August 4, 2014 marks the centenary of Britain’s declaration of war on Germany. To many, this marks the beginning of the first World War, or the Great War.
“In late June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo, Bosnia. An escalation of threats and mobilization orders followed the incident, leading by mid-August to the outbreak of World War I, which pitted Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire (the so-called Central Powers) against Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy and Japan (the Allied Powers). The Allies were joined after 1917 by the United States. The four years of the Great War–as it was then known–saw unprecedented levels of carnage and destruction, thanks to grueling trench warfare and the introduction of modern weaponry such as machine guns, tanks and chemical weapons. By the time World War I ended in the defeat of the Central Powers in November 1918, more than 9 million soldiers had been killed and 21 million more wounded.”
You can find research materials on World War I in HeinOnline. A notable example is the 1918 title War Cyclopedia: A Handbook for Ready Reference on the Great War edited by Frederic L. Paxson, Edward S. Corwin, and Samuel B. Harding.
This title identifies common and not so common terms, geographic locations, and political figures relating to the Great War.
Trench Warfare: The protection of troops demands stronger field entrenchments than have been necessary in previous wars; hence the so-called “trench warfare,” which during the last three years has largely taken the place of former tactics. Digging trenches and throwing up breastworks for protection against the enemy’s fire is, of course, not a new thing in warfare. A complicated network of trenches now protects the men on both sides. The spade has become one of the soldier’s best weapons of defense. The chief improvement in methods of defending entrenched troops is the increased use of machine guns, which must be put out of operation by artillery fire or by rifle fire directed against the gunners before infantry can advance directly against them. There has been also a great increase during the present war in the use of barbed wire in front of the trenches as a means of defense. Through the use of wire and machine guns it is now possible to defend the front line positions with smaller bodies of men than were considered necessary during the earlier years of the war, thus considerably reducing the losses entailed.