The 1914 Analogy at War

Abstract

The centenary of the outbreak of the First World War has so far produced a great deal of attention from scholars, history buffs, and policymakers alike. Much of this attention says more about attitudes in 2014 than the actual events of 1914. This essay explores ways to use—and not use—analogies to 1914 in discussing present-day policy problems. It demolishes some traditional ways of viewing 1914 and focuses on the unusual and unexpected set of circumstances in that fateful summer. The article concludes by discussing some of the dangers inherent in simplifying history and looks closely at the ways that historians tend to use the past to develop insights for the present.

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