Hunger in War and Peace: Women and Children in Germany 1914-1924

Socialist History Public Meeting
Dr Mary Cox ‎

November 16th 2pm

Red Lion Hall,
Basement, Tresham House, Red Lion Square,
entrance via Lamb’s Conduit Passage by Conway Hall, Holborn, WC1R 4RE

At the outbreak of the First World War, Great Britain quickly took steps to initiate a naval blockade against Germany. In addition to military goods and other contraband, foodstuffs and fertilizer were also added to the list of forbidden exports to Germany. As the grip of the Blockade strengthened, Germans complained that civilians-particularly women and children-were going hungry because of it. The impact of the blockade on non-combatants was especially fraught during the eight month period of the Armistice when the blockade remained in force. Even though fighting had stopped, German civilians wondered how they would go through another winter of hunger. The issue became internationalised as civic leaders across the country wrote books, pamphlets, and articles about their distress, and begged for someone to step in and relieve German women and children with food aid. Their pleas were answered with an outpouring of generosity from across the world. Some have argued, then and since, that these outcries were based on gross exaggerations based more on political need rather than actual want. This book examines what the actual nutritional statuses of women and children in Germany were during and following the War. Mary Cox uses detailed height and weight data for over 600,000 German children to show the true measure of overall deprivation, and to gauge infant recovery.

She says: My research examines the effects of war on the living standards of non-combatants . My new book “Hunger in War & Peace: Women and Children in Germany, 1914 – 1924” was recently published by Oxford University Press (2019) as part of the Oxford Historical Monograph Series. It documents the nutritional impacts of wartime blockades on children, women, and the elderly. Understanding the impacts of war on such vulnerable members of society requires analyses of disparate sources because the stories of non-combatants are either untold or, alternatively, exploited for propaganda purposes. I use anthropometric data to analyse and chart the course of wartime deprivation through time. When such quantitative insights are combined with traditional qualitative sources, questions previously unconsidered – such as the timelines of deprivation and recovery for different social groups – can be better explored“.