In A Changing World


In sober fact, the world as it had existed up to 1914 was in the process of destroying itself between 1914 and 1918. Of the great empires that prosecuted the war, not one survives in recognizable form. Russian tsar and German and Austrian kaisers have vanished forever, and the lands where they once ruled look very different than they looked half a century ago. The European community that once dominated the world drifts, fragmented, between Russia and America. France is still trying to recapture control over at least a part of her own destiny, and the British Empire is much thinner and weaker than it was in 1914. Haig did his best to defend that empire, but along the Somme and around Passchendaele it lost more than any empire can afford to lose.

Nobody meant any of this to happen. The fact that the technical processes of making war had got beyond the comprehension of the generals is merely a surface indicator of the difficulty that afflicted all leaders. The tightly knit, elaborately organized world of 1914 had drifted into an era of change, in which a long all-out war was certain to destroy the very base on which that world rested. Nobody could quite see it.