Ronald Schaffer’s America in the Great War gives new insights into World War I.
The book gave historical accounts about the war that other books negated to included.
The thesis that Schaffer tries to prove that the Great War was the start of the American
welfare state and the beginning of “big” government. America in the Great War was
structured in chronological order of the war, from America’s mobilization to the actual
fighting. What the book did not include is a detail account of the fighting. This was the
biggest draw back in a otherwise well thought book.
The book begins with the mobilization of the United State’s industry and man
power. The first two chapters dealt with how the Federal Government shaped the view of
the war in America’s minds. The methods that the Federal Government used varied from
propaganda to coercion. The point behind the Federal Government’s involvement in
propaganda was to rally the country to fight the war. The first step in shaping the
people’s mind was to get the labor and industry to work together. The Federal
Government established committees and teams to persuade the minds of the United States.
One of these committees were the Committee on Public Information established in April
13 1917 by order on the President of the United States. The committee was led by
George Creel, former social reformer. He had great power in what the United States saw
and heard for the next few years. His first order was to manage American minds without
directly using propaganda and censorship. Other nations fighting the war practiced wide
spread censorship of all war related material. Creel realized that this would not work in
the United States, instead he flooded Americans with news. The news released to the
public was in such large numbers and in such great detail that Americans could not
understand all of it. The Committee on Public Information also produced films. The films
were designed to rally Americans behind the war effort. The films were nothing else but
propaganda, but Creel designed the films to not come across as propaganda. The
committee was very successful in hiding the fact that they were engaging in propaganda.
Many Americans believed in the films and supported the war e...
... middle of paper ...
...overnment helped veterans in such a large scale. The treatment of the shell
shock veterans would eventually lead to one of the largest welfare programs, the Veterans
In addition Schaffer changed my views about the American home front. I was not
aware about the extent of propaganda involved shaping the thinking in the United States.
I did not know that the Federal Government suppressed dissent to the level that it
employed. Such use of propaganda and suppression in the United States would be
impossible and such a government using that would be called a Fascist government.
In conclusion, I liked the book due the fact that Schaffer proved his thesis, the
Great War gave rise to the American welfare state. I believe that Schaffer proved his
thesis with clear and concrete evidence. I enjoyed how Schaffer shed new light on the
Great War. Many historical accounts only deal with the actual fighting and not the behind
the scenes action that Schaffer writes about. Schaffer’s account about women and blacks
during the war gave new levels. History has forgotten the contributions that these groups
gave to the war.
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