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Home front is the informal term commonly used to describe the civilian populace of the nation at war as an active support system of its military. In a domestic war-time discourse, a home front implies the imperative of effective militarisation of a society, and a necessity for social servitude to the needs of a military command during a time of war. The view that a society in wartime must function as a component of its executive branch is sometimes called a "teeth and tail" view.

In a modern industrial nation, the fighting "teeth" of combat soldiers, depends to a considerable degree on the "tail" of civilian support services — extending all the way to the factories that build the materiel.

Civilian populations were traditionally uninvolved in combat, except when the fighting happened to reach their dwelling places. However, the expanded destructive capabilities of modern warfare posed an increased direct threat to civilian populations. With the rapid increase of military technology, the term "military effort" has changed to include the "home front" as a reflection of both a civilian "sector" capacity to produce arms, as well as the structural or policy changes which deal with its vulnerability to direct attack.

This continuity of "military effort" from fighting soldier to manufacturing facility has profound effects for the concept of "total war." By this logic, if factories and workers producing war materiel are part of the war effort, they become legitimate targets for attack, rather than protected noncombatants. Hence in practice, both sides in a conflict often commit atrocities against civilians, with the understanding that these are legitimate and lawful targets in war.This military view of civilian targets has profound effects on the equity of applied legal principles on which the prosecution of crimes against humanity are based.

The concept of civilians' involvement in war also developed in connection with general development and change of the ideological attitude to the state. In Feudal society and also in Absolute Monarchy the state was perceived as essetntially belonging to the Monarch and the aristocracy, ruling over a mass of passive commoners; wars were perceived of a contenst between rival rulers, conducted "above the head" of the commoners, who were expected to submit to the victor.

In contract, since the French Revolution the state was increasingly percived as belonging to "The People", a perception shared - though in different forms - by Democracy, Communism, and Fascism. A logical conclusion was that war has become everybody's business and that also those not taken into the armed forces must "do their part", and "fight on the home front".


The importance of civilian manufacturing and support services in a nation's capacity to fight a war first became apparent during the twenty-five years of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars when the United Kingdommarker was able to finance, and to a lesser extent arm and supply the various coalitions which opposed France. Although Britain had a much smaller population than France, its global maritime trade and its early industrialisation meant that its economy was much larger than that of France, which allowed Britain to offset the French manpower advantage.

During the American Civil War, the capacity of Northern factories proved as decisive in winning the war as the skills of the generals of either side. During World War I the British Shell Crisis of 1915 and the appointment of Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions was a recognition that the whole economy would have to be geared for war if the Allies were to prevail on the Western Front. The United States home front during World War I saw many women taking traditionally men's jobs for the first time in American history.

World War II

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A factor in Allied victory in World War II was the ability of Allied nations to successfully and efficiently mobilize their civilian industries and domestic populations, especially the women, in order to turn out weapons and goods necessary for waging war. By contrast, mobilization of economic resources in Nazi Germany was so inefficient that some early historians of the Reich's economy concluded (probably incorrectly) that the Nazi leadership must have had an intentional policy of favoring civilian over military production until late in the war. The British, by contrast, had already accomplished mobilization for total war by 1940, thereby increasing the output of weapons — especially heavy bombers — vastly. During the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, Soviet soldiers and civilians moved their industries out of reach of the advancing Germans (sometimes disassembling and reassembling entire factories) and began turning out vast numbers of the superior T-34 tank, the Il-2 attack aircraft, and other weapons.

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