Lecture 16 - The Coming of the Great War

European Civilization, 1648 to 1945

Yale

If the early years of the twentieth century were marked by a general consensus that a major war was impending, no similar consensus existed concerning the likely form that war would take. Not only the carnage of World War I, but also the nature of its alliances would have been difficult to imagine. Indeed, in 1900 many people would have predicted conflict, rather than collaboration, between France and Britain. The reasons for the eventual entente between France and Britain and France and Russia consist principally in economic and geopolitical motivations. Cultural identity also played a role, particularly in relations between France and Germany. The territory of Alsace-Lorraine formed a crucible for the questions of nationalism and imaginary identity that would be contested in the Great War.

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