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Title: The establishment of the French war machine in the First World War
Author: Bostrom, Alexander W.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5359 3479
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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The First World War placed enormous pressures on the home fronts of all belligerents as they sought to provide the unprecedented levels of armaments required by twentieth century warfare. France proved to be both militarily and industrially unprepared for the task and was almost defeated in the early months of the war as the army was severely constrained by shortages of shells and artillery. However, by 1918 French industry was able to produce more materiel than Britain while also supplying the arriving American Expeditionary Force. This thesis explores how this tremendous feat was achieved by examining the actions and interests of the high command, the government and the industrialists. Throughout the war, the specific needs of the French commanders would fluctuate, but the desire for quantity and speed of delivery was constant, often at the expense of quality. The Ministry of War attempted to appease both the army and the industrialists in order to mobilise industry rapidly to meet the requirements of the front line. Despite the apparent success of its efforts, the government’s response to the pressures of war was ad hoc and reactionary. It had little time to formulate a cohesive plan, nor could it ignore the short-term necessities in favour of a longer-term strategy. Thus it created and faced a number of problems that complicated the mobilisation process, which the government sought to resolve through an increasing reliance on bureaucracy and state intervention in a previously liberal economy. Ultimately, as output expanded, constraints on the army eased, and industry was able to supply armaments in both high quality and large quantities, facilitating an operational approach that became ever more reliant on materiel as manpower resources dwindled. French efforts thus demonstrated the importance of economic management in wartime and greatly influenced post-1918 planning for future wars.
Supervisor: Strachan, Hew Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History ; France ; armaments ; war ; industry ; artillery