Home Fires Burning

Food, Politics, and Everyday Life in World War I Berlin

By Belinda J. Davis

368 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 21 illus., 2 maps, 13 figs., , notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4837-1
    Published: April 2000
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6061-8
    Published: June 2003
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7063-6
    Published: June 2003

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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.

About the Author

Belinda J. Davis is associate professor of history at Rutgers University.
For more information about Belinda J. Davis, visit the Author Page.


"This is an important contribution to the study of Berlin women in this period and, perhaps equally significant, to a major theme currently reemerging in twentieth-century German history: to wit, that World War I was not the bridge between Imperial Germany and the Third Reich."--Historian

"Davis's sensitivity both to the material and symbolic dimensions of these women's life-world makes this a rich and rewarding study. A wide array of source material is presented in a narrative that is emphatic without being sentimental."--American Historical Review

"A valuable contribution to our understanding of World War I . . . . Thoughtfully argued and solidly researched work."--Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Home Fires Burning . . . is exciting women's history and much more. . . . An exhaustive and persuasive study. . . . [Davis] opens up our understanding of women's agency and influence--and political agency more broadly--to give us a story that has not yet been told. . . . Well-written and handsomely produced. . . . This is an important book, not only for what it tells us about women's surprising influence, born of war, but because it gives us a refreshingly new understanding of the political history of Germany in the last years of the Empire."--Women's Review of Books

"This welcome book provides much food for thought."--Choice

"Many have called for studies relating the political to people's everyday lives in the twentieth century, and, in Home Fires Burning, Belinda Davis has most successfully done it. This is a wonderfully thick and nuanced study primarily on women trying to get by in World War I and, thus, producing 'politics' in metropolitan Berlin. In numerous street scenes their efforts broke the ground for wide-ranging political transformation. Consumers' actions refocused politics on people's needs and, thus, sparked the revolutionary movements of 1918 (not only in Berlin but in Germany at large). Here we have a case study, but its implications affect the writing of contemporary history in general."--Alf Lüdtke, University of Erfurt, Max Planck Institut für Geschichte, Göttingen