Earlier this week marked the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War. I have a hard time imagining what event in the relatively recent past has shaped the world more than that single conflict. When I read the news, especially international news, or news that covers post-colonial nations I can still vividly see the scars there. Europe paid a devastating cost during the conflict, and so did the peoples within their empires. The transformative impact of the war can still be seen inside much of Europe domestically, not just internationally.
Over the last couple of years my interest in the First World War has grown considerably. I still have a stack of books that I intend to read that explains the time period. However, I've read and watched some content that may be of interest to others.
Recently I have been reading The War that Ended Peace by Margaret Macmillan. Macmillan, as the title suggests, is attempting to explain why a century of relative peace came to an end in 1914, rather than why did the war start. The context, personalities and history makes for a fantastic read. I have yet to finish the book and expect I'll write a review when I do. It reminds me a bit of the Guns of August but with a broader scope and a longer view.
Next, I've been watching a YouTube channel called The Great War. The Great War has been a project that lasted four years and released weekly videos describing the events of World War One week by week. I'm about mid-way through 1915 myself. Most of the videos are under 10 minutes long so it can be very easy to fall into a rabbit hole. Perhaps the best feature of the videos is that the examine the truly global nature of the war. There is a tendency to become fixated on the Western Front, but around the world tragic and incredible stories were playing out.
Finally, I already reviewed this on my blog, but Paris 1919 by Margaret Macmillan seems a valuable tool to expand one's understanding of the war. How World War I ended and the motivations behind the victors is an important. Most people know that the events and decisions of World War I set up the Second World War, but it also clearly determined the stage for all the following decades. Countries created from that time period persist. Mistakes made continue to cause problems. Historic arrangements continue to endure.
The First World War had many causes, but one of the big ones was that the Great Powers, concentrated in Europe, could not come to a peaceful understanding with one another. Ego, arrogance, hubris, and so on culminated to make leaders make disastrous decisions that resulted in the deaths of millions. It is difficult to truly comprehend the horror. However, Europe has, for the most part, overcome the divisions that led to the First World War. Germany and France united in shared grief to mark the anniversary this week, along with other countries that participated.
|Leaders of Germany and France mark Armistice Day together.|
We should never forget the lessons of World War One and be conscious of how it shapes us today. Never forgetting requires us to know first.