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Living History

The Great War started 100 years ago. Besides being of enormous importance to the world over this past century, it is an uncanny illustration of the old adage, 'the more things change, the more they stay the same.' An incident -- the assassination in Sarajevo -- was turned into the opportunity to kill millions by the blundering politicians and emperors that the sheeple stayed loyal to. A couple years later a suspicious or misinterpreted incident, the sinking of the Lusitania, was used to suck the USA into an unnecessary war.

Consider such things in light of what has been going on in Ukraine the last week. And yet the general public learns nothing about how politicians use incidents to start wars.

It is not easy finding good histories of the Great War. Oh sure, I've read Barbara Tuchman, Niall Ferguson, and Martin Gilbert. The difficulty is in finding a book not written from the British or American-interventionist angle. I had almost lost hope until Thomas Fleming's "The Illusion of Victory..."  I will bring up its points in later posts.

What a shame that those of us who knew someone in that dreadful war didn't really learn much from him about the war. I've only seen one photograph of my grandfather in action: he was a midwestern farmboy, and a recent immigrant from Sweden, who they put to work handling the horses that moved the cannons.

Ah dear, I can't find the photograph of Walmart plastic shopping sacks blowing downwind into New Mexican cholla, and being impaled of course. And there were so many sacks that day! It is hard to believe that mere plastic sacks could look so macabre. What a perfect visual representation of the trench, barbed wire, and machine gun warfare on the Western Front! 

I would really appreciate any suggestions from readers about good history books of the Great War.


edlfrey said…
Perhaps "The Sleepwalkers"? Read a review using this link

Or maybe "The World of Yesterday"? Read about it:

Neither of these are truly a history of WWI but rather a history of what lead up to the war.
Both hot tips were interesting. Thank you, Ed.
XXXXX said…
Why limit yourself to just WWI? It seems to truly understand this business of war, one must look at all of history. My conclusion is that wars are not started because they are just or noble but rather an opportunity for an expansion of power and/or a greater access to resources. They are simply sold as just and noble. Otherwise, how would those in power ever rally the necessary manpower, the willingness to sacrifice, and the willingness to die by so many young men? Any war's purpose or justification is only in the eyes of the beholder. If one looks closely enough, it is usually possible to understand both sides.
John V said…
Ten seconds after MH17 went down, the sabre rattling over Russia's role in the shootdown reminded me of the Lusitania sinking. I've been waiting for the media to mention the parallels or maybe even the Gulf of Tonkin, but I guess they don't see it.
XXXXX said…
I don't think we're itchin' to go to war with Russia. Otherwise, the parallel is there.
Agreed. We Americans might be especially vulnerable to being "sold as just an noble" because of our Puritan heritage. All a politician has to do is get up in front of the TV camera and start talking about Good versus Evil, and how we are automatically Good, because we are the Exceptional people and...
XXXXX said…
Just out of sound well-read already yet you ask for recommendations. Exactly what are you hoping to learn?
XXXXX said…
Just took a look at the article "War is Coming" referenced on the side bar. Should have mentioned that Stephen Cohen, prof of Russian Studies, was interviewed on Fareed Zakaria on CNN a few weeks back and he has a similar view as Roberts. My local library doesn't have Cohen's book on Russia so I haven't read it yet but would be interesting I think if you can get your hands on it. Do go on with your "Illusion of Victory" comments.
I've never read a book that wasn't biased towards Britain and American messianism.
Thanks for the heads-up. I'm not that familiar with Stephen Cohen.
XXXXX said…
Don't know if books published from other countries' perspectives would likely be published in English.
Language is no doubt a big reason why Americans have been brainwashed to be automatically pro-British. I wonder if Germans even like to write books about World Wars 1 and 2.
Jim and Gayle said…
You might find this article of interest.

It seems to me that there are always old men more than willing to waste the blood of its young people.