[1 Dec 1999] The Scarlet Pimpernel
[30 Nov 1999] The Endless Frontier
[29 Nov 1999] The German Atomic Bomb
[26 Nov 1999] Everybody Knows
[24 Nov 1999] Worlds Enough, and Time
[22 Nov 1999] Future Shocks
[19 Nov 1999] Translator's Note
[12 Nov 1999] Psalm 23
[11 Nov 1999] The Mechanical Demon
[10 Nov 1999] Prisoner's Dilemma
[9 Nov 1999] Conviction of E. German Chief Upheld
[8 Nov 1999] Four Gates to the City
[5 Nov 1999] Worst Crimes of the Millennium
[4 Nov 1999] When the Killing Stopped

From The Atlantic Monthly (May 1999),
a review of Niall Ferguson, The Pity of War, Basic Books.

Was the Great War Necessary?


... [T]he statistics are probably known to every sixth-former in the United Kingdom: the 60 percent casualty rate that tore apart the British Expeditionary Force (probably the best army Britain ever fielded) in the first three months of the war, the 60,000 casualties on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the 723,000 British dead by the end of the war (twice as many as in the Second World War).

... Although the majority of the British dead came from the working class, officers, drawn mostly from the upper classes, paid a disproportionately high price: for the mobilized men overall the death rate was about 12 percent, but for graduates of Oxford and members of the peerage it was 19 percent, and for graduates of the fifty-three boarding schools where statistics are available it was 20 percent. Not since the War of the Roses had the aristocracy suffered such losses...

Britain's horrendous losses were not extraordinary. Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, France, and Turkey each lost far more lives...

The question historians now debate are Why did Germany essentially force a war in 1914? and Why did it pursue such ambitious war aims? Some, including Ferguson, point to Berlin's deep-seated anxiety about Russia's rapid industrialization and growing military power, and thus see German actions as an attempt to pre-empt Germany's strategic deterioration relative to Russia. They further point to the belief, shared by many Germans, that the balance among the great powers of Europe--the crux of the diplomacy of the past two centuries--was giving way to one among "world powers." In this emerging pattern only the British Empire, Russia, and the United States had the natural resources, population, and industrial capacity for an assured position in the front rank. For this reason, so the argument goes, Berlin pursued a comparable concentration of power through the destruction of its European rivals' independence and through arrangements that would guarantee to German industry a continental market and a raw-materials base. In short, the goal was, in the words of the historian Imanuel Geiss, whom Ferguson quotes approvingly, "German leadership over a united Europe in order to brave the coming giant economic and political power blocs."