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More poignantly still, the war as a whole left an estimated six million orphans across the world, one million each in the cases of France and Germany alone.
As Martha Hanna notes, the number of married couples who divorced at the end of the war – in those jurisdictions where civil divorce was permitted – did indeed increase but overwhelmingly married men returned home to their womenfolk and children.
Of course, even where divorce was allowed by law it was often out of reach of many couples for financial reasons or for reasons of stigma.
Authority relationships within families were, however, often tested by the First World War.
The relationship revolved not just around the question of the authority of the father but also that of the mother in relation to children and dependents; the enforced absence of fathers for long periods was acutely felt at the time and had an impact on the norms and values relating to youth.
Any consideration of the question of the war’s impact on authority relationships within Europe’s families should begin by recognizing the basic resilience of the family as a social unit and a focus of attachment in the face of the upheaval of war and during its uncertain aftermath.
With some degree of adaptation, the bonds of marriage and kinship, even if they had been alternately burdensome or solacing in the pre-war world, generally endured and provided a framework for reintegration into normality afterwards.
Testamentary letters, written by soldiers for fear of death in military service and often deposited at home in case the worst happened, gave encouragement, advice, and instructions from beyond the grave.
Mostly, it was economic considerations and competing influences on youths, in the form of peer pressure or new opportunities for earning money, that would thwart parental control.
As well as being an economic reality, “profiteers” were also a symptom of a sense of unfairness.
In a fifth and final section we consider the subtle ways in which the transgressive violence of the First World War, as Heather Jones terms it, in turn altered norms concerning the punishment of military indiscipline, anti-imperial agitation, and revolution.