This is the first in a series of daily extracts from the Spectator during the course of the first world war. The aim is not to tell the full story of the conflict, or even to provide a full assessment of our coverage of it — that requires deeper expertise and a wider view. Our regular archive writer Molly Guinness will continue to provide such a perspective. Instead, we’ll seek to give an impression, week by week and page by page, of the atmosphere of the time, with a minimum of commentary and hindsight. And the logical place to begin is with the first ‘News of the Week’ paragraph from The Spectator for the week ending Saturday, August 8, 1914:
‘The great war has come, and come exactly as all sensible people knew it would come – very suddenly, without apparent reason, or, at any rate, without apparent reason in the least proportionate to the event, and involving the whole of Europe immediately or in the very near future. Germany, plus Austria-Hungary, is at war already with Russia, France, Britain, Belgium, Servia. At any moment she may be at war with Holland and Italy. Roumania is almost certain to come in as soon as Russian troops appear in strength on the Galician frontier. She wants Transylvania and its four million Roumanians, now much oppressed by Austria. Denmark and Switzerland may very easily be forced in, for the small Powers are beginning to realize that the issue for them is life and death. If the Germans win, there will be no place left in the world for the little independent nations. They know that they will always have genuine friends and protectors in Britain, not out of policy, but out of the British creed that they have a right to live. Quite apart from our own safety, we ardently desire that they shall continue to exist, because we hold that both in the matter of liberty and moral and intellectual progress they are of the greatest possible use to mankind. We have no desire to see the earth monopolized by some three or four great nations. Free competition is as good in the political as in the economic world.’
More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us.