Armies at War 1914-1918 - HI5092

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Spring 5 30 (15) DR T Bowman checkmark-circle


This module will offer a comparative study of the armies of the Great Powers during the First World War. The module will adopt the ‘war and society’ approach to this topic and so will focus on the social composition and combat effectiveness of the armies concerned, along with civil-military relations and the higher strategic direction of the war. This module will therefore seek to answer some of the key questions of the Great War: how did the Great Powers manage to raise and sustain such large armies, why did soldiers continue to fight, given the appalling casualty rates; how politicised were the armies of the Great War, why were politicians allowed to embark on foolhardy military adventures, how crucial were the Americans in securing Entente victory and how effectively were economies adapted to meet the demands of the armies? Comparative topics for discussion in seminars will include; planning for war, recruitment and conscription, the officer corps, generals and politicians, discipline and morale; and attitudes to technological advances.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Contact hours: 10 lectures and 10 two-hour seminars (3 hours per week).

The module will be taught through seminars and lectures, and will include one to one meetings with students to discuss their essays. The lectures will attempt to distil essential information and to highlight key historiographical debates which should stimulate student interest in further reading.

Method of assessment

The module will be examined by coursework (40%) and a 2-hour written exam (60%).

As coursework, students will write two essays of approximately 2,500 words each. They will also write a shorter, examination type essay of approximately 800 words and give an oral presentation. The coursework mark will be made up in this way: Essay 1: 30%; Essay 2: 30%; Short essay: 20%; Oral presentation: 20%.
In the summer term students will sit a two-hour examination paper, which will count for 60% of a student’s final mark on the module.

Indicative reading

Stephane Audoin-Rouzeau, Men at War 1914-1918: National Sentiment and Trench Journalism in France during the First World War (1995)
Ian. F. W. Beckett and Keith Simpson (eds.), A Nation in Arms: A social study of the British Army in the First World War (1985)
Hugh Cecil and P. H. Liddle (eds.), Facing Armageddon: The First World War experienced (1996)
Anthony Clayton, Paths of Glory: The French Army 1914-1918 (2003)
E. M. Coffman, The war to end all wars: The American Military experience in World War I (1986)
Istvan Deak, Beyond Nationalism: A social and political history of the Habsburg oficer corps 1848-1918 (1990)
J. G. Fuller, Troop Morale and Popular Culture in the British and Dominion Armies 1914-1918 (1990)
Elizabeth Greenhalgh, Victory through coalition: Britain and France during the First World War (2008)
Keith Grieves, The politics of manpower, 1914-18 (1988)
John Horne (ed.), State, society and mobilization in Europe during the First World War (1997)
R. L. Nelson, German soldier newspapers of the First World War (2011)
G. E. Rothenberg, The Army of Francis Joseph (1998)
Martin Samuels, Command or Control? Command, Training and Tactics in the British and German Armies, 1888-1918 (2003)
Peter Simkins, Kitchener's Army: The Raising of the New Armies, 1914-16 (1988)
Alexander Watson, Enduring the Great War: Combat, morale and collapse in the German and British armies, 1914-1918 (2008)
John Whittam, The politics of the Italian Army (1977)
A. K. Wildman, The end of the Russian Imperial Army: The Old Army and the Soldiers' Revolt (1980)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)


  1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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