A Centenary Overlooked

… by everyone in America. I guess we’re more concerned about coming in at the end and saving the day and taking all the credit, like we do. What am I talking about?

Why, exactly (give or take a couple of hours and the time zone difference…) exactly one hundred years ago today, the world suddenly found itself Sans Ferdinand.

Get it? Get it?

Of course I refer to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrio-Hungary Empire, which triggered World War I, also known as The Great War or The War to End All Wars.

Because I am a terrible history major, I don’t know why he was assassinated or how everyone ended up declaring war on everyone else, or even which side Russia was on. I do know war started in 1914 and ended in … 1918(?) and America got involved in about the second half of 1917 which is when our history books really start paying attention, cuz MURICA. And the conclusion resulted in Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations idea, although my historically themed blogs/groups debate fiercely over whether Wilson was Totally Awesome or Totally Not Awesome. Because. Of Reasons…I think. (Wilson’s Foreign Policy)

However, (and I would like this to be known), I am better than that kid at the Air and Space Museum in DC. There’s a display on the Golden Age of Flight or WWI or something and they’ve got a whole display dedicated to Manfred von Richtofen, known in popular lore as The Red Baron. And the kid saw the display’s title (“THE RED BARON”) and asked (in all seriousness), “You mean like the pizza guy?”

Anyway, I have noticed World War I getting a little bit more attention in the public consciousness although I haven’t been following the trend closely. I’m mostly thinking about the movie War Horse, which was directed by Steven Spielberg and had a lot of A-list British actors. Big names involved = big deal, right?

As evidenced by the rambly nature of this post, I obviously have huge gaps in my historical knowledge. I’ve seen a few movies (War Horse, All Quiet on the Western Front), and read probably a total of one book on the subject (To the Last Man, by Jeff Shaara), which was more or less interesting, slightly educational and entirely formulaic by Shaara standards. But not for lack of trying! Last summer I walked past a bookstore in DuPont Circle that was selling an entire set of first edition books on the history of The World War. Unable to justify its purchase financially, I declined to purchase them. Also, I was meeting some friends for pizza and it would have looked weird if I brought them with me to the upscale, hipster pizza joint.

First edition. Published in 1920. I checked.
… I should have bought them.

For more real information on this event (the assassination of the Archduke and his wife), the BBC has been live-blogging the anniversary here. Definitely check this out. It presents this event in a totally interactive and Web2.0 way.

To see the effects of the results of WWI, here is a link to a map that shows the changes. I sometimes forget the Ottoman Empire, which was founded in 1299 right after The Crusades ended in 1291, existed into the Twentieth Century.

For a lot of information or a basic overview, here’s the trusty Wikipedia to the rescue again. (I really must find more scholarly sources…)

Ooh, controversy! Just to add flavor.

A comprehensive site on World War I.

Ooh! Ireland in WWI! Because this was right before the Irish Civil War that resulted in the creation of the Republic of Ireland and the Irish couldn’t fight in their own units but fighting under the British flag was tantamount to national treason. More controversy, basically.

While checking all of this internet out, you should listen to the work of the musical group bearing the Archduke’s name. For the record, my brother brought their first CD back from Europe way back in 2004, before they were cool in the states.

Pictures of WW1 … lots of old, black and white pictures. If you’re into that kind of thing.

And lastly, the DC War Memorial. Prepare to be underwhelmed.

Remember, remember, the twenty-eighth of June and the Archduke assassination plot…

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