Wednesday, 3 July 2013

What's inside a CoW? Well that's obvious....

Pig iron and steel

I have had further look at the French data for WW1 to assess whether the loss of the iron and steel producing areas in 1914 had a material impact on their war fighting capability, at least in the CoW numbers. The answer is yes, both historically and in the data, but as I suspected, the other numbers in the calculations compensate for the variations.

I took a close look at French iron and steel production since 1869. this is because we know that France lost its iron and steel production from Alsace and Lorraine after the Franco-Prussian War. We should therefore be able to test our assumptions.

French Iron and Steel production shows three major dips over the time period represented in the graph.

  • 1871: This shows the impact of the Franco-Prussian war and the annexation by Germany of Alsace and Lorraine with their ore deposits.
  • 1900: This is the change in the basis of the data from pig iron up to 1899 to steel from 1900. I assume, in the absence of other information, that the change in the basis of the data is the reason for the discontinuity.
  • 1914: This fall represents the impact of the German invasion on French access to iron ore and coal (an estimated loss of  75%) and the fact that 75% of the blast furnaces in campaign (i.e. operating) in 1913 were either in the German occupied region or too close to the front line to continue in operation. There is an interesting article on this at
I think this data is really useful because I can relate it to real world events. As I have said before, it will repay further study. What I plan to do at some stage is construct a view of the pre-WW1 situation using economic data, such as the CoW information. I'm particularly interested in assessing whether what people actually thought at the time matches the reality. For example was Germany really surrounded by enemies whose strength was growing apace? Was a first strike strategy a sensible and realistic approach for Germany? With the 100 year anniversary of 1914 rapidly approaching with all of the complete nonsense that will be generated by the media it is time to have a good think based on real data.

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