Armenian massacres in Ottoman Turkey, in which between 500,000 and one million men, women, and children of the Armenian minority were killed or died from abuse.
25: Strains of War - Socialists and Nationalists
This lecture explores the growing divisions in wartime societies, which produced revolts such as the 1915 Easter Rising against British rule in Ireland, the French army's mutinies in 1917, and the growing alienation of subject nationalities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
26: Russian Revolutions
The Russian Empire was the first to break under the pressure of war. In March 1917, the tsarist regime abruptly collapsed. Months later the liberal-led provisional government itself collapsed when Lenin's Bolsheviks seized power and inaugurated a new Communist state.
27: America’s Entry into the War
In this lecture you follow the path that led the United States to join the Allied cause against Germany in April 1917. America's entry gave the war a larger ideological character, articulated by President Woodrow Wilson in his Fourteen Points.
28: America at War - Over There and Over Here
World War I had a profound impact on American society. You explore the sophisticated propaganda campaign launched to rouse the nation to arms, the massive economic mobilization, and the encounter of American doughboys overseas with the "old continent."
29: 1918 - The German Empire’s Last Gamble
Hoping to win the war before the massed arrival of American troops, the Germans marshaled their reserves for a final offensive in March 1918. They advanced to within artillery range of Paris before being stopped by an Allied counteroffensive.
30: The War's End - Emotions of the Armistice
When the guns fell silent on November 11, 1918, many Germans found it difficult to accept that they had lost the war. As a crowning horror, a worldwide pandemic swept the globe: the Spanish Influenza killed an estimated 50 million people.
31: Toppled Thrones - The Collapse of Empires
The defeated Central Powers saw their empires and political structures come crashing down. This lecture outlines the startling internal collapse of the Central Powers and the question of what new order would replace the extinct regimes.
32: The Versailles Treaty and Paris Settlement
The peace settlements ending World War I were beset with contradictions. Should the treaties reconcile enemies or punish the defeated? Were they meant to repair the prewar balance of power or abolish it? This lecture considers the resulting treaties in depth.
33: Aftershocks - Reds, Whites, and Nationalists
In the turmoil after the war, intense ideological conflict arose. Partisans of international Communism heralded by Soviet Russia (labeled Reds) battled counterrevolutionary forces (called Whites). New nation-states also collided repeatedly.
34: Monuments, Memory, and Myths
Vigorous debates surrounded the question of memorials to the fallen. This lecture analyzes such monuments as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Also investigated are myths that arose in the wake of the war, including the "Stab in the Back" legend in Germany.
35: The Rise of the Mass Dictatorships
World War I showed the power that could be mobilized by states organized for war. This experience provided the model for postwar totalitarian movements, including Fascism in Italy, Nazism in Germany, and Communism in the Soviet Union.
36: Legacies of the Great War
This concluding lecture confronts the largest and most difficult question: What were the true meaning, legacy, and significance of World War I? You examine the economic, social, and political impact, as well as the individual human consequences of this disaster.