I recently visited Belgium, the area of Ieper. The remains of the First World War there are impressive.
I got interested and purchased The First World War by John Keegan, which was according to the mass on google the essential guide to the First World War. My notes of this reading.
The incredible back story to this War. Starting with the long envisioned Schieffenplan, which had been cooking in Germany long before the war started. All the parties seems to be preparing their armies for a war. At a certain point the war became unavoidable.
How easily the war could have been prevented by some basic diplomatic actions.
Both sides hold on to very basic offensive tactic of frontal offence. Leading to many death. Both sides undertook these initiatives, which hundred thousand deaths or more in a week. This happened at all frontiers.
Besides the most well-known frontier in the West, mainly in Belgium and Norther France, the War was fought Africa in the German colonies, in the Middle East (Turkey being the ally of Germany in this war, in the Caucasus, Greece, Serbia, and at sea.
Germany was very successful with their submarines.
The war led or coincided with the downfall of the three large power centres in Europe: the tzar in Russia, the Austro-Hungarian emperor and the last emperor of Germany.
After the war Europe was fragmented in many new nation states due to the downfall of Germany and Austria-Hungary. This instabilities caused by this outcomes are still felt.
Keegan ends with the remark that is difficult to understand why a prosperous continent risked their achievements and values in ended up in such a bloody conflict.
A war that should never have happened. Not only was it meaningless. It was preventable.