The central question driving this thesis is: “How did the advancement of military technologies 1900 through the end of the Great War in 1918 affect the ethical relationship of combatants in wartime?” This paper looks at personal diary entries, philosophical papers, and historical analyses, among other sources to attempt to determine the effects of these growing technologies. This question is important because it shapes the entirety of how we judge the ethical validity of the relations and interactions of soldiers in and out of the war zone during the First World War. The changing landscape of warfare has brought to the forefront a large array of ethical questions. No longer does an individual have to necessarily run across open ground in order to defeat an enemy. After the implementation of the automatic rifle and the technologies that followed, it was possible to kill the enemy without necessarily exposing oneself to danger. Certainly this is a different landscape than that which the participants of the previous wars saw; since the Great War was one in which thousands of men were forced to lay down their lives in an attempt to move a few feet. Due to the advancement of military technologies, the risk of exposing oneself to the enemy was greater than ever before. This leads to several ethical conundrums that I wish to explore. Through analysis and research the paper aims to show that although the nature of the obligations may have changed, a man, on either side of the conflict, retained the obligation to act in an ethical fashion in their interactions with the other and that this ethical obligation is well described by the Just War tradition. While the technologies may have evolved, Just War remained steadfast against the pressure to exit from the war a standard theory of War in the modern realm of warfare ethics.


Hustwit, Ronald

Second Advisor

Schilling, Hayden


History; Philosophy


Ethics and Political Philosophy | European History | Military History


War, Just War, World War One, WWI Weaponry

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2015 Oliver S. Raker