Chapter 24: Abstract

Gender, Demobilization and the Reordering of Societies after the First and Second World Wars

Karen Hagemann (UNC–Chapel Hill, Department of History)

In Oxford Handbook of Gender, War, and the Western World since 1600, ed. by Karen Hagemann et al. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 585-610.


As industrialized “total wars” the First and Second World War required the unprecedented involvement of civilians at the battle- and the homefront. After both wars had ended, the demobilization of great numbers of soldiers, workers, and returning POWs created immense political, social and economic problems and challenges for the postwar societies. In addition postwar societies had to deal with the costs and wounds of war. This chapter explores the economic, social and cultural demobilization after the First and Second World War with a gender perspective and compares Britain, France, Germany, and Russia the United States. With these belligerents it includes victorious and defeated nations, market based and communist societies, democratic and authoritarian political systems. The chapter demonstrates the importance of the gender order, especially the family, for the reconstruction of the postwar social order. After both wars it were in all societies, despite all other economic and political differences, mainly the families and in the families the women who had to heal the wounds of war.


World War I and  II;  Cold War; postwar; demobilization; demilitarization; paramilitarianism; legacy of war; social order; welfare state; gender.

In Part III: "The Age of the World Wars" of the Oxford Handbook of Gender, War the Western World and since 1600

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