Professor Niall Ferguson please forgive me, but here with the generally accepted history, assumptions, and perceptions regarding the Great War, WW1. The text-book type of material as taught at all grade levels - - AND AS UNDERSTOOD BY BERT:
1. Those treaties and alliances entered into by the various European powers prior to 1914 - - treaties and alliances designed and expected to forestall war, rather as a consequence only hastened a continental-wide war - - not intended, that quickly became a WORLD-WAR!!
2. NO ONE among the ruling political elites and the senior military commanders of each and any belligerent power ever expected the war to last as long as it did. The thought was - - August 1914 - - that the mobilized troops of the various combatant nations would be: "home before the leaves fall!!" Such was the mind-set at the time. A period [lasting mere months!!] of vigorously fought military actions, followed by a truce, negotiations, and a peace settlement of some sort. So ALL thought!!
3. The numbing and terribly troubling continuous slaughter of the trenches was a surprise to everyone? The industrialized, mechanized, mass-assembly, totally impersonal, by-the-numbers, PROTRACTED type of warfare - - for which there was no resolve or amelioration, the General Staffs of the warring nations NOT having the ability to formulate a solution to the stalemated situation as encountered especially so on the Western Front!!
4. And war - - when the actual hostilities commenced - - was not necessarily looked upon with disfavor by the various ruling political and military elites of the major combatant nations. Was seen as offering a unique opportunity to address or redress grievances and accomplish "goals" that could not be accomplished by ordinary peacetime diplomacy. Each and every major combatant having their own "axe to grind" - - to include:
* Great Britain and the British Empire. Reassert the position of England as the pre-eminent and dominant world power. Respond to the challenge posed by that parvenu [upstart] nation of Germany.
* France. Revanchist "goals" and aims could be realized by victory on the battlefield over Germany. Recover the lost provinces of Alsace-Lorraine - - avenge the humiliating defeat of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870.
* Germany. Der Tag. Military victory with a peace treaty, a pan-European settlement most favorable to Germany, establishing Deutschland as the acknowledged and foremost European power. A power with WORLD-WIDE ASPIRATIONS!!
* Russia. The protector of all-Slavdom. Demonstrate a willingness to fight on the behalf of Slavic peoples, reassert Russian dominance in Eastern Europe, thwart German expansionism eastward, AND - - re-establish the reputation of Russian battlefield prowess on the international stage. A fighting ability called into question as a result of the Russo-Japanese War - - 1905!!
Textbook stuff. Pretty much the agreed upon history, the perceptions, the assumptions, the REAL STORY! OR, open to question?