“Staggering Between Anarchy and Starvation”: An Examination of the Experience of German Civilians under the Allied Blockade of the First World War, 1916-1919

Charlotte Cass

Abstract


The First World War went beyond military combat when Britain instituted a naval blockade against Germany in March 1915. Although it took until the last two years of the war for the industrial effects to be felt, the diminution of import capabilities meant that food and goods shortages began within months. The government deflected these shortages from the military onto the German people, which eventually resulted in a dramatic drop in the standard of living. The struggle for daily survival not only damaged national unity, it also bred contempt for the government itself, which was viewed as not sufficiently compensating its people for their forced sacrifices. The combination of these dire circumstances and the reality of military defeat make it unsurprising that revolution broke out in Berlin in early November 1918.

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