Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

The War That Ended Peace

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 20th January, 2014

Margaret MacmillanThe War That Ended PeaceAt school, my O-level history course ended with the Causes of the First World War; anything beyond that was Current Affairs, and that was not on the curriculum. Oddly, this is one of the few things that I remember about my school days, maybe because I would go on to read for myself all about the horrors of the First World War, and its in many ways disastrous aftermath. It resolved little, sacrificed 10 million lives or more, and led to the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire by the Western imperial powers, led by Britain and France — the consequences of which we are still struggling with today. So I couldn’t resist an invitation to go Canada House this evening for an interview with Canadian historian Margaret Macmillan by the Economist’s books editor, Fiammetta Rocco. I guess that because of the resonance of the Battle of the Somme I should not have been surprised that so much of the talk concentrated on the Western Front, with a passing glance at the Balkans. But the “side show” of the Middle East was absent. No matter, that is still what really interests me — and what has transpired in the Middle East and North Africa in the century afterwards. I enjoyed Margaret Macmillan’s Peacemakers, and doubtless will read her much weightier current tome, The War That Ended Peace. There is a positive sea of books about World War I spilling off the tables of every bookstore and out into the streets of England at the moment. But we should not read them in order to wallow in the horror of it all, much less out of nostalgia. Modern history is valuable for what it tells us about ourselves. Margaret Macmillan said this evening that after all her researches and writing she can’t really say who was actually responsible for the First World War. Interestingly, my history master, nearly half a century ago, said exactly the same thing.

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One Response to “The War That Ended Peace”

  1. I didn’t have to read any history books about the Great War. My Grandfather had a bullet stuck in his leg and a small hole above his lip where he was wounded in the mouth. The bullet in his mouth had passed through a man and killed him. This was at the beaches of Gallipoli where the sea had changed from blue to red.
    I see BBC reports today that say WW1 wasn’t all that bad!

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