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The First World War: Abject Submission to the Nation State
Newsletter Jay Murray Winter is the Charles J. Stille Professor of History at Yale University, where he focuses his research on World War I and its impact on the 20th century. His website appears here.
Reflecting on the causes of the First World War, Jay Winter concludes his six-part video series, The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century (1996), as follows:

The war solved no problems. Its effects, both immediate and indirect, were either negative or disastrous. Morally subversive, economically destructive, socially degrading, confused in its course, futile in its result, it is the outstanding
example in European history of meaningless conflict.

Summing up his conclusions more recently, he states:

1938 is a long way from now, but it’s still a puzzle. What was it for? Why? Why all this bloodshed? Why the carnage? Why the violence? Why the cruelty? I can’t pretend to have an answer, but I know it’s a question that we still have to resolve.

After 50 years of research and writing, this great historian cannot tell us why the First World War occurred.

Yet the reason for the war is staring us in the face. The bloodshed contained its own meaning. One does not have to look beyond what it was. Observing the daily carnage in France in 1916, P. H. Pearse—founder of the Irish revolutionary movement—told us everything we need to know (in Kamenka, 1976):

The last sixteenth months have been the most glorious in the history of Europe. Heroism has come back to the earth. It is good for the world that such things should be done. The old heart of the earth needed to be warmed with the red wine of the battlefield. Such august homage was never before offered to God as this, the homage of millions of lives given gladly for love of country.

The First World War occurred so that the earth could be “warmed with the red wine of the battlefield”. It was a form of “august homage”—millions of lives given “for love of country”.

The First World War was a gigantic demonstration of devotion—abject submission—to the nation-state. Societies from throughout the world offered up their young men upon the sacrificial block. They fed the hungry, humungous god, the nation which, like the god of the Aztecs, comes into being—continues to exist—to the extent that it feeds on the body and blood of sacrificial victims.

First World War Casualties

The figures below are from Chris Trueman's HistoryLearningSite.co.uk.

Country Men mobilised Killed Wounded POW’s + missing Total casualties casualties in % of men mobilised
Russia 12 mil 1.7 mil 4.9 mil 2.5 mil 9.15 mil 76.3
France 8.4 mil 1.3 mil 4.2 mil 537,000 6.1 mil 73.3
GB + Empire 8.9 mil 908,000 2 mil 191,000 3.1 mil 35.8
Italy 5.5 mil 650,000 947,000 600,000 2.1 mil 39
USA 4.3 mil 126,000 234,000 4,500 350,000 8
Japan 800,000 300 900 3 1210 0.2
Romania 750,000 335,000 120,000 80,000 535,000 71
Serbia 700,000 45,000 133,000 153,000 331,000 47
Belgium 267,000 13,800 45,000 34,500 93,000 35
Greece 230,000 5000 21,000 1000 27,000 12
Portugal 100,000 7222 13,700 12,000 33,000 33
Total Allies 42 mil 5 mil 13 mil 4 mil 22 mil 52%
Germany 11 mil 1.7 mil 4.2 mil 1.1 mil 7.1 mil 65
Austria 7.8 mil 1.2 mil 3.6 mil 2.2 mil 7 mil 90
Turkey 2.8 mil 325,000 400,000 250,000 975,000 34
Bulgaria 1.2 mil 87,000 152,000 27,000 266,000 22
Total Central Powers 22.8 mil 3.3 mil 8.3 mil 3.6 mil 15 mil 67
Grand Total 65 mil 8.5 mil 21 mil 7.7 mil 37 mil 57%