World War I: The Western Front

Annika Mombauer

in Military History

ISBN: 9780199791279
Published online February 2012 | | DOI:
World War I: The Western Front

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The war that raged along the Western Front from 1914 to 1918 is among the most studied and controversial events in European history. The Western Front is synonymous with trench warfare and the static war that replaced the relatively brief period of a war of movement in August and September 1914. The war of movement that resulted from the implementation of Germany’s so-called Schlieffen Plan quickly became bogged down, and by the end of 1914 troops had been digging themselves into the ground and would stay there, with relatively little adjustment to the front line, until the end of the war. Popular mythology equates the Western Front with the futility and pity of war, and with pointless suffering. For many it is epitomized by images of the Somme. While scholarship has long denounced the popular images of “mud and blood” and challenged the once prevalent idea that British troops had been “lions led by donkeys” with concepts such as the (admittedly Anglocentric) “learning curve,” historians continue to study the Western Front, and its popular appeal remains unchanged. Many major battles still need serious scholarly attention, and the efforts of the French and German armies remain poorly understood, compared to the more thoroughly studied British. Tactical evolution, the development of operations-level planning, generalship, military effectiveness, and the integration of new technology (among other topics) are the central themes around which the debates continue. In addition, the interest in the experience of war and in its cultural history has led to new ways of studying the Western Front, focusing, for example, on civilian experiences of the war. No doubt the centenary of the war’s outbreak will add further publications to an already seemingly inexhaustible list as historians continue to debate the nature of the war on the Western Front.

Article.  12685 words. 

Subjects: Military History ; Pre-20th Century Warfare ; First World War ; Second World War ; Post-WW2 Military History

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