Often times the Second World War over shadows the First World War when it comes to discussing a total war because the First World War may be considered a limited war. A limited war has specific goals while a total war involves the entire nation and its destruction. An examination of pre-1914 events and events that occurred from 1914 to1918 reveal the ways in which the First World War was a total war.
Prior to the start of the war the dominant nations of Europe were preoccupied with their own dramatic, internal circumstances. France was attending to a major murder trial. Britain had issues with Ireland. Russia was trying to rebuild itself from the destruction of previous wars. German society was worried about the socialists. In Austria it was the Czechs versus Germans and in Hungary it was the Magyars versus Romanians. Serbia’s civilian government was not getting along with its military. Each of these internal conflicts caused the countries they took place in to become weaker because citizens were divided among themselves and taking sides. This allowed for a less unified nation. Time, resources, and money were being spent on internal conflicts. Most of all everyone’s attention was diverted to national issues rather than international issues. World War I was somewhat unexpected since everyone was focused on the affairs of their own country and assumed the conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia would remain localized. Had the surrounding countries been more interested in the dealings of Austria-Hungary, Serbia, and Germany they would have been able to stage an intervention, serving as mediators and dissuaded a hostile, Serbia from attacking the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy; and kept the monarchy from retaliating and the war from expanding.
Previous regional wars had severely weakened the Balkan nations making them a prime target for countries who were looking to expand. Their instability and economic hardship made them more susceptible to an easy defeat and foreign rule. Russia, Austria-Hungary and Serbia all had different ideas and plans of what should be done with the region. Russia felt that the Balkan nations should rest under their rule since they share a Slavic heritage. Austria-Hungary was focused on expansion that would eventually lead to the Middle East. A land locked Serbia was trying to pave a path so that it could exploit the use of the sea. Germany had an indirect interest in the Balkan region due to its alliance with the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. In order to maintain its status as being more powerful than Russia, Germany had to ensure the Austrian-Hungarian Empire did not fall and continued to expand. For the more powerful nations to plan the fate of the Balkans, shows their disregard for the lesser nations which inflamed existing hostilities. While at the same time the pre-war alliances between the bigger nations caused tension.
Austria-Hungary and Germany allied itself with Italy and Romania at the start of the war and...