This will be the first of what I hope to be a series of posts, written over the next few months, on the much-misunderstood First World War, whose hundredth anniversary the Western world is in the midst of celebrating, or lamenting.
It is not a subject on which I am an authority of any kind—not even an aspiring one. Indeed, it is a subject that I only recently approached again after a long period of neglect. This neglect stemmed from the utter hopelessness I would feel whenever I got close to World War I as a subject of historical study: I found I was so quickly overwhelmed with competing theories and interpretations I could barely nail down the basic facts of the conflict. Yes, this is true of most history, especially the vast fields of diplomatic and military history, but there is something about the First World War that always seemed especially impenetrable or inscrutable to me. Now that I am a bit—a bit—older and more knowledgeable, perhaps I can make more sense of things. Perhaps not. (more…)