The Great War: An Imperial History

In This Review

The Great War: An Imperial History

By John H. Morrow, Jr.
Routledge, 2003
384 pp. $27.50
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Morrow examines World War I as a global conflict among the empires created by western European nations. He accordingly devotes much of his attention to the fighting that took place outside of Europe, including the role of soldiers drawn from colonies and the many manifestations of racism by the colonial powers' armies. He also conveys the tremendous magnitude of the tragedy by examining the domestic dislocation caused by the war. Given such a large scale, it is not surprising that Morrow's characterizations of individuals are sometimes too summary and his generalizations too sweeping; for example, it is not exactly true that, in 1914, all European powers were equally nationalist, racist, imperialist, and war-obsessed. Although "aggression and fear" may well have "saturated the entire imperial world view," this does not mean that the desire to expand empires around the globe was the main cause of the war. These flaws are less important, however, than Morrow's success in conveying the global dimension and internal effects of a war waged on a scale previously unknown, with consequences that are still very much with us, in the Middle East and elsewhere.