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Chapter 7: World War I & the Interwar Period: “War—What Is It Good For?”

World War I is, according to this historian, the most underappreciated event in the modern world. The way the war began, the way the war was fought, and especially the way the war was concluded have far-reaching consequences for our world 100+ years later. The attitudes about war and nation, about progress and potential, about the meaning of human existence itself, were all turned upside-down during/after the “Great War.”

Because the First World War is not as much of a “movie” plotline as the Second, it often gets ignored. World War II is more dynamic, because the front moved constantly: the world was attacked by the “evil” Axis powers and then the “good” Allies reclaimed territory. World War I, by contrast, reached a stalemate by its second year, and there is no “good vs. evil” theme: every country was “evil” and was equally to blame for the chaos and destruction of this useless conflict.

“The world will never be the same” could be applied to just about any event we study this year. However, with the case of WWI, the “before picture” is so different than the “after picture” that it was called “The War to End All Wars.” While that was obviously not the case with the “second round” 20 years later, WWI destroyed forever what war had stood for, not to mention destroying a generation in the trenches. (Some historians call WWI and WWII the same conflict with the same motive, just “paused” for a generation to come of age to replace all of the young males killed in the “first round.”)

World War 1 Phototeenage soldiers