The First World War was a contest of empires. It was an extension of the global scramble for colonies and resources that had begun in the 1880s. The victorious powers kept what they had conquered, stripped the losers of whatever territories they had managed to hold, and shared out the spoils. This hunger for land was so intense that it even set allies against each other. France and Britain were at odds over the partition of the Middle East and, in the summer of 1918, Germany and Turkey bickered over the division of the Russian Empire. As Sean McMeekin tells us, Turkish and German troops fired on each other as their armies converged on Baku and its oilfields.
Imperial rapaciousness is now overlooked in modern versions of the war, which are perpetuated in school syllabuses and tend to be obsessed with the deadlock on the Western Front. The perhaps disconcerting truth is that young soldiers were slaughtered on the Somme so that Britain could dominate the