Unfortunately we can gain little guidance from the past. The South African War inevitably disturbed the normal course of our industrial life, but it involved us in conflict with a nation of relatively little general economic importance; and so, costly and prolonged though it was, it bears no comparison in its magnitude and in the character of its main issues to the present war in Europe. The Crimean War of sixty years ago, though waged between four European nations—Great Britain, France, Turkey, and Russia—cost Great Britain much less in money than the Boer War; the issues so far as this country was concerned were not so momentous; and industry and commerce, though important, were not then nearly so highly developed and complicated as they are now. The Napoleonic wars, though comparable to the present war in fundamental importance, lasted for a generation, which the war of to-day can hardly do; the effects of the wars with Napoleon were complicated by the Industrial Revolution; the industrial system and the commercial fabric erected on it were then only in process of formation and the power of the people was small.
These differences enable us to see the new factors which have come into play during the past century. The present war is being fought under conditions which were non-existent during the struggle with Napoleon—conditions which on the one hand add to the waste and loss and misery of war, but on the other give rise to the hope that many of its evil consequences may be averted. Firstly, industry and commerce are world-wide; the remotest countries are bound together by economic ties; invisible cords link the Belgian iron worker with the London docker and the Clyde shipwright, the Californian fruit grower with the Malay tin miner and the German dye worker. The economic effects of modern warfare, therefore, reverberate throughout the whole world, and widespread dislocation ensues. In the next place, the gigantic scale on which war between great powers is conducted, though it tends to shorten the duration of wars, increases the intensity of the shock to human society.
But besides these new material conditions, modern warfare is carried on under the eyes of more enlightened peoples than in the past. The struggle which is now being pursued is the first great war watched by a conscious or at any rate partly conscious democracy. It is the first modern war waged (except in our own case) by national armies constituting practically the entire fit male population. The masses of the people have in most civilised countries some measure of political power. And though to the elector diplomacy and the conduct of foreign affairs are a closed book, war once declared is war by the people; and their voice must be heard in matters connected with it and arising out of it. Then, further, in the past the aftermath of war was in many ways as horrible as war itself, whilst the period during war witnessed an enormous amount of privation and suffering