THIS book, as its tide implies, is a history of the War: it deals neither with its causes remote or immediate, nor with the so-called settlement which followed. It aims at presenting the general reader with an accurate, intelligible, and interesting account of the greatest conflict between civilized states.
The War is indeed passing rapidly into history. To the younger generation now growing up it has become but the remotest and vaguest of memories; the majority of undergraduates who will be coming to the Universities this autumn were born in its third year.
Moreover, the materials now at the disposal of the historian are of such a character that he may feel reasonably confident of being able to establish the truth, if not in every detail, at least in the broad outlines of his work. A large proportion of the principal actors on either side, both political and military, have published accounts of their stewardship. These naturally have a very varying value of reliability and ingenuousness, but in almost every instance they are fortified by official memoranda and secret documents, which show the contemporary grounds on which decisions were taken. In the defeated countries (particularly in Germany) commissions of inquiry have thrown much important light on many points. Though the official histories (with the exception of that of the British navy) have not yet been completed, it is improbable that any new disclosures of serious importance remain to be made.
I have endeavoured to keep a just proportion between the military, diplomatic, and political aspects, as also between the different theatres of war, and to prevent the reader from being lost in a mass of detail. No tactical analysis of the battles has been attempted, except