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Word Count: ca. 1500 words. Times New Roman, double-spaced, size 12.

Citations: Chicago Manual Style


Description: In this assignment, you are asked to analyze a selection of primary sources (historical documents) pertaining to the events of the First World War. In these sources, different authors with different backgrounds (nationality, class, gender, profession, and age) speak to you about their experiences and perceptions during World War I (1914-1918).

Objective: Compare and contrast these primary sources, bringing them into a larger meaningful context. When comparing and contrasting, you could focus on these questions:

  • How do the experiences that soldiers and civilians made during WWI differ from one another; how are they similar?
  • How do you explain discernable differences or similarities?

Your job is to analytically compare and contrast the sources, not to summarize them.

Make sure you structure your essay coherently. Clearly outline in your introduction             the

argument you intend to pursue in your paper. In your main body, use single paragraphs for single points (i.e. don’t discuss multiple ideas in one paragraph). In your conclusion, finally, sum up your main argument.

You do not have to use any sources other than the ones provided. You are welcome to refer to others, such as from the textbook or any other source that you find appropriate. This is not a research paper, however, and you will not get a higher mark simply for using additional sources.

For direct quotations, use quotation marks. For direct quotations and paraphrases, you must use a citation (footnote). For this assignment, we can use simplified footnotes, i.e. simply state the name of the author and title of the document. For page numbers just use the page number of THIS document (I realize this is somewhat arbitrary…).


  1. Nicholas II, Imperial Manifesto, p. 2.

Put the simplified bibliography at the end of your essay. Use the same format as in your footnotes (name of author, source). For questions, send me an email or visit the WLC.

Primary Source 1: A monarch’s perspective

Russian IMPERIAL MANIFESTO, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia

August 2, 1914.

We NICHOLAS II, by the Grace of God, Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias, Czar of Poland, Grand Duke of Finland, etc., etc., etc.

Proclaim to all OUR loyal subjects:

Following her historical traditions, Russia, united in faith and blood with the Slav nations, has never regarded their fate with indifference. The unanimous fraternal sentiments of the Russian people for the Slavs have been aroused to special intensity in the past few days, when Austria-Hungary presented to Serbia demands which she foresaw would be unacceptable to a Sovereign State.

Having disregarded the conciliatory and peaceable reply of the Serbian Government, and having declined Russia’s well-intentioned mediation, Austria hastened to launch an armed attack in a bombardment of unprotected Belgrad.

Compelled, by the force of circumstances thus created, to adopt the necessary measures of precaution, WE  c o m m a n d e d  that the army and the navy be put on a war footing, but, at the same time, holding the blood and the treasure of Our subjects dear, We made every effort to obtain a peaceable issue of the negotiations that had been started.

In the midst of friendly communications, Austria’s Ally, Germany, contrary to our trust in century-old relations of neighborliness, and paying no heed to OUR assurances that the measures We had adopted implied no hostile aims whatever, insisted upon their immediate abandonment, and, meeting with a rejection of this demand, suddenly declared war on Russia.

 WE have now to intercede not only for a related country, unjustly attacked, but also to safeguard the honor, dignity, and integrity of Russia, and her position among the Great Powers. WE firmly believe that all Our loyal subjects will rally self-sacrificingly and with one accord to the defense of the Russian soil.

At this hour of threatening danger, let domestic strife be forgotten. Let the union between the TSAR and HIS people be stronger than ever, and let Russia, rising like one man, repel the insolent assault of the enemy.

With a profound faith in the justice of OUR cause, and trusting humbly in Almighty Providence, We invoke prayerfully the Divine blessing for Holy Russia and our valiant troops.

Given at Saint Petersburg, on the second day of August, in the year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and fourteen, and the twentieth year of OUR reign.

In the original the IMPERIAL MAJESTY has signed with his Own hand


Primary Source 2: A soldier’s perspective

Ernst Jünger, Storm of Steel, 1914, German.

We had come from lecture halls, school desks and factory workbenches, and over the brief weeks of training, we had bonded together into one large and enthusiastic group. Grown up in an age of security, we shared a yearning for danger, for the experience of the extraordinary. We were enraptured by war. We had set out in a rain of flowers, in a drunken atmosphere of blood and roses. Surely the war had to supply us with what we wanted; the great, the overwhelming, the hallowed experience.

Primary Source 3: A writer’s perspective (from your textbook, p. 49)

Roland Deregeles, “That Fabulous Day, 1914”

In “After Fifty Years,” Roland Doregeles (1886-1973), a distinguished French writer, recalled the mood in Paris at the outbreak of the war.

“It’s come! It’s posted at the district mayor’s office,” a passerby shouted to me as he ran.

I reached the Rue Drouot in one leap and shouldered through the mob that had already filled the courtyard to approach the fascinating white sheet pasted to the door. I read the message at a glance, then reread it slowly, word for word, to convince myself that it was true:


Only three lines, written hastily by a hand that trembled. It was an announcement to a million and a half Frenchmen.

The people who had read it moved away, stunned, while others crowded in, but this silent numbness did not last. Suddenly a heroic wind lifted their heads. What? War, was it? Well, then, let’s go! Without any signal, the “Marseillaise” poured from thousands of throats, sheafs of flags appeared at windows, and howling processions rolled out on the boulevards. Each column brandished a placard: ALSACE VOLUNTEERS, JEWISH VOLUNTEERS, POLISH VOLUNTEERS. They hailed one another above the bravos of the crowd, and this human torrent, swelling at every corner, moved on to circle around the Place de la Concorde, before the statue of Strasbourg banked with flowers, then flowed toward the Place de la Republique, where mobs from Belleville and the Faubourg St. Antoine yelled themselves hoarse on the refrain from the great days, “Aux armes, citoyens!” (To arms, citizens!) But this time it was better than a song.

To gather the news for my paper, I ran around the city in every direction. At the Cours la Reine I saw the fabled cuirassiers [cavalry] in their horsetail plumes march by, and at the Rue La Fayette footsoldiers in battle garb with women throwing flowers and kisses to them. In a marshaling yard I saw guns being loaded, their long, thin barrels twined around with branches and laurel leaves, while troops in red breeches piled gaily into delivery vans they were scrawling with challenges and caricatures. Young and old, civilians and military men burned with the same excitement. It was like Brotherhood Day.

Dead tired but still exhilarated, I got back to L’Homme libre and burst into the office of Georges Clemenceau, our chief.ª

“What is Paris saying?” he asked me.

“It’s singing, sir!”

“Then everything will be all right. . . .”

His old patriot’s heart was not wrong; no cloud marred that fabulous day. . . .

Less than twenty-four hours later, seeing their old dreams of peace crumble [socialist workers] would stream out into the boulevards . . . [but] they would break into the “Marseillaise,” not the “Internationale”; they would cry, “To Berlin!,” not “Down with war!”

What did they have to defend, these black nailed patriots? Not even a shack, an acre to till, indeed hardly a patch of ground reserved at the Pantin Cemetery; yet they would depart, like their rivals of yesterday, a heroic song on their lips and a flower in their guns. No more poor or rich, proletariats or bourgeois, right-wingers or militant leftists; there were only Frenchmen.

Beginning the next day, thousands of men eager to fight would jostle one another outside recruiting offices, waiting to join up. Men who could have stayed home, with their wives and children or an imploring mama. But no. The word “duty” had meaning for them, and the word “country” had regained its splendor.

I close my eyes, and they appear to me, those volunteers on the great day; then I see them again in the old kepi [military cap] or blue helmet, shouting, “Here!” when somebody called for men for a raid, or hurling themselves into an attack with fixed bayonets, and I wonder, and I question their bloody [ghosts].

Primary Source 4: A child’s perspective

Ernst Glaeser, The Class of 1902, German. (note the term gendarme = German policeman)

A new front was created. It was held by the women, against a field of gendarmes and controllers. Every smuggled pound of butter, every sack of potatoes successfully spirited in the night was celebrated in their homes with the same enthusiasm as the victories of the armies two years before.

Two gendarmes were posted besides the threshing machine at the institute to check the quantities. They confiscated all the harvest. The farmer hated them as much as they had hated the French in 1914; even more, for they weren’t able to shoot them. The word enemy now meant the gendarmes… We hardly mentioned the war, all out talks was a lack of food. Out mothers were neared to us than our fathers.

Primary Source 5: Another soldier’s perspective

Erich Maria Remarque, German. All Quiet on the Western Front, 1917

[During my home visit]. Formerly I lived in just the same way myself, but now I feel no contact here. They talk too much for me. They have worries, aims, desires that I cannot comprehend… they are different men here…

Had we returned in 1916, out of the suffering and the strength of our experience we might have unleashed a storm. Now f we go back we will be weary, broke, burnt out, rootless and without hope. And men will not understand us – for the generation that grew up before us, though it has passed these years with us already had a home a calling; now it will return to its old occupations, and the we will be forgotten – and the generation that has grown up after us will be strange to us and push us aside. We will be superfluous even to ourselves, we will grow older, a few will adapt themselves, some others will merely submit, and most will be bewildered; the year will pass by and in the end, we shall fall into ruin.

Source 6: A politician’s anti-war perspective

Rosa Luxemburg, German politician, 1916

This war’s most important lesson for the policy of the proletariat is the unassailable fact that it cannot parrot the slogan Victory or Defeat, not in Germany or in France, not in England or in Russia. Only from the standpoint of imperialism does this slogan have any real content. For every Great Power it is identical to the question of gain or loss of political standing, of annexations, colonies, and military predominance. From the standpoint of class for the European proletariat as a whole the victory and defeat of any of the warring camps is equally disastrous.

It is war as such, no matter how it ends militarily, that signifies the greatest defeat for Europe’s proletariat. It is only the overcoming of war and the speediest possible enforcement of peace by the international militancy of the proletariat that can bring victory to the workers’ cause. And in reality this victory alone can simultaneously rescue Belgium as well as democracy in Europe.

The class-conscious proletariat cannot identify with any of the military camps in this war. Does it follow that proletarian policy ought to demand maintenance of the status quo, that we have no other action program beyond the wish that everything should be as it was before the war? But existing conditions have never been our ideal; they have never expressed the self-determination of peoples. Furthermore, the earlier conditions are no longer to be saved; they no longer exist, even if historic state borders continue to exist. Even before its results have been formally established, the war has already brought about immense confusion in power relationships, the reciprocal estimate of forces, of alliances, and conflicts. It has sharply revised the relations between states and of classes within society. So many old illusions and potencies have been destroyed, so many new forces and problems have been created that a return to the old Europe as it existed before August 4, 1914 is out of the question. [It is] as out of the question as a return to pre-revolutionary conditions even after a defeated revolution.

Proletarian policy knows no retreat; it can only struggle forward. It must always go beyond the existing and the newly created. In this sense alone, it is legitimate for the proletariat to confront both camps of imperialists in the world war with a policy of its own…

The world war today is demonstrably not only murder on a grand scale; it is also suicide of the working classes of Europe. The soldiers of socialism, the proletarians of England, France, Germany, Russia, and Belgium have for months been killing one another at the behest of capital. They are driving the cold steel of murder into each other’s hearts. Locked in the embrace of death, they tumble into a common grave…

The madness will cease and the bloody demons of hell will vanish only when workers in Germany and France, England and Russia finally awake from their stupor, extend to each other a brotherly hand, and drown out the bestial chorus of imperialist war-mongers and the shrill cry of capitalist hyenas with labor’s old and mighty battle cry: Proletarians of all lands, unite!