Wall Street Journal: Global Leadership: How WWI Helped Unravel the British Empire

Other June 21, 2014 0
Wall Street Journal: Global Leadership: How WWI Helped Unravel the British Empire

By ADAM HOCHSCHILD

The Great War began dethroning a superpower—but it was one of the victors

The First World War helped to dethrone a superpower—paradoxically, one of the victors. In 1914, Britain sat atop the greatest empire history had ever seen. King George V and Queen Mary had recently been crowned, with tremendous fanfare, the emperor and empress of India. London was the world’s banker, and the Royal Navy dominated the seas.

WWI troops 2

Indian soldiers serving with the British Army, at camp during World War I, circa 1916. Getty Images – WSJ

But after 4½ years of war, more than 700,000 Britons were dead, and hundreds of thousands were gravely wounded—many missing arms, legs, eyes, genitals. The country’s elite was particularly devastated, for it had provided the young officers who led their troops out of the trenches and into machine-gun fire….

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