In thinking about the Great War it is interesting to reflect how the length and nature of that conflict shaped subsequent views on the nature of war itself.
The First World War, looking back to the Franco-Prussian War 40 years earlier, was meant to be short and decisive and ‘over by Christmas’. In the event, its combination of industrialisation, mass mobilisation and 19th-century military thinking meant that it was long, static and grotesquely destructive of blood and treasure. Indeed the effort to avoid a repeat of this human disaster and the bid to avoid war and confrontation at all costs, paradoxically, fed the tragic slide into conflict 20 years later. In the same way that the political origins of the Second World War were sown in the revulsion at the Great War, warfare itself has evolved and changed through a variety of mutations over the succeeding century in an attempt to avoid a repeat of this earlier mass slaughter.