First, the decision-making processes of the upper and ruling classes that led to the war and also perpetuated its disastrous course. These often concentrate upon the blindness and illogicality of their policies. Second, they concentrate upon the experiences of the soldiers, powerless and yet acutely aware of what the reality of the war entails. A third group, those ordinary citizens who were left at home, are often forgotten within the dichotomy between the blind leaders and tortured soldiers.
The book begins with a sentence that places the supposed catalyst for the beginning of World War I, the assassination of the archduke Francis Ferdinand, in the most modern of contexts. Chickering describes it as an "act of state-sponsored terrorism"1 and yet places it within the context of both politicians/ruling classes and ordinary people. Thus he states that "the onset of warm weather signaled travel for those who could afford it; and for those who could not, it brought less idle adjustments in the annual rhythms of life in town and countryside."2 Thus Chickering shows that while the assassination had an immediate headline-making effect, people soon returned to their normal preoccupations. ...Show more