‘War puts nations to the test. Just as mummies fall to pieces the moment they are exposed to the air, so war pronounces its sentence of death on those social institutions which have become ossified.’
It is more than 150 years since Karl Marx wrote these words. Much of his thinking has been discredited since then, but his understanding of the revolutionizing impact of war on society has been proved correct. His understanding was based on the appreciation that the most important feature of war, particularly large-scale and protracted war, was that it was usually accompanied by more rapid and profound social, economic and technological change than was the case in peacetime. It was this drastic change that overtook the ability of institutions to adapt and stay fit for purpose and brought about their collapse.