World War I
World War I, or the Great War, was a global war, centred in Europe, that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918. It involved all of the world’s great powers, which were assembled in two opposing alliances, the Allies (Great Britain, France and Russia) and the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary). These alliances were both reorganised and expanded as more nations entered the war: Italy, Japan and the United States joined the Allies, and the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria the Central Powers. Ultimately, more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilised in one of the largest wars in history. More than 9 million combatants were killed, largely because of technological advancements that led to enormous increases in the lethality of weapons without corresponding improvements in protection or mobility, causing both sides to resort to trench warfare with large-scale human wave attacks, which proved extremely costly in terms of casualties. The outcome of the war subsequently paved the way for various political changes, such as revolutions in many of the nations involved. The Peace Palace Library’s collection on World War I is focused on aspects of international law: the laws of war, the Paris Peace Conference, the peace treaties of 1919-1920, the war reparations, military justice and the politics of its memory.
This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research on World War I. It provides the basic materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library’s systematic classification → History: World War I and subject heading (keyword) World War I are instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.
The Peace Palace Library will commemorate the First World War Centenary with a series of blogs and items on the website, please click, First World War Centenary. World War I posters can be found in our Image collection, click here.
- Becker, J.-J., La Première Guerre mondiale, Paris, Belin, 2003.
- Cochet, F. et R. Porte (dir.), Dictionnaire de la Grande Guerre 1914-1918, Paris, Robert Laffont, 2008.
- Garner, J.W., International Law and the World War, 2 vols., London, Longmans, Green and Co, 1920.
- Ham, P., 1914: The Year the World Ended, London; Toronto; Sydney; Auckland; Johannesburg, Doubleday, 2013.
- Hankel, G., Die Leipziger Prozesse: Deutsche Kriegsverbrechen und ihre strafrechtliche Verfolgung nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg, Hamburg, Hamburger Edition, 2003.
- Hirschfeld, G., G. Krumeich and I. Renz (eds.), Brill's Encyclopedia of the First World War, Leiden, Brill, 2012.
- Hirschfeld, G. und G. Krumeich (Hrsg.), Enzyklopädie Erster Weltkrieg, Paderborn, Schöningh, 2009.
- Horne, J.N. and A.R. Kramer, German Atrocities, 1914: A History of Denial, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2001.
- Hull, I.V., A Scrap of Paper: Breaking and Making International Law during the Great War, Ithaca; London, Cornell University Press, 2014.
- Janz, O., 14 - Der grosse Krieg, Frankfurt; New York, Campus Verlag, 2013.
- Joll, J.B., The Origins of the First World War, Harlow, Longman, 1984.
- Keegan, J., The First World War, London, Pimlico, 1999.
- MacMillan, M.O., The War that ended Peace: How Europe abandoned Peace for the First World War, London, Profile Books, 2013.
- Mulligan, W., The Origins of the First World War, New York, NY, Cambridge University Press, 2010.
- Münkler, H., Der Große Krieg: die Welt 1914 bis 1918, Berlin, Rowohlt, 2013.
- Phillipson, C., International Law and the Great War, London, Fisher Unwin; Sweet and Maxwell, 1915.
- Pöhlmann, M., J.S. Corum and G. Hirschfeld (eds.), Brill's Encyclopedia of the First World War, Leiden, Brill, 2012.
- Stevenson, D., 1914-1918: The History of the First World War, London, Penguin, 2005.
- Storey, W.K., The First World War: A Concise Global History, Lanham, MD, Rowman & Littlefield, 2009.
- Strachan, H., The First World War, London, Simon & Schuster, 2014.
- Winter, J. (ed.), The Cambridge History of the First World War, 3 vols., Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2014.
- Preston, D., A Higher Form of Killing: Six Weeks in World War I That Forever Changed the Nature of Warfare, New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney, Bloomsbury Press, 2015.
- Sharp, A., Consequences of Peace: the Versailles Settlement: Aftermath and Legacy, 1919-2010, London, Haus Publishing, 2nd edition, 2015.
- Zanders, J.P., Innocence Slaughtered: Gas and the Transformation of Warfare and Society, London, Uniform Press, 2016.
Articles on World War I and International Law
- Deperchin, A., “The Laws of War”, in The Cambridge History of the First World War, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2014, pp. 615-638.
- Horne, J., “Atrocities and War Crimes”, in The Cambridge History of the First World War, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2014, pp. 561-584.
- Kieser, H.-L., “Genocide”, in The Cambridge History of the First World War, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2014, pp. 585-614.
- Kramer, A., "Martial Law and War Crimes", in Brill's Encyclopedia of the First World War, Leiden, Brill, 2012, pp. 220-229.
- Neiberg, M.S., "World War I", in The Cambridge History of War, Vol. 4, pp. 192-213.
- Mombauer, A. (ed.), The Origins of the First World War: Diplomatic and Military Documents, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2013.
Periodicals, serial publications
- Le courrier: journal des internés
- Histoire économique et sociale de la guerre mondiale
- Revue de l’histoire de la guerre mondiale
- Revue de l’histoire de la guerre mondiale (Gallica Bibliothèque numérique)
- Bock, F. (ed.), Les sociétés, la guerre, la paix: 1911-1946, Paris, Colin, 2003.
- Veszprémy, L., "Selected Reading List on Trianon", in Király, B.K. and L. Veszprémy, Trianon and East Central Europe: Antecedents and Repercussions, New York, NY, Columbia University Press, 1995, pp. 297-301.
Systematic classification → History: World War I
Zanders, J.P., Innocence Slaughtered: Gas and the Transformation of Warfare and Society, London, Uniform Press, 2016.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
Among the many deadly innovations that were first deployed on the battlefields of World War I, none was as terrifying - or notorious - as poison gas. First used by the Germans on April 22, 1915, gas was instantly seen as a new way of fighting war, an indication that total warfare was here, and would be far more devastating and cruel than anyone had imagined. This book investigates the effects of chlorine gas at all levels, from its effects on individual soldiers to its impact on combat operations and tactics to its eventual role in the push to codify rules of warfare. Gathering eleven historians and experts on chemical weapons, Innocence Slaughtered puts WWI's cruelest innovation into its historical, industrial, and social context.
Sharp, A., Consequences of Peace: the Versailles Settlement: Aftermath and Legacy, 1919-2010, London, Haus Publishing, 2nd edition, 2015.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
The Versailles Settlement, at the time of its creation a vital part of the Paris Peace Conference, suffers today from a poor reputation: despite its lofty aim to settle the world’s affairs at a stroke, it is widely considered to have paved the way for a second major global conflict within a generation. Woodrow Wilson’s controversial principle of self-determination amplified political complexities in the Balkans, and the war and its settlement bear significant responsibility for boundaries and related conflicts in today’s Middle East. After almost a century, the settlement still casts a long shadow. This revised and updated edition of The Consequences of the Peace sets the ramifications of the Paris Peace treaties—for good or ill—within a long-term context. Alan Sharp presents new materials in order to argue that the responsibility for Europe’s continuing interwar instability cannot be wholly attributed to the peacemakers of 1919–23. Marking the centenary of World War I and the approaching centenary of the Peace Conference itself, this book is a clear and concise guide to the global legacy of the Versailles Settlement.
Abbenhuis, M., An Age of Neutrals: Great Power Politics, 1815-1914, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2014.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
An Age of Neutrals provides a pioneering history of neutrality in Europe and the wider world between the Congress of Vienna and the outbreak of the First World War. The 'long' nineteenth century (1815–1914) was an era of unprecedented industrialization, imperialism and globalization; one which witnessed Europe's economic and political hegemony across the world. Dr Maartje Abbenhuis explores the ways in which neutrality reinforced these interconnected developments. She argues that a passive conception of neutrality has thus far prevented historians from understanding the high regard with which neutrality, as a tool of diplomacy and statecraft and as a popular ideal with numerous applications, was held. This compelling new history exposes neutrality as a vibrant and essential part of the nineteenth-century international system; a powerful instrument used by great and small powers to solve disputes, stabilize international relations and promote a variety of interests within and outside the continent.
Hull, I.V., A Scrap of Paper: Breaking and Making International Law during the Great War, Ithaca; London, Cornell University Press, 2014.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
A century after the outbreak of the Great War, we have forgotten the central role that international law and the dramatically different interpretations of it played in the conflict’s origins and conduct. In A Scrap of Paper, Isabel V. Hull compares wartime decision making in Germany, Great Britain, and France, weighing the impact of legal considerations in each. Throughout, she emphasizes the profound tension between international law and military necessity in time of war, and demonstrates how differences in state structures and legal traditions shaped the way in which each of the three belligerents fought the war. Hull focuses on seven cases in which each government’s response was shaped by its understanding of and respect for the law: Belgian neutrality, the land war in the west, the occupation of enemy territory, the blockade, unrestricted submarine warfare, the introduction of new weaponry (including poison gas and the zeppelin), and reprisals. Drawing on voluminous research in German, British, and French archives, the author reconstructs the debates over military decision making and clarifies the role played by law—where it constrained action, where it was manipulated to serve military need, where it was simply ignored, and how it developed in the crucible of combat. She concludes that Germany did not speak the same legal language as the two liberal democracies, with disastrous and far-reaching consequences. The first book on international law and the Great War published since 1920, A Scrap of Paper is a passionate defense of the role that the law must play to govern interstate relations in both peace and war.
Striner, R., Woodrow Wilson and World War I: A Burden too Great to Bear, Lanham, Rowman and Littlefield, 2014.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
Woodrow Wilson is often considered one of the greatest presidents in American history because, in the first two years of his presidency, he succeeded on many fronts. However, acclaimed author and historian Richard Striner now makes the case that a presidency that is too often idealized was full of missteps and failures that profoundly affected America’s politics and people long after it ended. While other negative assessments of Wilson’s leadership have been one-sided, Striner’s critique—though undoubtedly scathing—is judicious, nuanced, and fair. With detailed description and accessible prose, Striner sheds light on how—as soon as America entered World War I—flaws of Wilson’s were exposed as the pressure on his administration mounted. This book is a story of presidential failure, a chronicle of Woodrow Wilson’s miscalculations in war, and a harrowing account of the process through which an intelligent American leader fell to pieces under a burden he could not bear.
Gaaff, A., Financiering van de Eerste Wereldoorlog: vier jaar vechten op krediet, Soesterberg, Uitgeverij Aspekt, 2014.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
De Eerste Wereldoorlog zou vóór Kerst 1914 afgelopen zijn. De verslagen vijand zou de rekening betalen. Het liep allemaal anders en gaandeweg drong de akelige waarheid door: deze oorlog kost niet alleen miljoenen mensenlevens, maar ook miljarden marken, francs, ponden, dollars. Terwijl er vanuit de loopgraven gevochten werd om een paar honderd meter terreinwinst, zetten achter het front de ministers van Financiën en de centralebankiers alle creativiteit in om het geld bijeen te brengen. Elk land deed dat in zijn eigen traditie, met een mix van belasting, leningen en simpelweg geld bijdrukken. Zij schiepen hiermee een financieel slagveld dat zijn weerga niet gekend heeft. Nog tientallen jaren na de oorlog was de afwikkeling ervan een slepende kwestie, die in complexiteit niet onderdeed voor de huidige financiële crisis. Pas in 2010 werden de laatste Duitse schulden afgelost; de Britse staat betaalt nog steeds. Dit boek verschilt van de gebruikelijke werken over de Eerste Wereldoorlog. Het beschrijft de volstrekt ontoereikende financiële oorlogsplannen, de wonderbaarlijke geldcreatie tijdens de oorlog en de verlammende nasleep. De hoofdrolspelers in dit verhaal zijn geen militairen in uniform maar burgerheren in maatkostuums. Een belangrijk stuk geschut was de bankbiljettenpers.
- Europeana 1914-1918. Untold stories and official histories of World War I. Explore stories, films and historical material about the First World War and contribute your own family history. Europeana 1914-1918 mixes resources from libraries and archives across the globe with memories and memorabilia from families throughout Europe. Discover. Learn. Research. Use. Share.
- Forces War Records & Military Genealogy, WW1 Military Records.
- National Archives (UK), Military Records.
"That the Guns may Fall Silent at Least upon the Night the Angels Sang"
Only five months after the outbreak of the Great War in Europe, on and around Christmas Day 1914, the sounds of rifles firing and shells exploding faded in a number of places along the Western Front in favor of holiday celebrations in the trenches and gestures of goodwill between enemies. Late on Christmas Eve 1914, men of the British Expeditionary Force heard Germans troops in the trenches opposite them singing carols and patriotic songs and saw lanterns and small fir trees along their trenches. Messages began to be shouted between the trenches.Read more
Paardenmarkt: A Toxic Legacy of the Great War
Countries that in the past have chosen to take the easy way out by disposing their chemical warfare material by ocean dumping are now realizing the unpleasant fact that this material, although out of sight, is not out of mind because it presents threats to public health and the environment. Here, the example of one of the largest World War I ammunition dump sites in Europe, the Paardenmarkt, a narrow submerged sand-bank called off the coast of Belgium.Read more
International Congress of Women of 1915
This Spring, on April 28, the Peace Palace will participate in the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the International Congress of Women that took place in the city of The Hague in 1915. The women who attended this Congress a century ago, were suffragists who up until that time, met every other year through their national organization at the International Women Suffrage Alliance. A small delegation headed by Dutch suffragist and physician Dr. Aletta Jacobs, believed it to be important to organize a meeting, even during wartime, to discuss the principles of constructive peace.Read more
Lecture: There is Only War - Neutrals Reflect on the First World War, Tuesday, 2 December, 17:15 h.
It should not surprise us that war is never only about the actors waging it. Most non-belligerents in the First World War came into the war with clear expectations of what their neutrality meant and what their country’s international obligations were. Those expectations had been shaped by a century of precedent within an environment that enhanced and protected the rights of neutrals. This Peace Palace Library lecture by Maartje Abbenhuis starts at 17:15. Doors open at 17 h. Entrance fee € 4. Visit of the exhibition this day possible until 17 h.Read more
World War One Poetry and Music, Tuesday 25 November, Peace Palace
On Tuesday 25 November 2014, 19:45 hrs, a special ‘war poetry’ evening will take place in the Peace Palace to commemorate the First World War, based on a selection by Onno Kosters. Poems of well-known poets from Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy, such as Siegfried Sassoon and John McCrae, Georg Trakl, Guillaume Apollinaire will be recited. The reading of the poems will be interlarded with music compositions and performances by Rénan Zelada closely linked to the First World War. A guided tour of the exhibition ‘Peace Illusion Disturbed’ is included.Read more
Filmscreening 'Joyeux Noel', Tuesday, 18 November, Peace Palace
Joyeux Noel captures a rare moment of grace from one of the worst wars in the history of mankind, World War I. On Christmas Eve, 1914, as German, French, and Scottish regiments face each other from their respective trenches, a musical call-and-response turns into an impromptu cease-fire, trading chocolates and champagne, playing soccer, and comparing pictures of their wives. But when Christmas ends, the war returns. Tuesday, 18 November, Peace Palace, 16.00 h, start film 17.00 h. Only by registration: email@example.comRead more
The Illusion of Peace Disturbed: Lectures, Europeana Collection Day, Film and Exhibitions
Events and commemorative ceremonies will be taking place during 2014 to 2018, marking the Centenary of the First World War. The Peace Palace Library, in collaboration with the Alliance Française, organizes a Conference Day on Friday, 14 November, with lectures on the First World War and presents two exhibitions in the main entrance hall of the Peace Palace: The First World War in Posters & “Lettres d’un soldat” – letters of a French soldier to his wife (1914-1915). Furthermore, the feature film “Joyeux Noël”, and a Europeana Collection Day to be held in the Library next Saturday.Read more
The Destruction of the Cathedral of Reims, 1914
On 20 September 1914, German shellfire burned, damaged and destroyed important parts of the magnificent Cathedral of Reims. The destruction of the Cathedral was generally regarded as an act of sheer vandalism. At the time, it was generally admitted by writers on international law that if the military commander of a besieged place used a church or other building whose immunity had been established, as a stronghold, a storehouse, or an observatory, the besieger might bombard the site without being held responsible for damages caused in consequence of their proximity to other buildings which are liable to bombardment. Even the French war manual itself admitted this.Read more
A Supreme Offence against International Morality and the Sanctity of Treaties: William II of Hohenzollern and the Treaty of Versailles
Early during World War I, jurists and statesmen in both France and Great-Britain, such as Larnaude and Lapradelle, had advocated the German Emperor William II to be arrested and brought to trial. The principle that military officers should be held personally responsible for orders in violation of the laws and customs of war, if pushed to its logical limits, would render commanders-in-chief, that is heads of State, liable for illegal acts for which they are responsible, directly or indirectly. And in Germany, there was one commander-in-chief: the Emperor William II.Read more
Article 247 of the Treaty of Versailles and the “Mystic Lamb”
The ‘biography’ of the Ghent Altarpiece, also called the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, reads like a thriller. From the beginning this fascinating work was the object of passionate desire to either possess or destroy it. During the centuries of its existence, the altarpiece witnessed religious upheavals in the Southern Netherlands, came close to being destroyed during these outbreaks of iconoclasm and was damaged when moved to save guard it or when stolen. It endured fires, Napoleon’s looting army and two world wars. Parts of it were stolen, burned, recovered and stolen again and again.Read more
German War Reparations (WW I) Financially Ended
Nearly 92 years after the official end of World War I, Germany made its final reparations-related payment for the Great War on October 3, thereby ending the conflict financially. The German newspaper Die Welt discovered a last installment for the Londoner Schuldenabkommen of 69,9 million euro’s in the German budget. Not being a direct reparations settlement but rather the final sum owed on bonds that were issued between 1924 and 1930 and sold to foreign (mostly American) investors, but then never paid.Read more
More Research guides on War, Peace and Security
- International Humanitarian Law
- International Peace and Security
- Use of Force
- War and Peace
- World War II
- Laws of war
- Military history
- Military justice
- Peace treaties (1919-1920)
- Treaty of Versailles
- War reparations
- World War I