As the New Year dawns, memories are reawakening of another New Year, exactly a century ago, the dawn of 1914 when millions of people were drifting towards the abyss as if in a dream.
On that New Year’s Day few people imagined what lay in store. One hundred years had passed since the Battle of Waterloo and the memory of war had faded – at least in Britain. The war in South Africa had been a mere skirmish and had ended in victory. The British Empire upon which the sun never set seemed assured in its worldwide supremacy.
In France, it is true, things were not quite the same. Memories of the Franco-Prussian war and the German occupation of Alsace-Lorraine still remained. The General Staff longed for revenge, but on the streets of Montmartre the cafes were bustling and war did not seem an imminent prospect.