In This Review

The Arming of Europe and the Making of the First World War
The Arming of Europe and the Making of the First World War
By David G. Herrmann
Princeton University Press, 1996, 307 pp

Historians and political scientists have closely examined the naval race of the pre-World War I period -- the so-called Dreadnought revolution -- and its aftermath. Here is a valuable and long-overdue book that complements that work, a survey of European land armies on the eve of World War I. The author carefully and thoughtfully documents the competition in land armaments in the decade before 1914, when the military expenditures of some great powers (Germany in particular but also Russia and France) rose by between 50 and 100 percent, while those of others (Britain and Austria, for example) stagnated. No less important, he explores the ability of the various armies to adapt the new technologies of warfare to their individual circumstances. In so doing, he undermines to a considerable degree the traditional belief in the mental limitations of the prewar officer corps who, in the words of one critic, "failed to understand that fire kills." The result is a far more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of military organizations as they faced the calamity of the First World War. A first-rate piece of work.