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.
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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