Tag Archives: World War I

Product DetailsThis being the 100th anniversary of World War I, or the Great War as it was known until a second great war in the middle of the century made it necessary to refer to it as World War I and the second as World War II.  Many historians point out that the two wars were really one great world war with a twenty year ceasefire separating them.  Indeed one of the best known, the late Oxford University historian A.J.P. Taylor, spoke of the two wars as the First and Second German Wars.

The 100th anniversary of what was the most significant event since the fall of the Roman Empire in the West at the end of the fifth century A.D. has caused a frenzy among book publishers.  Numerous books on every aspect of the Great War, from its causes to the failed peace that ended it, have already appeared.  We can look for many, many more to come as we relive the war over the next five years.

As one who has taught university level courses on modern European history, including specific courses on the Great War, I am not surprised by the sudden interest.  Of all the many wars in history the Great War is considered the prime example of the foolishness, the madness, and the absurdity of all wars.

There was no reason for the war.  None of the powers who at one point or the other became involved in it had any reason for going to war, except perhaps the United States.  A victory for the Central Powers would have been a financial disaster for America.  Then too, one must add the naïve bungling of an overly idealistic president with virtually no knowledge of foreign affairs, one who ignored the informed advice of his Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, to stay out of the war.  President Wilson thought he could lead the world into a future where everyone loved everyone and no one was either prideful or greedy.  The experienced and more realistic British Prime Minister David Lloyd George likened Wilson to Jesus Christ.

From the beginning of the war, historians have debated who was responsible for starting it.  It is a favorite subject of academic and popular historians alike.  Every year several books appear arguing for this or that one’s responsibility.  The consensus tends to be in line with what David Lloyd George said in his memoirs:  “The nations slithered over the brink into the boiling cauldron of war without a trace of apprehension or dismay.”  Put another way, the European great powers found themselves in a war no one wanted, with victory as the only way out.

Many individuals are seeking a book of some sort that will provide a very readable summation of all the varied aspects of the war.  I can think of no better volume than R. G. Grant’s WORLD WAR I:  THE DEFINITIVE VISUAL HISTORY FROM SARAJEVO TO VERSAILLES (New York:  DK Publishing, 2014).

As with all of DK’s publications, WORLD WAR I is a visual feast, a museum between book covers.  I can best convey my own enthusiasm for this book by quoting Publishers Weekly:  “He [Grant] presents information in an accessible manner and makes it easy to peruse a rich array of articles, detailed maps, and images. The selection of images builds a remarkable portrait of the war. This is a broad, moving, informative account of the war that’s perfect for both the young, budding historian and the well-versed WWI reader” (March 24, 2014).

Until next time, be good to all God’s creatures and always walk under the mercy.

 

 

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Historian’s Almanac for August 1, 2013

Today is August 1, 2013.  It was on this day in 1914 that the Great War began when Germany and Russia declared war on each other and the French government ordered mobilization.  No event in history since the fall of the Roman Empire in the West had a greater impact on world history.  What became known as World War I was but the first act of a two-act war, the second act of which was World War II.  Had the Great War not occurred, there would not have been a Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the rise of Hitler in Germany, World War II, the Holocaust, or the Cold War.

The 11th Olympic Games opened in Berlin (1936) hosted by Adolf Hitler.  Hitler saw an opportunity for his new German Reich to be the center of world attention.  He also meant for the Olympics to display to the whole world the superiority of the Aryan race.  The first aim was achieved, but the second was a failure.  Jessie Owens, a twenty-two-year-old African American, won four gold medals.  The crowd cheered and Germany’s star athlete, Luz Long, congratulated Owens’ when he won the gold medal in the long jump.  Hitler refused to shake Owens’ hand.

Just three days before Anne Frank and her family were arrested and sent to a concentration (1944), she made her final entry in her diary.  She talked about the conflict in her personality between the serious and the frivolous.

“I know exactly how I’d like to be, how I am . . . on the inside. But unfortunately I’m only like that with myself. And perhaps that’s why — no, I’m sure that’s the reason why — I think of myself as happy on the inside and other people think I’m happy on the outside. I’m guided by the pure Anne within, but on the outside I’m nothing but a frolicsome little goat tugging at its tether. As I’ve told you, what I say is not what I feel, which is why I have a reputation for being a boy-chaser, a flirt, a smart aleck and a reader of romances. The happy-go-lucky Anne laughs, gives a flippant reply, shrugs her shoulders and pretends she couldn’t care less. The quiet Anne reacts in just the opposite way” (Diary of Anne Frank, 1952).

It is the birthday of Herman Melville, best known for his novel, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, published in 1851.  The novel was not a success in Melville’s lifetime.  It did not sell out the initial printing of 3,000 copies.  Today it is considered one of the greatest American novels.

And finally this.  Calvin Coolidge, known as “Silent Cal,” said little, but when he did speak, he spoke words of true wisdom.  E. g.:  “More people out of work leads to higher unemployment.”

Until next time, be good, do good, and always live under the mercy.