In 1914 much of the vocabulary anticipating war suggested total war, but much initial policy sought to limit war. Historians writing about the origins of the First World War, influenced by hindsight, over-emphasise the literature evoking apocalyptical visions of war and under-play the evidence for thinking about limited war before 1914.
However, the argument that the belligerents wanted to limit the war in 1916 is in danger of becoming a reductio ad absurdum. The war by then had passed a point of no return: the idea of limited war had little purchase. What caused this shift?