The metaphor of “stalemate” is apt to mislead us as much as enlighten us if we apply it too literally to the Western Front. It was a potent concept of the era, which influenced the actions of participants, decision-makers, and bystanders, and in large measure, the history of the Western Front has been envisioned in terms of stalemate.1 Since the 1980s, on the other hand, historians have begun to emphasize change and development rather than stasis. Yet even in light of new material emphasizing the extent to which the battle front itself changed during the four years of war, the idea of stalemate is still a useful analytical tool for thinking about the course of the war, both on the battle front and on the home front. It is necessary first, of course, to comprehend the nature of this stalemate, and we make a good start by understanding that individuals and armies in 1915 were not inactive, hamstrung, or otherwise unable to introduce new ideas and adopt clear courses of action. Indeed, in some ways, the military behaviors of the Western Front powers in the period from November 1914 to the crucial year 1916 represented sometimes frantic, sometimes fatalistic, plans in reaction to or even in fear of stalemate itself.
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