Counting the Dead

Quantifying the Great War doesn't really get one very far.

Issue: Fall 1999

Niall Ferguson, The Pity of War: Explaining World War I (New York: Basic Books, 1999), 563 pp., $30.

The war that roared into flame eighty-five years ago this August was surely the dominant event of this century. It consumed the lives of perhaps ten million soldiers (probably considerably more), smaller but nonetheless vast numbers of civilians, smashed the Austro-Hungarian, Turkish and Russian Empires, and administered lasting shocks to their British and French counterparts. It created the conditions for the political success of communism and, ultimately, Nazism as well. In the bloody womb of its conduct and consummation sprouted the seeds of another, even more ferocious and pitiless global war that broke out less than twenty-one years after the first one ended, and that completed the wrecking of an entire system of world society and politics. It marked the entry of the United States onto the stage of world power even as it augured the collapse of the Powers of Western Europe.

You must be a subscriber of The National Interest to access this article. If you are already a subscriber, please activate your online access. Not a subscriber? Become a subscriber today!