On 26 August 1914 the world-famous university library in the Belgian town of Louvain was looted and destroyed by German troops. The international community reacted in horror - 'Holocaust at Louvain' proclaimed the Daily Mail - and the behaviour of the Germans at Louvain came to be seen as the beginning of a different style of war, without the rules that had governed military conflict up to that point - a more total war, in which enemy civilians and their entire culture were now 'legitimate' targets. Yet the destruction at Louvain was simply one symbolic moment in a wider wave of cultural destruction and mass killing that swept Europe in the era of the First World War. Using a wide range of examples and eye-witness accounts from across Europe at this time, award-winning historian Alan Kramer paints a picture of an entire continent plunging into a chilling new world of mass mobilization, total warfare, and the celebration of nationalist or ethnic violence - often directed expressly at the enemy's civilian population.
Alan Kramer is Professor of history at Trinity College, Dublin. He has published widely on German and Italian history in the twentieth century, including (with John Horne) German Atrocities, 1914: A History of Denial, which won the Fraenkel Prize for Contemporary History and the 2002 Western Front Association's Norman B. Tomlinson, Jr. Book Award for the best work in English on the Great War.
1. The Burning of Louvain ; 2. The Radicalization of Warfare ; 3. The Warriors ; 4. German Singularity? ; 5. Culture and War ; 6. Trench Warfare and its Consequences ; 7. War, bodies, and minds ; 8. Victory or trauma? ; Conclusion ; Historiographical Note ; Bibliography