WWI: The biggest mistake in modern history | Niall Ferguson

Niall Ferguson argues that Britain’s decision to intervene in 1914 turned the conflict between Germany and Russia from a continental war into a global war.

Ferguson argues that the consequences of that decision by Britain in 1914 lasted 75 years, until collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. With the benefit of hindsight, and the resurgence of Russia, I would say we still live with those consequences today.

One thought on “WWI: The biggest mistake in modern history | Niall Ferguson

  1. frankaquin0 says:

    Thanks Colin – very interesting. The Pity of War was apparently published ca. 1998, which explains Ferguson’s youthful looks. I assume he did his research correctly and unbiasedly so I have no reason to doubt his facts. His conclusions are a bit starry-eyed I think. I can’t imagine the Kaiser stopping at the Channel given his dislike of his English royal relations, not to mention that victory demands more victories. The new map of Europe would have shown it all one colour except for the different blob of colour (the UK) west of the Channel. That alone would have irked him and his warring generals to finish the job. I wonder if the British upper class would have continued to subjugate the lower classes right up until they surrendered to their new German King. Fascinating to write a history book of what might have happened. I haven’t read The Pity of War, but I assume he includes that time honoured favourite driver for war – oil fields. Still, Ferguson needs to be controversial to keep his image fresh, and un-provable predictions is a good way to do it.

    I think you know my own views on why wars are fought (ref The Stone Testament Trilogy), but for anyone who doesn’t: wars are caused simply by technological improvements in weapons. It’s not the other way around as people like to think. When the first flint axe was invented to chop down trees, it wasn’t long before heads were being chopped off too. Ditto for all the other technological advances made in peacetime – bows and arrows, spears, gunpowder, war-horses, guns, missiles, the internet, drones, etc (ad nauseam). Give a weapon to a young bloke, and he’ll use it on another young bloke for no particular reason other than to feel superior. Next come the women and children. And so on and so on and so on.

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