Wednesday, March 26, 2014

WWI readings: From what was torn asunder to what was not rebuilt.

I've started reading The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, by Christopher Clark. Less than 100 pages into this examination of the pre-war European scene, the magisterial tone is gripping and intense. There's something to be said for burrowing into a study of century-old stupidity as a salve for the daily pain of coping with the contemporary variety, surrounding you on all sides, sucking the air from rooms.

But enough about my life in New Albany.

So far I've learned about Serbian porcine husbandry, Austro-Hungarian economic development initiatives in Bosnia-Herzegovina and what international loans really meant in terms of the recipient. All these are factors in the run-up to the Archduke's assassination in 1914.

Clark's preface alone is worth the price of admission, suggesting that far from being remote and isolated phenomenons, the antecedents of World War I have again become timely and relevant for us, 100 years later. How similar in temperament are the Black Hand and Al Qaida? After all, the spark that lit a conflagration in 1914 came as the result of a state-sponsored terrorist act. The most consistently disproved theory in history is that it can't happen again.

A Tour of the Eerie Villages France Never Rebuilt After WWI, by Mark Byrnes (The Atlantic Cities)

The Battle of Verdun, an 11-month struggle in northeast France between German and French forces during World War I, left hundreds of thousands on both sides dead (recent casualty estimates range between 700,000 and just under 1 million). When the fighting finally ceased in late summer 1917, the Germans had retreated, leaving small villages along the battlefields completely destroyed. As a tribute, many were never rebuilt ...

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