The Rocky Road to the Great War: The Evolution of Trench Warfare to 1914

Nicholas Murray’s The Rocky Road to the Great War examines the evolution of field fortification theory and practice between 1877 and 1914. The technical and intellectual developments during this period were critical to the nature of the First World War. It is well known that the technology of the defensive (machine guns, barbed wire, and artillery) had become much more powerful in the decades prior to 1914. The challenge this combination of enhanced defensive technology presented to the offensive is familiar to us today.What is less well known is the evolution in the design of field fortifications, from above to below ground, which massively enhanced the power of the new defensive technology. Study of the evolution of field fortification construction has largely been neglected despite the fact that the battlefield landscape of the First World War, indeed industrial warfare in the twentieth century, owes its existence to the changes that occurred therein. It was the combination of new technology and new types of field fortification that was to reach a bloody dénouement in the Great War.Based largely on primary sources—including French, British, Austrian, and American military attaché reports—Murray’s enlightening study is unique in defining, fully examining, and contextualizing the theories and construction of field fortifications before World War I.