Over the past several years, there has been a renewed scholarly interest in the origins, waging, and consequences of the First World War. This interest has resulted partly from a quirk of timing given that between 2014 and 2019, a series of centennial commemorations kept minds focused on a conflict that many take as the most consequential war the world ever experienced. On the other hand, interest has been stimulated not so much by the past as by the future of international security, with the “return” of the prospect of Great Power war beginning to concentrate minds in ways not experienced for a generation. Since much – but not all – of this renewed interest in Great Power war relates to China’s “rise” assessed through the prism of “power-transition theory”, it is natural to analogise from the events that led to 1914. In this, at least one interesting question remains relatively unexplored: are decisions to join a war already in progress prompted by a different calculus from decisions to go to war at the outset? In particular, does “status anxiety” warrant more attention as a determinant of policy-making than it has heretofore received on the part of late entrants? This analysis argues that it does and makes the case by analysing the decision of one latecomer, Italy, to join the First World War in April 1915. Although the chief focus is on Italy, the conclusion raises the possibility that status anxiety may also have been of importance in the American decision to go to war two Aprils later.
- First World War