Coverage by Winston Churchill, H.G. Wells, Gertrude Stein, W.E.B. DuBois, H.L. Mencken, and more—plus dramatic images and new essays
Instability in Ukraine, chaos in Syria, conflict in the East China Sea—the trigger points for World War III are in place.
The Allies would not have won without doughboys, materiel, and money.
The trauma of 1914–18 forever changed geopolitical boundaries, the science of killing, and the meaning of war.
The fighting in Europe prompted a noted British philosopher and pacifist to trace the “cruel absurdities” that had produced a world war—and to hope for peaceful means to settle future disputes.
Archduke Ferdinand's assassination served as a pretext for an "immoral" preventive war.
Europeans had no desire to fight one another. Only after a score of men drove their nations into battle did their peoples learn to hate.
Even the lowest of the carnivorous animals do not kill members of their own species for no good reason.
The author, a former president of Harvard, framed the question he believed would decide the war: Would conscripted workers produce as strong an economy as those who could act of their own free will?
If the public can make decisions about taxes and schools, why not about war?
After Belgium, France, and Britain carved up Africa among themselves, Germany felt the need to catch up. W. E. B. Du Bois, who by 1915 had established himself as one of America’s leading writers and civil-rights activists, saw this competition for colonies as an underlying cause of the war.
A former First Lord of the Admiralty (and future wartime prime minister) placed the fate of Britain and the United States on the high seas.
Poor nations didn't plunge the world into war. Rich nations that coveted even greater riches did.
H. L. Mencken, a prominent German American journalist with reactionary racial views, was a frank admirer of Friedrich Nietzsche. Here he explained how Nietzsche heaped scorn upon Germans before they adopted him as a spokesman for their collective soul.
How nations that go to war perceive themselves
The German monarch embodied “a new idealism,” exalting hard work and good government, according to this report by a German-born historian at Harvard.
In a 1908 Century Magazine interview, suppressed by Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm II revealed his beliefs on white supremacy and on the historical role of great leaders.
In Britain today, many see the war as a slaughter without necessity or meaning. But a great deal was at stake.
At a village near the northern tip of France, the symbol of Christ caused Allied soldiers’ deaths.
An American serving in the French Foreign Legion arranged his worldly affairs before a “grand attack.”
Russian soldiers saw nothing evil in leaving the bodies of Germans and Austrians on the battlefield to rot.
A French officer found that the corpses half-buried in the walls of a trench became a matter of mirth.
Trenches were crowded, narrow cities replete with bunks, benches, and sewage systems.
A French officer witnesses the chaos of battle.
The chief officer of a British ship was sickened by burying so many young men at sea.
Abandoned in no-man's-land, some wounded men spent days crawling to safety.
At a fortress town in northeastern France, the German army repeatedly tried to break through Allied lines, in one of the greatest dramas of the war.
A beautiful town brought to ruin
How a lush countryside came to resemble the surface of the moon
A meteorologist investigated whether explosions and gunfire were causing climate change.
Diary entries from Mont Blond, in northern France, which was stormed by French and Moroccan troops in May 1917
Geologists, meteorologists, and chemists helped make their nations’ armies more lethal.
Noxious chemicals have been used in battle since at least ancient Greece. They are more economical—and more humane—than any other weapon, one writer argued.
Perhaps cowardice had motivated him, a British conscript conceded—or a “primitive kind of common sense.”
At Wittenberg, in eastern Germany, the war against lice
In a series of letters to his mother, an American fighting with the Canadian army in France described how his love of family and his religious faith had prepared him for his fate.
When the armistice ending the Great War was signed on November 11, 1918, the victorious capitals erupted in celebration. On the battlefront, the soldiers fell silent.
The editor of The Atlantic from 1909 to 1938 called on the United States to abandon its neutrality and enter the war “purely for a world idea.”
The outbreak of a European war was perplexing for a nation of (mostly European) immigrants. “Hyphenated Americans” faced suspicions about their allegiances.
Americans had always kept aloof from Europe’s affairs, in the hope that Europe would stay out of theirs. Woodrow Wilson declared: no more.
Only the United States sought nothing selfish or commercial from going to war.
How nationalistic fervor broke up a happy home
A plea to distinguish idealists from traitors
In the West Virginia hamlet of Dry Creek, household after household delivered its sons to war.
A Kansas City Star reporter deemed unfit for military service found a spot as an ambulance driver at the Italian front. Days later, he got hit by a mortar shell and machine-gun fire.
Dining in Paris with Picasso as a zeppelin loomed overhead
The writer watched as a zeppelin dropped incendiary bombs on a town in Great Britain.
Before the war, Germans were jovial and hospitable to foreigners. But after it started, they displayed growing intolerance and savagery.
With millions of young men gone to their graves or sickbeds, the marital future of women across Europe looked bleak.
Horror at the Great War, along with technological change, made the idea of world government imaginable.
Nations must give up their absolute sovereignty over foreign affairs.
The president's physician witnessed the drama behind closed doors at the peace conference.
A popular historian agreed with Freud that Wilson was a tragic figure whose neuroses got in his way.
Creating a League of Nations looked like a fool's errand until the American president had his say.
After the postwar treaty scrambled boundary lines across Europe, Germans would resent their nation's "mutilation."
The unprincipled peace bore little resemblance to President Wilson's idealistic hopes.
A prominent British historian predicted that Europe would become more politically fragmented but more economically united.
The political division within postwar Germany produced a "noisy right wing," led in part by a Great War veteran named Adolf Hitler.
The Germans who came of age after the Great War cursed their ruined economy and the stigma of war guilt.
A decade after the war, dictators still ruled, and more men were under arms than ever before.
Not long after the League of Nations failed, Europe and the United States again found themselves bracing for war.
The boundaries that the Allies' mapmakers drew during the war created conflicts that persist a century later.
Comrades remain comrades, said an American pilot, even after they fall.
One can draw a line from September 11, 2001, straight back to the decisions made by colonial mapmakers as the fighting raged in Europe 100 years ago.
As societies mobilized for an unexpected and undesired war, governments used posters as a propaganda tool.