Wednesday, July 14, 2004

So I am researching WWI right now for my next novel. I have to actually ramp up my knowledge on all of the 20th Century actually, wars especially. Yesterday I went with my 8 year old nephew to the university library to get some materials. We talked a bit about what was going on with everything happening in "the war on terror" right now. He has lots of questions I can't answer, so I feel like I have to qualify everything I tell him. He said he liked talking to me about it because I don't pretend like I know everything about it. He's really oddly old and mature for such a little kid. Today I was doing some research about all of the entanglements of WWI and went out into the living room to ask my parents, "So why did WWI happen?" to which they both looked at me blankly, then offered up some hmms and mmms before trying to make guesses, and then I started to go over some of the materials I've been researching with them. I actually found an article about how high school and college instructors often skim WWI compared to the time they spend on WWII because it is less clear cut in its reasons, whereas WWII seems so black and white. So people are getting an inferior education when it comes to the first World War in some ways. In any case, my nephew, after I was finished talking, started to try to put together various factors I'd brought up, and my dad told him maybe one day he could be a historian, to which he replied, "That'd be fun. I like this stuff. Yesterday Uncle Chris and I were talking about Presidents who make war for their own benefit, and that was really interesting too!"

And then I slunk out of the room before chaos ensued.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

WW1 was THE signal event of the 20th Century. WW2 is actually part of its aftermath. It was immediately seen as a total and tragic waste. Two books that might interest you, very different in subject matter are "The Great War and Modern Memory" by Paul Fussell which is concerned with the way the conflict shaped literary imagery for decades afterwards. And "The Guns Of August" by Barbara Tuckman. A very clear account of the opening phase of the war, it's as well written as any novel.

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apropos of nothing, I will tell you that a few months ago, my dad spent a considerable amount of time explaining to me the economic justification of the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor. Fascinating to hear what "the other side" has been taught versus the one I learned in high school. The conversation devolved (as most of them do, sadly) into one person deciding that because the other person was not agreeing with him, that said person was in fact saying the first person was wrong and ignorant, and really it was the second person who had been brainwashed by her white middle-class educator-oppressors, because that's what happens when the winning side gets to teach history. Sigh.

All I remember about WWI was the whole mess of mutual protection pacts that were triggered by Francis Ferdinand's assassination. Um, and also Rilla of Ingleside...

7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The best thing about asking why WWI happened is that there are so many answers. My personal favorite is the "railway timetables" answer -- there was no way for anyone to partially mobilize their armies and then back down, because the mobilization plans required that the leading troops' trains be over the border into their neighbors' territory in order to make room for the later trains coming in behind them... or something like that. (My second favorite is that it happened because the Socialist International wasn't International enough to stop it.)

-- DM

12:02 PM  

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