The First World War...or Was It?

Oct 2014
4
Inverness
#41
I believe that "The First" and "The Second" World wars are simply named due to the global nature and destructive scope of industrial conflicts. Once industrialism spread and industry and manufacture boomed, commerce and trade relied on large imports and exports. There was a requirement for large shipping fleets in maritime countries, larger economies meant larger armies could now be trained and armed, there was more wealth. The very nature of industrialisation began to educate the lower and landless classes and nationalism and political consciousness were born again in the minds of many people (it had been in Europe in the 18th century following the American war of independence and the French Revolution but this political awakening had stalled and needed the hope that intellectual and industrial freedom was hoped to bring) As such industrial growth altered the size and scope of conflict. And as such created a need for re- classification: That they were named as such (The Great War was used post WW1) then changed to the First after WW2 (but still called the Great War in many countries) is explained by intellectuals and historians having to create categorisation to distinguish them from a separate conflict epoch.
It is worth noting that wars of the 17th and 18th century did see combat occur away from the main European theatres. But these were usually concentrated on pre existing colonial possessions of one side or the other.
 
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Likes: martin76
Feb 2012
5,166
#42
No. The 1914-1918 conflict had been named "The Great War", with a view that no future conflict could ever be so widespread and damaging. When the 1939-45 conflict erupted, clearly this wasn't the case, and convention then became that the former was the First World War, the latter the Second. It is not incorrect to see some previous conflicts as world wars, just that convention does not list them as such, but of course those former conflicts were beyond living memory by the time the conventions were made.
 
Likes: martin76
Feb 2019
211
California
#43
Maybe... but take a look at what you wrote: all combatants, primary combatants at least, were from Europe. In WWI and WWII you had some important powers outside Europe (US, Japan, British dominions), whereas in those wars only some Native tribes were outside Europe. So question is essentially "who matters".

You're trying to make complicated something that is very simple. Everyone who participated in the war, voluntarily or not, and everywhere that participated in the war, voluntarily or not. Did a soldier come from there? It counts. Was a battle fought there? It counts. Were you conquered? It counts. Simple.
 
May 2018
589
Michigan
#45
In terms of popular memory in the west, at least among people who post on history forums, the Napoleonic Wars ushered in a world where "World Wars" could happen. Napoleon industrialized and nationalized warfare while Britain toiled for years under Pitt, Percival and Liverpool to defeat him. In popular memory, at least if contemporary political cartoons and writings are to be believed, it was essentially a "World War" with Napoleon taking the propagandist place of a Hitler or a Kaiser Wilhelm.