That the war was wicked, horrible, inhuman, is a belief indelibly inspired in part by the poetry of men like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, but also by plain fact. Indeed, more British soldiers were killed in the first day of the Battle of the Somme than Americans in the Vietnam war. The total British fatalities in that single battle--some 420,000--exceeds the entire American fatalities for both World Wars. And yet, as Ferguson writes, while the war itself was a disastrous folly, the great majority of men who fought it did so with little reluctance and with some enthusiasm.
There is no aspect of the modern world that was not profoundly touched by this disaster, although its significance has become increasingly shrouded as the generation of men who fought it die out and are rendered as distant and anonymous as those who fought in the conflicts of the nineteenth century. Ferguson vividly brings back to life a terrifying period, not through dry citation of chronological chapter and verse, but through a brilliant series of chapters focusing on key ways in which we now view the First World War: the very modern role of the press; the frightening way in which the men enjoyed the war; the transformation of the world order.
For anyone wanting to understand why wars are fought, why men are willing to fight them, and why the world is as it is today, there is no sharper nor more stimulating a guide than Niall Fergusons The Pity of War....Continua