“The First Total War” essay

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Total war is a war that gains full support from its country, and every individual has a duty to help in the war effort. Both military and civilian resources require gaining full victory. Total wars include wars such as World War I and World War II. The first total war happened between 1792 and 1815 i.e. the Napoleonic wars and the French Revolutionary Wars that drained Western Europe. The fight was between France, Russia, Austria, Prussia, and Portugal. The result of the wars witnessed the rise and end of Napoleon Bonaparte. France was the country that initiated war in April 1792 and in September 1792; French forces attacked the Prussian-Austrian force which resulted in the occupation of Belgium by the French.


The previous quality of the total war has been totally captured by today’s historians. David Bell’s aim of his book “The First Total War” was to restore ferocity to its appropriate place at the center of what was happening in Europe during the 19th century. The author firmly maintains that present attitudes towards total war were brought about during the Napoleonic era. He indicates the characteristics of total war i.e. compulsion, unconditional surrender, mobilization of civilians, disregard of war rules, and the guerrilla warfare. In contradiction to Wint and Calvocoressi, David Bell gives out a compelling and clear account in his introduction including the various meanings that have gathered around the concept of total war.

Bell does a remarkably admirable job in the book by bringing in a connection between history and the present. He also includes the relationship between civilians and soldiers. In Bell’s opinion, total war came up from the view that war should be entirely eradicated. Eradicating war through the total welfare and a new beginning would set in free from war. The principal features brought along by the Napoleonic and Revolutionary wars in the presence of contemporaries were ferocity and scale. In the 18th century, it was believed that making war was a normal thing just like making love. War everywhere was a day-to-day activity. To be promoted to the chancy rank, war has to assemble a nation’s resources, make use of industrial products, and ascertain the enemy as a criminal who is only worth to be “exterminated” .

When war worsened, generals took out their professionals for fear of losing their costly services. Civilians could be spared as they received decent treatment and religious conflicts were rare. Bell brings us back to the revolution and its clarion faith in humanity; civilians were separated from the military and, as a result, it was thought that a super-size disagreement could even bring the war to an end. Bell considers the revolution’s adoption of perpetual warfare to cultural causes in a certain degree rather than geopolitical account. He accuses few philosophers. 

Voltaire regarded warfare as million assassins in uniform while the Enlightment regarded the warfare as fundamental irrational. Bell tells that Immanuel Kant did not agree with the moral laws in consideration to the inevitability of history.

In the 2nd half of the book, that is a dedication to Napoleon, the author tells a story that is more familiar to historians. Millions lost their lives as an absolute consequence of this inhuman little genius. Bells depicts that his career ended up to be set in motion by the total war but he in turn got encouraged and magnified to extra ordinary proportions, had its self-damnable logics. In response, the bruised German powers were changing the concept of warfare into a superb act of rebirth that remained the same. In the book, Bell gives out a brilliant definition of the 1812 withdrawal from Moscow.

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