A global history of WWI

15th April 2014

News, Alumni news

Former Wadham History Fellow, Jörn Leonhard, has published a comprehensive history of the First World War. With its comparative approach and global perspective Pandora’s Box, A history of the First World War shows how the world went to war and how it emerged at the end totally altered.

  • Jörn Leonhard

    Jörn Leonhard

Explaining the thinking behind the book, Leorhard comments: “For me the truly European and global dimension of the war experiences, not only on the military fronts, but in all societies and economies, states and empires, was of prime importance. That meant to go beyond the still often dominating focus on the Western front, and to include the many and painful war experiences, for instance in the East as well as in the Middle East and in Africa but also in Asia. My main motivation was to overcome some of the still existing compartmentalizations, national or thematic, and at the same time to write a readable general history that contains its own narrative quality, telling concrete stories about concrete experiences.”

Leonhard makes the experience of contemporaries from all spheres of life come alive – military leaders, politicians and writers, men and women, soldiers and civilian workers. The violence of the world war did not cease with the signing of the peace treaties in 1918, however. Instead it continued in altered form as Europe and the entire world were convulsed in the name of radical ideologies and new visions of how the world should be ordered. It was as if the terrible vessel of ancient mythology, Pandora’s Box, had been opened against the counsel of the gods, releasing all possible evils into the world.

Written and published in German with the title Die Büchse der Pandora. Geschichte des Ersten Weltkriegs, the publishers (C H Beck, Munich) recommend the book as: “the new standard work on World War I.”

Jörn Leonhard came to Wadham in 1998 and was here until 2003. He is now Full Professor for Modern European History at the Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiberg in Germany. He is one of the Founding Directors of the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (School of History). He has published widely on comparative European history and historical semantics. His monographs include Liberalismus – Zur historischen Semantik eines europäischen Deutungsmusters (Munich 2001) and recently Bellizismus und Nation. Kriegsdeutung und Nationsbestimmung in Europa und den Vereinigten Staaten 1750-1914 (Munich 2008).