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World War I centenary of a fragile peace still holds lessons for today

Precipitated by unrestrained nationalism, the immense tragedy of a four-year global war laid the groundwork for the post-World War II era of relative concordance among nations.

South Australia crowd on Armistice Day 1918
South Australia crowd on Armistice Day 1918 (AN/State Library of South Australia )

By the time the Western Front's guns fell silent exactly one century ago, 10 million soldiers had died in World War I, 20th century's first global catastrophe, which nonetheless seeded modern conceptions of a liberal international order after a second global war.

Aerial bombardments, aircraft-mounted machine guns, military tanks, trench warfare and the first large-scale use of chemical weapons such as chlorine, mustard gas, phosgene and tear gas during World War I — mechanized warfare made possible by the Second Industrial Revolution — added to the sense of a dystopian world recoiling from a new depth of human brutality and cruelty.

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