The World War of 1914-1918 for the first time brought the United States into close contact with Europe, but it was a short episode compared with World War II and the years since. Because of this, the background and the course of World War I are little known to the American public now even though over two million Americans went to France and Germany in 1917-1918. To today's generation World War I seems only to be a prelude to the far greater and harder conflict of 1939-1945.
American historians, earlier than those of any other country, started objective studies on the causes of the outbreak of the war in 1914, but, in general, their research bore fruit just before the time when World War II diverted attention from the past to the present. Looking at both world wars today, over twenty years after the outbreak of the second catastrophe, we can see how fundamentally different they were. Therefore, it will interest the American reader to know how the World War of 1914-1918 was developed, carried on and viewed in Europe, especially in Central Europe. Such knowledge can provide a better understanding of historical views of the war.
This book is based on my book in German on the subject and on lectures I gave as Visiting Professor of History at the University of Kansas during the spring semester of 1960. The text has been partly enlarged and partly changed to take into account the present state of research and American interest in the subject. I am very much obliged for advice and help in translating and revising the text to my colleagues at the University of Kansas, especially Professor Oswald P. Backus and Professor Donald R. McCoy, to Dr. John Gagliardo, Miss Cora Lee Price and George S. Martin. Dr. Albert Hachfeld, publisher of the original German edition, Der Weltkrieg 1914/18, in Handbuch der deutschen Geschichte, vol. IV part 2, Konstanz 1955, kindly gave per-