Cover image for Home fires burning : food, politics, and everyday life in World War I Berlin
Home fires burning : food, politics, and everyday life in World War I Berlin
Davis, Belinda Joy.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xiv, 349 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
D538.5.B47 D38 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Challenging assumptions about the separation of high politics and everyday life, Belinda Davis uncovers the important influence of the broad civilian populace--particularly poorer women--on German domestic and even military policy during World War I.

As Britain's wartime blockade of goods to Central Europe increasingly squeezed the German food supply, public protests led by "women of little means" broke out in the streets of Berlin and other German cities. These "street scenes" riveted public attention and drew urban populations together across class lines to make formidable, apparently unified demands on the German state. Imperial authorities responded in unprecedented fashion in the interests of beleaguered consumers, interceding actively in food distribution and production. But officials' actions were far more effective in legitimating popular demands than in defending the state's right to rule. In the end, says Davis, this dynamic fundamentally reformulated relations between state and society and contributed to the state's downfall in 1918. Shedding new light on the Wilhelmine government, German subjects' role as political actors, and the influence of the war on the home front on the Weimar state and society, Home Fires Burning helps rewrite the political history of World War I Germany.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Did the inadequate production and inequitable distribution of food in WW I Germany ultimately undermine that nation's military effort and provoke civil disobedience? This question, initially raised by Paul Eltzbacher, the head of Germany's Food Commission, is raised anew by Davis. She touches on a number of interrelated issues brought to the fore by the "food question" and the expansion of state authority: the evolution of gender politics, the relationship between food and national identity, the construction of internal enemies. Focusing on Berlin, and relying on "mood reports" collected by local police and military authorities to assess the depth of popular support for the war and on contemporary press accounts and political pamphlets, Davis demonstrates how, from the start of the war, German women of lesser means recognized food production and its distribution as the government's Achilles heel and used the issue as a means of political expression. At the same time that fear of starvation united most Germans in their disgust for the ineptitude of government officials, food issues revealed socioeconomic and gender fissures within German society. Food may indeed have proven mightier than the sword as a political weapon, one with repercussions beyond Germany and WW I. This welcome book provides much food for thought. Upper-division undergraduates and above. ; George Washington University

Table of Contents

Maps ... Figures
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
Home Fires Burningp. 15
Introductionp. 1
1 Germany from Peace to Warp. 9
2 Bread, Cake, and Just Desertsp. 24
3 Women of Lesser Meansp. 48
4 Battles over Butterp. 76
5 One View of How Politics Worked in World War I Berlinp. 93
6 A Food Dictatorshipp. 114
7 Soup, Stew, and Eating Germanp. 137
8 Food for the Weak, Food for the Strongp. 159
9 The End of Faithp. 190
10 Germany from War to Peace?p. 219
Conclusionp. 237
Notesp. 247
Bibliographyp. 307
Indexp. 343