With a special Armistice centenary edition, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.
On Sunday French President Emmanuel Macron will host President Donald J. Trump and eighty other leaders in Paris to commemorate the centennial of Armistice Day. They will gather at the Arc de Triomphe at the moment the guns fell silent on the Western front—at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. It will be an occasion for both mourning and reflection. Statesmen and women will honor the millions slaughtered in the “war to end all wars,” from the muddy trenches of the Somme to the bloody beaches of Gallipoli. They will also hear history reverberate, from 1918 to our own troubled times.
World War I has never enjoyed the hallowed reputation of World War II. It lacked a clear good-versus-evil narrative. It ended in stalemate and recrimination. Rather than enduring peace, it birthed political and economic instability. By contrast, “the good war” brought the unconditional surrender of fascism, launched an era of freedom and prosperity, and birthed a slew of global institutions. And yet it is 1918 and its turbulent aftermath—rather than 1945—that informs our current woes. The last combatant of the Great War was interred years ago, but the legacy of the conflict endures. It reminds us of the potency of nationalism, the attraction of authoritarianism, the risks of economic fragmentation, the temptations of American isolationism, and the fragility of multilateralism. [continue reading]
January 21st, 1919 was an auspicious day in Irish history. The War of Independence started when men from the 3rd Tipperary Brigade of the Irish Volunteers shot dead two Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) officers at Soloheadbeg outside Tipperary Town. In Dublin, the first Dáil was convened at three in the afternoon at the Mansion House.
The late start had been designed to facilitate 400 former Royal Dublin Fusilier prisoners-of-war who attended a banquet in the Round Room. These men had been mostly incarcerated in Limburg, the camp in Germany where Sir Roger Casement and Proclamation signatory Joseph Mary Plunkett had – largely unsuccessfully – pleaded with them in 1915 to turn tail on the British army and fight instead with the Germans. [continue reading]
One hundred years ago – on November 11 1918, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – millions of men laid down their guns. This was Armistice Day, the end of the first world war. Germany, the last belligerent standing among the Central Powers, had collapsed militarily, economically and politically.Armistice Day – later known as Remembrance Day – has since been commemorated every year.
On November 11 1918, aboard Marshall Ferdinand Foch’s train carriage, a few plenipotentiaries of Germany and the main Allied nations signed a short document that ordered a ceasefire, effective from 11am. In doing so, they put an end to the global carnage that had started in August 1914 and had killed more than 10 million combatants and 6 million civiliansGermany, the last belligerent standing among the Central Powers, had collapsed militarily, economically and politically.Armistice Day – later known as Remembrance Day – has since been commemorated every year. On November 11 1918, aboard Marshall Ferdinand Foch’s train carriage, a few plenipotentiaries of Germany and the main Allied nations signed a short document that ordered a ceasefire, effective from 11am. In doing so, they put an end to the global carnage that had started in August 1914 and had killed more than 10 million combatants and 6 million civilians. Notably, though this document stopped combat, it did not formally end the war. [continue reading]
BBC Radio 4
Patricia Clavin, Professor of International History at Jesus College Oxford, explores the search for peace and international security after the 1918 armistice. She reminds us that it wasn’t just dominated by men – women were also at the forefront of a practical approach to peace. The ‘hunger catastrophe’ which beset Europe after the war led to British scientists like Dr Harriette Chick tackling the problem of ‘feeding the peace’ head-on. The spectacle of hungry children and the evidence that want and disease did not recognise national frontiers emerged at the heart of the women’s peace movement.
While the Allied leaders believed that victory gave them authority to re-organise the European state-system, the new world order was also shaped by bread and butter issues on the ground that forced their way into the lofty world of international diplomacy. [listen]
Although the guns on the western front fell silent, literally with military precision, at the striking of the 11th hour on 11 November 1918, the end of war did not mark the coming of peace. The convulsions and instability that had been let loose upon the world continued to play out in ways that no armistice could prevent, and to ends that often suited the interests of the victors.
A century after the end of the first world war, few of those convulsions are well remembered in Britain. The centenary of the Russian revolution came and went without much fanfare, as will the anniversary of the German revolution. One of the many effects and after-effects of the first world war that have been forgotten is the way in which the war challenged the racial hierarchies of the early 20th century and how, in 1919 and the early 1920s, those hierarchies were violently reasserted. This is part of a wider amnesia. [continue reading]