World War I

In This Issue

Coverage by H.G. Wells, Gertrude Stein, W.E.B. DuBois, H.L. Mencken, Reinhold Niebuhr, Bertrand Russell, and more—plus dramatic images and new essays


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1. War Breaks Out

  • Berliner Verlag/Archiv/Picture-Alliance/DPA/AP

    Is a Permanent Peace Possible?

    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.

  • Associated Press

    Who Started the 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.

  • Picture-Alliance/DPA/AP

    The Insane Root

    Even the lowest of the carnivorous animals do not kill members of their own species for no good reason.

  • Associated Press

    Autocracy Versus Liberty

    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?

  • ADOC/Corbis

    The African Roots of 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.

  • Bettmann/Corbis

    The Mailed Fist and Its Prophet

    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.

  • Berliner Verlag/Archiv/Picture-Alliance/DPA/AP

    The Kaiser and His People

    The German monarch embodied “a new idealism,” exalting hard work and good government, according to this report by a German-born historian at Harvard.

2. In the Trenches

3. The Home Front

4. A New World

Editor's Note

  • Bettmann/Corbis

    The American Idea at War

    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.

Photo Essay

  • K.J. Historical/Corbis; David Pollack/Corbis; Swim Ink 2/Corbis; Heritage/Corbis; Corbis

    The Art of War

    As societies mobilized for an unexpected and undesired war, governments used posters as a propaganda tool.


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