Soldiers in World War One fought under terrible conditions and were often slaughtered in useless attacks – yet millions volunteered to go. Why?

1) Patriotism and Nationalism

  • A strong sense of national pride made men feel that it was their duty to fight.

2) Honour and Glory

  • Many men saw the war as a glorious adventure – a chance to wear a uniform, travel, win medals and prove personal courage.

3) Ignorance of the horrors of war

  • There had not been a widespread European war for 100 years,
  • No one knew the terrible effects of modern weapons and the government censored unpleasant news,
  • Newspapers focussed on victory as glory.

4) Demonization of the enemy

  • Men were taught that they were needed to protect families lives, homes, democracy, king and country from a barbaric and dishonourable and vicious enemy.
  • They were defending “civilization” from barbarians.

5) Peer Pressure

  • Women used to pin chicken feathers on able-bodied (healthy, strong) men to shame them into joining the war.
  • Many men joined because it was ” the thing to do”.

6) Propaganda

  • Governments created propaganda posters to encourage recruits to join the war effort.
  • This propaganda appealed to emotion rather than logic, and worked on factors 1 to 5 above.

7) Conscription

  • In 1917, after a vote, the government passed a conscription law to force the men of military service age to join the army.
  • This greatly angered Quebec, since the French Canadians saw the war as a European conflict and therefore had nothing to do with them.

8) Unemployment

  • It provided a job!

9) Proved loyalty of their groups

  • Minority groups wanted to prove themselves as loyal subjects of the King and country.

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Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "Why do people go to war?," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019,
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