07/20/06 - less than 100 years ago

In today's excerpt - world leaders in 1914 did not understand how powerful their armies had become and how much destruction they would cause. In the centuries before the 1800s, world population had grown at a snail's pace. But between 1870 and the beginning of the first World War, the population of Europe had increased by 100,000,000, more than the total world population before 1650, the result of a technological revolution that improved life spans. But this technological revolution also produced unprecedented weaponry, and thus World War I unleashed destruction that would kill 8.5 million and wound in excess of 20 million more, many times the casualties of all the Napoleonic wars combined. As the war started, a young and naive Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, could not contain his excitement:

"Russia's general mobilization ... called up the Russian reserves—a staggering total of four million men, enough to frighten any nation on earth. ...

"This was war on a truly new scale; the army with which Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo had totaled sixty thousand men. ...

"The Germans ... hauled into Belgium ... two new kinds of monster artillery: 305 Skoda siege mortars ... plus an almost unimaginably huge 420 howitzer ... produced by Germany's Krupp steelworks, [that] weighed seventy-five tons and had to be transported by rail in five sections and set in concrete before going into action.

"Among the holders of high office, one man at least did not share the sense of glum foreboding: the ebullient ... young Winston Churchill ... he wrote to Prime Minister Asquith's wife ... 'I love this war. I know it's smashing and shattering the lives of thousands every moment, and yet—I can't help it—I enjoy every second of it.' "


G.J. Meyer


A World Undone: The Story of the Great War 1914 to 1918


Delacorte Press a division of Random House


Copyright 2006 by G.J. Meyer


74, 77, 127, 133
barns and noble booksellers
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.


Sign in or create an account to comment