Sunday, June 25, 2017
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The World at War

These words from a novel are those of an eighteen-year-old German soldier describing the horror of the First World War. When World War I began in 1914, a British leader said to a friend, “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” He was right. Only 25 years later the world would again be torn by a second world war, even more terrible than the first. No country was safe. Everyone was affected in some way by the fighting.
By the summer of 1914, it seemed as if Europe had forgotten the Napoleonic wars, fought a mere hundred years before. All Europe seemed to be caught up in a wave of militarism and nationalism based on a shared belief that war was inevitable among the nations of Europe. The Great Powers—all except Britain—kept large standing armies that were ready to spring into action. Each nation felt that its own weapons were so advanced, war would be short and swift. Generals in each country yearned for a chance to put their plans and military technology to use. Political leaders saw they could back up their demands in a crisis. Millions of ordinary civilians seemed to agree that war was the best way to settle international problems. By 1907, Europe was divided into two rival camps—the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy) and the Triple Entente (Britain, France, and Russia).
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