The Atlantic Releases World War I 100th Anniversary Issue: “How the Great War Made the Modern World"

Washington, D.C.; July 29, 2014 — Winston Churchill, a former First Lord of the Admiralty, writing of the need for naval imagination. The African roots of war, explained by W. E. B. Du Bois. A soldier’s faith in God and country displayed in moving letters home, which ended, like millions of others, with a mortal wound. Gertrude Stein on looming zeppelins in Paris, as she dined and then hid with Picasso. A revealing 1908 interview with Kaiser Wilhelm II, suppressed by Germany and first appearing in The Atlantic nearly three decades later. H. L. Mencken, H. G. Wells, Barbara W. Tuchman, Walter Lippmann, Reinhold Niebuhr, Bertrand Russell, Christopher Hitchens.

To mark the 100th anniversary of World War I, The Atlantic has released a special issue, World War I: How the Great War Made the Modern World—a collection of pieces by some of the greatest writers of the time, along with new takes on this war, and how it shaped the world today. The issue is available on newsstands now through October, and also available for digital purchase on Amazon Kindle, Google Play, and The Atlantic’s app for iPhone and iPad. Several pieces are now online at

The issue draws on the magazine’s extensive archives to depict the world in the run-up, throes, and aftermath of the war. More than 50 pieces originally published by The Atlantic from 1914 to 1920 take readers through events as they were happening. Little is spared of the awful realities, in the trenches and at home. A soldier writes of the sickness he feels upon burying so many; the wife of a German Americans question her marriages; and one woman wonders whether there will be any men left to marry.

And, as we know all too well, history repeats. For this issue, The Atlantic presents an original piece from the New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, who asks whether a conflict of this scale could happen again. After looking at Syria, Crimea, Gaza, and the South China Sea, his conclusion is: yes, easily. As Cohen writes: “Events cascade.” His piece is at

Similarly, in his editor’s note, Atlantic President and Editor-in-Chief James Bennet remarks on the resonances between the world then and the conflicts and crises we now face: “The Great War inflamed other national ideas, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, where the breakup of the Ottoman empire created the crisis of legitimacy, in state after state, that we are living with today. ...Across the generations, do we grow any wiser? In Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, and Ukraine, we Americans find ourselves once again struggling to reconcile our faith that our own national idea is self-evident with the reality that it is not self-executing.”

Other selected works in this collection include:

  • “The African Roots of War” (May 1915): 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. “Whence comes this new wealth?” he asked. “It comes primarily from the darker nations of the world.”

  • “The Kaiser and His People” (October 1914): The German monarch embodied “a new idealism,” the German-born Harvard historian Kuno Francke argued, exalting hard work and good government.

  • “A Gentlemen Unafraid” (April 1918): In a series of letters to his mother, Edwin Austin Abbey, an American fighting with the Canadian army in France, described how his love of family and his faith had prepared him for his fate.

  • “The Flower of Youth, Mangled and Maimed” (February 1916): The chief officer of a British ship wrote of the trauma of burying so many young men at sea: “I am sick to death. I saw more men blown up in one hour than I saw killed all through the Boer War. I am cured of ever wishing to be a soldier again.”

  • “The Need for Naval Imagination” (August 1917): Winston Churchill, then 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.

  • “In Defense of Gas Warfare” (June 1922): W. Lee Lewis wrote that chemicals—used in battle since at least ancient Greece—were more economical, and more humane, than any other weapon.

  • “Where Men Fell”: War turned the countryside of northern France into a battleground; contemporary photographs show traces of the savagery that remains, a century later.

  • “The Idea of a League of Nations” (January and February 1919): Horror at the Great War made the idea of world government imaginable. H. G. Wells made this case: “The League of Nations cannot be a little thing; it is either to be a great thing in the world, an overriding idea of a greater state, or nothing.”

  • “Why Don’t Americans Remember the War?”: Richard Rubin, the author of a recent book about WWI, ponders why the conflict doesn’t loom larger in America’s cultural memory, especially since U.S. entry into the war ultimately determined its outcome.

  • “Hemingway Goes to War” (February 1962): 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. His sister Marcelline Hemingway Sanford wrote of her family’s joy at catching a glimpse of Ernest in a movie newsreel.

​These pieces and more are available in The Atlantic’s commemorative WWI issue, available for purchase on newsstands and online. An electronic version is also available on The Atlantic’s flagship iPad app, Google Play, and Kindle devices. Previous special issues may also be found online: JFK: In His Time and Ours (Fall 2013), and The Civil War (December 2011).