Monday, January 02, 2023

A Good Time to Study the First World War

I have always understood the fascination with the Second World War. The main leaders were very interesting, the campaigns were more complicated, and the technology far more advanced than in its predecessor.

And yet, the period that deserves more attention is the First World War. Dynasties fell, ideologies rose, massive amounts of talents were slaughtered on an unprecedented scale, and the entire event was followed by a pandemic. 

There was a logic to the Second World War that was missing in the First.

That alone is why it deserves scrutiny.


Dan in Philly said...

The concept of living memory is fascinating to me. Usually pegged at 120 years from the event, when most alive could talk to someone who knew someone who was there. We are seeing the living memory fade for WW1, similar to how the civil war has already faded in my lifetime.

Why this is interesting is for the first time passions cool, and though we lose something we gain objectivity. We can look at it would out strong feelings about who was right and wrong and think of things as a subject to be understood from all sides. As a fan of history I'm looking forward to the next 20 years of reinterpretation of what the great war was about

Michael Wade said...


Very well-put.

Your comment causes me to think of all of the World War II vets I met. Each had extraordinary stories. One was a navigator on an American bomber in Europe. Another was in the Navy in the Pacific. There was the relative who was with Patton's Third Army and a neighbor who had served in the German submarines. The list is extensive. All of them are gone.

One of my treasured possessions is a diary kept by a great uncle who was a Marine in WWI. There are sections that are chilling.

Barbara Tuchman's great history about the start of WWI (The Guns of August) deservably gets a lot of attention but - and I was thumbing through this book last night - her pre-WWI book The Proud Tower may be even more informative. I am starting that one soon.