By Pamela Ruth Outwin, MLIS, Brown Library Intern
By the first week of August of 1914, nearly all of continental Europe was embroiled in war. Russia and France had entered the conflict at the same time, with Russia crossing the border into Germany on August 1. Germany crossed into Luxembourg the next day in preparation for invading France, while Belgium desperately attempted to maintain its neutrality. Their resolution did not last long; within two days, Germany had declared war on Belgium as well, in order to secure their route into France. By August 7 the British military had been mobilized, and the first of the British Expeditionary Forces had landed on French soil.
Throughout June and July, King George V of England was in constant contact with his fellow sovereigns and leaders across Europe, searching for a way to keep his country out of the conflict. The last of the major European countries to join the fight, Britain had tried to act as a mediator between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and their closest neighbors in Continental Europe. However, once the threat of violence and the reality of formal war crept towards the borders of Britain, the country was swift to join the action. Word of mouth was not sufficient for instructing the population as to why they had joined a greater conflict, especially with a large amount of pro-German propaganda being printed and distributed on a regular basis. As such, both the British Government and private individuals took advantage of the vast printing and publishing resources available to them to produce material that was used not only by British citizens throughout the course of the war, but sent to the United States in an effort to sway public opinion.
Britain’s entry into the war was not confined to the citizens of the British Isles; the entire Empire came with them. Canada, India, Australia, New Zealand, and all the other protectorates were encouraged to send men, munitions, and any materials they could spare as soon as possible. Australia and Canada, in particular, would have a great deal of influence on the progress of the war, particularly in Turkey and France. Astoundingly, many of the nations of Europe were enthusiastic about entering into combat, certain of their own country’s victory. Most though the war would be over in a matter of months, likely by Christmas or the New Year. That it would continue much longer, and claim many more lives than originally thought, would come as a terrible shock to all involved.
The Maine Historical Society’s Brown Research Library is currently in the process of preparing this collection of First World War documents for research, in time for the commemoration of the United States’ entry into the conflict. The collection materials cover the entire span of World War I, from works published at the very beginning that call it “The War of 1914” to documents produced at the end of the conflict that discuss the rebuilding of a devastated Europe.
This is the second article in a series about this collection. The first article can be found here: Assassinations and Entanglements: Documents from the MHS First World War Collection.
NOTE: This collection is not yet available for research. For further information contact Jamie Kingman Rice, Director of Library Services at firstname.lastname@example.org.