Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A long-ago summer

Next year will mark the hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War; one can expect a stream of conferences and publications, though the latter is pretty continuous anyway, as are the attendant controversies. I see that Christopher Clark's The Sleepwalkers [Powells; Amazon], due to be published in the U.S. on March 19, is already the subject of a lengthy critique by a reviewer on Amazon.

I don't think I can make any profound contributions to a relitigation (yet again) of the origins of WW1, but between now and the summer of 2014 I hope to find time to write a post or two on a couple of relevant items. 

11 comments:

thusbloggedanderson said...

WW2 has eclipsed 1914 in the public mind - to the extent anyone still remembers WW2 - but the Great War had to be the most disastrous event since ... help me out here; what, the Black Death? Not just for the war itself, but for how its effects ruined the 20th century.

LFC said...

Yes.

Re public memory: I had occasion to mention this anecdote/factoid two or three yrs ago, but perhaps germane enough to repeat: on 28 June 1992 Mitterand visited Sarajevo to highlight the seriousness of the Bosnian war. Why that date? B/c of course it was on 28 June 1914 that Franz Ferdinand and his wife were shot in Sarajevo.

But as Hobsbawm pts out in opening pp of Age of Extremes,from whence I get the story, Mitterand's symbolic choice of date was lost on virtually everyone "except a few professional historians and very senior citizens. The historical memory was no longer alive."

LFC said...

P.s. And further down on the same page (p.3):

"...no one who has been asked by an intelligent American student whether the phrase 'Second World War' meant that there had been a 'First World War' is unaware that knowledge of even the most basic facts of the century cannot be taken for granted."

thusbloggedanderson said...

Ouch.

LFC said...

indeed. (but I'm pretty sure Hobsbawm must have handled an embarrassing situation (for the student) without making him/her more embarrassed...)

thusbloggedanderson said...

More pertinently to your post, I looked at that long Amazon review. I appreciate the reviewer's points, but at the same time, I've never understood why Russia gets off the hook for general mobilization vs. both Austria-Hungary *and* Germany. So I may be biased in the author's favor ...

LFC said...

It's been quite a while since I tried to absorb/review the details of the July Crisis, though I did look at the Wikipedia entry under that heading, which is long and appears to be pretty well researched. (But I didn't take the time to read through it.)

So I can't really knowledgeably address the specific issue of Russian mobilization off the top of my head. But what looking at that Amazon review brought home to me is that the historiographical controversies about the July Crisis in particular and origins of WW1 in general have never been settled -- and prob never will be. The Clark bk perhaps represents a return to a somewhat older tradition of spreading blame around on everyone, incl Russia. Clark has written a history of Prussia, btw, which may suggest that his biases (and all historians have them, it's unavoidable) are somewhat less 'anti-German' (or more 'pro-German') than are those of some other historians...

Of course political scientists have also stuck their oars in here, and one of the things I hope to find time to read and post about down the line is R.N. Lebow's essay about the Franz Ferdinand assassination in his (somewhat oddly titled) book Forbidden Fruit.

The other pertinent thing I have long meant to write about (and never have) is Keir Lieber's 2007 Int'l Security article "The New History of WW1 and What it Means for Int'l Relations Theory."

hank_F_M said...

LFC

That means August is going to start four years of anniversaries. depressing.

I wonder if I should edit my WWI causes post for the event or write a new one.


Hank’s Eclectic Meanderings

LFC said...

The only thing I clearly remember about your WW1 causes post, I'm afraid I have to admit, is that it sparked a debate between El Jefe Maximo and ... was it David Duff? But I forget who was on which side, so to speak.

So perhaps best to either write a new one or at least move the edited one to the front page, when you decide to do it. (Btw have you been posting about Pope Francis? I haven't stopped by your blog in a while. Will try to do that in the near future.)

hank_F_M said...

LFC

No I haven't been doing much posting.

That is my annual Vets day post. This is the one.

Lights Go Out in Europ


I don't know much about Francis. Looks pretty good.

LFC said...

Ok, I remember the post now. I think one has to distinguish betw. background conditions that were 'permissive,' one might say -- i.e. that contributed to the ideological-political atmosphere in which a continent-wide and eventual world war was thinkable and possible -- and proximate causes. On the latter pt, I think personalities no doubt played some role but there were other factors too.

Re the board game 'Diplomacy' mentioned in the comments to yr post -- the inventor of it recently died. I've seen it mentioned in a couple of places. Ben Alpers had a post on it at the US Intellectual History blog; I didn't take the time to read it.