Sometimes the half-remembered has more compelling associations than either the familiar or the unknown; there is a period of time suspended between the remote and the only- yesterday that has a special meaning in a contemporary breakneck world that seems to offer no choice of contemplation between an inaccessible past and a highly dubious future.
The intention of this book is to tell the simple story of a year in the life of Britain--and, to some degree, of Europe --that more than any other year in the memory of men now living can be considered the close of an era. In the year 1914 the world, as it was known and accepted then, came to an end. Far more than any year before or since was this the punctuation-mark of the twentieth century. It was the end of many things that were bad and perhaps even more that were good; both the good and the bad contributed to the climax. Out of the crucible of the First World War came something that could variously be defined as either an improvement or a corruption of the smooth days before; at least they were wholly and irretrievably changed. The year . . .