For the last few weeks, I’ve been on a World War I kick. It’s an area of history that I’ve found interesting but never really delved that much into until now, but I’m kind of perplexed as to why I never did. I think the reason WWI doesn’t get that much attention in the popular consciousness and among history buffs is that it’s overshadowed by WWII, which was bigger, bloodier, and resolved the issues that WWI didn’t–for starters, WWII resulted in peace throughout Europe for decades, and in Western Europe to this date.
But WWI is utterly fascinating to me for a lot of reasons. One of them is just how old the world that went to war in 1914 was. The Russian Empire was led by a czar, as it had been since the 1500s. Officers wore white gloves and carried sabers. Troops going into combat wore cloth caps, not metal helmets (those came about after the war had already begun). In 1914, European empires or their successor states (i.e. the United States and Latin American countries ruled by those of European descent) controlled almost all of the world outright. Not only did all the militaries of the world still use cavalry and horses for reconnaissance, combat, and transport, but photos of their cavalry units could be almost indistinguishable from Napoleon’s cavalry.
There are two great sources for my interest that I’d like to highlight: Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast, specifically the Blueprint for Armageddon series, and the Great War channel on YouTube. Both of these are fantastic, informative, and highly entertaining, and I can’t recommend them enough. I plan to write periodically about a few episodes or themes from the war, and I’ll certainly be drawing upon some of their work.
Some of the ideas I want to talk about are pan-Slavism and its role in leading to the conflict, how military tactics and technology evolved from essentially U.S. Civil War or Franco-Prussian War-era to true twentieth-century tactics, the strategies used to wage the war after the stalemate on the Western Front became apparent, the political and social changes the war wrought on European and American countries, and more. There’s so much to talk about with it that I’m genuinely excited to discuss the Great War and everything related to it.