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The Great War: 1914-1918 (Routledge Classics) by Marc Ferro

By Marc Ferro

A landmark historical past of the conflict that firmly areas the 1st international struggle within the context of imperialism and offers due weight to the position of non-Europeans within the clash.

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Odd as it may seem, reserves became a party-political question. The Right claimed that only the professional army really counted for national defence and objected in principle to the nation in arms, which in their view would mean a mere militia; hence they would use reserves only as a supplement needed to bring the professional army to war strength. They expected the war to be a short one and therefore lavished attention on the professional army, which they considered as the bulwark of the nation: no sacrifice would be too much for them if it fostered the professional army.

These annexationist ambitions show the essentially imperialistic character of intervention. But in August 1914 the peoples and their governments felt, rightly or wrongly, that they had gone to war to defend their rights, honour and security. Annexationist aims were not there at the time though they emerged later. In Italy it was different – public opinion had to be tempted before it would support intervention. The nationalists wanted to intervene, but not the other Italians, who through the press had to be diverted from other aspirations.

The two western powers supported her when she made war on Turkey for possession of Tripolitania, and by 1914 she was tending towards the west: there was even a suggestion of constructing a railway, with British money and Serbo-Russian agreement, from the Adriatic to the Black Sea. The British and French could not do much to help Italy reach her objectives in the Adriatic or Tyrol, but they were better placed than other powers to satisfy Italian ambitions elsewhere – and these were now openly directed towards Asia Minor.

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