Grim Anniversary

29 Jun

I’m running a little late, but June 28th, marks a grim anniversary.

100 years ago Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Duchess Sophie were assassinated by the Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip.

This set in motion the events that caused the First World War, an event that changed the world forever. The Great War changed how the world looked at warfare. It marked the end of Old Europe and removed the last of the truly powerful absolute monarchs of the west. Some nations vanished, others were born, and lines on the map were redrawn in ways that we are still facing repercussions for.

Entire generations were depopulated over the course of four years of unprecedented brutality.

At least in the United States, World War I isn’t part of the collective consciousness. It isn’t taught well in our schools and it isn’t understood the way World War II is. I believe part of this is because the world of the 1930’s and 40’s is still recognizable to us as part of the modern world, socially and politically. But the world of 1914 is alien to us, seemingly more in line with the 19th century than the 20th. Yet despite all that, the foundations of many struggles we’re facing today were laid down in that seemingly distant time period.

On July 28th, 30 days after the assassination, the first declaration of war was made and The Great War officially began.

Four years later and with over 16 million people killed, the war ended on November 11th, 1918.

The last known veteran of the First World War was Florence Green, who died only two years ago.

The last people to be killed by the Great War died three months ago, when an unearthed shell exploded.


Posted by on June 29, 2014 in History


Tags: ,

2 responses to “Grim Anniversary

  1. Matt

    June 29, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    I disagree with your belief about why World War I isn’t covered in high schools more.

    If the archaic feel of the period was behind the lack of coverage, than the Revolutionary War and the Civil War would get much less time spent on covering them because they took place in periods that are even more alien to your modern high school student. However both wars are covered in decent detail multiple times during the average student’s schooling while World War I is presented more as a footnote.

    I believe the reason for this is because America was barely involved with World War I. We spent more time avoiding getting into the war than we did actually fighting it. The war never felt to the American populace to be a direct threat to their freedom and the time from America’s official entry into the war until its end lasts just a little over a year. When it’s taught in high schools, it’s presented more as a case of the world was at war and America had to go clean it up.

    World War II on the other hand did feel like a direct threat to American freedom. The attack on Pearl Harbor rallied American support for World War II to far higher levels than support for entering World War I ever had.

    American involvement for World War II from our entry to war’s end was nearly four times as long than our involvement with World War I, so it had more time to resonate. The impact of the war shaped the American experience both for the soldiers on the front and for the citizens on the home front in a way that World War I never achieved, so we take greater pains to educate students about World War II so they understand its more profound importance to the American culture.

    • Fractalbat

      June 29, 2014 at 4:54 PM

      I agree with most of your points, especially about the importance of the direct threat to the US being a major component in things like our understanding of WWII. I would even agree that it is a more important part of the equation.

      It was also a war where we took the lead role, as opposed to being a component of the whole like we were in the first war. Heck, Hollywood plays a role in how ingrained WWII is in our collective consciousness too.

      However, I still feel that the difference between our modern world and that of the Great War has a large impact in why it is overlooked. And I think we do that at our peril, because so many of the issues we face today have their roots in that war. From the wars in the Balkans in the 1990’s to the ongoing disputes in the Middle East, and even the situation in the Ukraine today, can draw direct lines back to a world of autocratic monarchs and emerging industrialization that were overshadowed by later events like WWII. I still think that a big component of why we overlook this is that the intricacies of the era are not easily understood from the context of our current society.

      I would also say that our collective consciousness has a poor understanding of the Revolutionary War for the same reasons. Most people’s comprehension of the Revolution is limited to it being a struggle for liberty. Beyond that, little is understood. The ideas behind colonialism, the dynamics between Britain and continental Europe that aided our cause, and elements that allowed our government to become stable where so many others did not are things we don’t really learn about (in or out of school).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: