Why the Allies won WW1

The latest column in the VoxEU series on the economics of World War I is by Steve Broadberry, and is available here.

7 replies on “Why the Allies won WW1”

War is like politics there- are three things you need to win. The first is money,the second is money and the third is money.

Britain had Irish agriculture and for the bulk of the war, didn’t use conscription. Fits the thesis very well.

“Before 1914, Total War was not possible because people lived much closer to subsistence.”

Kevin, I would be interested to know how you think Steve Broadberry would define Total War. There are surely many pre-Clausewitz cases in history in which entire populations were mobilized for war, many cases in which civilian populations were targeted on a large scale to harm the capacity to wage war, and many cases in which customary limitations on violence were abrogated on a large scale. One probably does not have to look outside the island of Ireland to find multiple pre-modern examples.

(Britain introduced conscription in March 1916, and so had conscription for almost two thirds of the period of the war. It imported a lot of its food requirements from the US and Canada for most or all of the war.)

Slightly unfortunate title in the context of the display at the Tower of London.

Sure, economic resources played a significant part, as did many other things. DOCM’s reference also is a reminder that non-homogeneity resulted in different tail risks. Britain’s U-boat vulnerability came close to costing it both wars

“Sun Tzu considered war as a necessary evil that must be avoided whenever possible. The war should be fought swiftly to avoid economic losses: “No long war ever profited any country: 100 victories in 100 battles is simply ridiculous. Anyone who excels in defeating his enemies triumphs before his enemy’s threats become real”.

Stephen Broadberry’s analysis on the effect of the imbalance of economic and human forces in a long drawn out war is well made.
One wonders if the same type of study on the long drawn out quasi-economic war in the Eurozone during the past six years might draw some interesting conclusions.

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