Conditions of Peace

Conditions of Peace

Conditions of Peace

Conditions of Peace

Excerpt

The civilised world on which the war of 1914 broke so suddenly was on the whole a prosperous and orderly world. It was a world of contented and reasoned optimism-a world which, looking back on the past hundred years with pardonable selfsatisfaction, believed in progress as a normal condition of civilised human existence. The war was regarded not as a symptom that mankind had got on to the wrong path (for that seemed almost inconceivable), but as a shocking and meaningless digression. "We were sure . . . in 1914", says Lord Halifax, "that once we had dealt with the matter in hand the world would return to old ways, which, in the main, we thought to be good ways." Some grains of optimism could even be extracted from the awful experience. In the closing stages of the war the belief became current that the result of an Allied victory would be to create a still better world than had been known before, a world safe for democracy and fit for heroes to live in, a world in which a new international order would assure universal justice and perpetual peace. There was felt to be nothing revolutionary about this conception. A return to the old ways, which were also good ways, naturally meant a resumption of the orderly march of human progress. "There is no doubt", wrote General Smuts in 1918 in a much-quoted passage, "that mankind is once more on the move. . . . The tents have been struck, and the great caravan of humanity is once more on the march."

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