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Peter Cox

The Causes of the First World War

Our boys will be home by Christmas, won't they?

It was supposed to be “the war that will end war” – according to the misplaced optimism of British author H.G. Wells, and countless others like him who cheerfully expected “our boys” to be home by Christmas 1914.   Involving all the world’s great powers, more than 70 million combatants, and over 9 million fatalities, it became one of the largest wars in history.

And perhaps most tragically, those who died in the trenches, or on the shores of Gallipoli, had no inkling of the underlying causes, quarrels and agendas for which they were to sacrifice their lives.  While its origins are still hotly debated by historians, this is no mere academic discussion.  As you’ll hear in tonight’s totally engrossing show, the legacy of the Great War is still very much with us today – setting the agenda for many of the current events in the Middle East and beyond.

Our special guest is acclaimed historian Professor Sean McMeekin, whose radical and assiduous scholarship has shed much new light on this much-misunderstood conflict. Sean’s books include The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany’s Bid for World Power, The Russian Origins of the First World War, and the forthcoming July 1914: Countdown to War.

Presented by Neill Denny and Peter Cox.

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