On this day one hundred years ago, Imperial German soldiers who had peacefully arrived in the Belgian city of Leuven (Fr: Louvain), having taken hostages and accepted the parole of its mayor on behalf of its citizens, without warning set fire to the city and massacred its inhabitants forever altering the city, its university's library, and the course of the war.
Belgian Judicial Report on the Sacking of Louvain in August 1914 The destruction and rebuilding of the Louvain Library: claim and counterclaim
First world war – a century on, time to hail the peacemakers "On the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, we should remember those who tried to stop a catastrophe" [more inside]
"The Wall Street Journal has selected 100 legacies from World War I that continue to shape our lives today." You can sort according to your interest via the tabs at the top of the page. [Previously]
The BBC will be covering World War One in great detail over the next four years. They've already started, with podcasts, interactive guides, online courses, programs new and old plus much, much more. Perhaps it's best to start at the beginning, with Professor Margaret MacMillan's Countdown to World War One (podcast link) or the account of her fellow historian Christopher Clark, Month of Madness. Of course, how the war started is still contested by historians, as recounted in The Great War of Words. The latter two are also part of the main WWI podcast. Or you can dive into the Music and Culture section, go through an A-Z guide or look at comics drawn by modern cartoonists.
"Nevertheless, one lands the real killer blow against the rather silly ‘what if’ justification for the 'just' Great War by looking at its actual results. The militarist German-dominated Europe envisaged in the counter factual just mentioned would have been worse than the one that did actually eventuate, worse than fascism, Nazism, Stalinism, the Great Depression, the influenza epidemic … how, exactly? Surely a war allegedly fought to prevent one particular outcome but which, even when won, at the cost of millions of dead, produced an even worse situation is the very definition of pointless slaughter." -- In the wake of the Michael Gove led attack on the socalled "Blackadder view" of the First World War as a pointless slaughter, historian Guy Halsall does his best to pour cold war on their idea of WWI as a just war.
"During the fierce fighting that followed the police found themselves heavily outnumbered as soldiers, many in uniform, joined in against them. A chemist's shop was raided and medicine bottles were used as missiles. A man was hit so hard by a fireman's jet that he was hurled through a music shop window. The crowd that went in to rescue him emerged with three pianos. These were dragged into the roadway and used as accompaniments. The crowd sang 'Keep the Home Fires Burning' before the biggest bonfire that Luton had ever seen. The burning down of the Town Hall provided the perfect culmination to what had started as a very wet day." -- In 1919 the mayor of Luton planned a "peace celebration" as a nice way for him and his friends to gorge themselves. Thousands of discharged, unemployed service men thought otherwise and the 1919 Luton riots were the result.
World War I in Color is a documentary designed to make the Great War come alive for a 21st-century audience. The events of 1914-18 are authoritatively narrated by Kenneth Branagh, who presents the military and political overview, while interviews with historians add different perspectives in six 48 minute installments annotated within. [more inside]
Given how little thought India’s contribution to the World Wars gets in our collective historical memory, it is almost strange to think that in the First World War India made the largest contribution to the war effort out of all of Britain’s colonies and dominions. Close to 1,700,000 Indians – combatants and non-combatants – participated in WWI. My own area of interest is India’s role in the Mesopotamian theatre. [more inside]
The Great War Archive goes live today (November 11), the 90th anniversary of the Armistice. Launched by the University of Oxford in March 2008, the initiative invited members of the general public to submit digital photographs, audio, film, documents, and stories that originated from the Great War. Although the dealine for submissions is past, photos can still be added to the project's Flickr group.
Voices and Music of World War I and Voices of World War II: Experiences From the Front and at Home both feature spoken word, sheet music and songs galore (all audio RealPlayer). The Great War site has plenty of stuff, but the core is the collection of songs, anti-war, patriotic, France-themed, Kaiser-knocking and so forth. The WWII site also has a whole bunch of music, demonstrating the changing mood of the US, from conflicted feelings about the start of the war to conflicted feelings about the atomic bomb. Among the artists are Nat King Cole, Leadbelly, Benny Goodman and Fats Waller. But in addition the wonderful songs there are newscasts, speeches, propaganda and other radio broadcasting of all kinds.
Gallipoli is one of the most famous battles of World War I. Fought in on a Turkish peninsula in 1915 it was, like most Great War battles, a huge waste of life and largely fruitless. Jul Snelder's site has a wealth of information, the causes, history and aftermath of Gallipoli, the slang of the ANZAC forces, placenames in both English and Turkish, interesting little factoids, how Allied troops used subterfuge to hide their evacuation, the Turkish perspective, pictures of the battlesite today juxtaposed with old photographs, a mini-travel guide to Gallipoli and much more. One of the most famous units at Gallipoli was the Australian 12th Light Horse Regiment. To learn more about this type of unit, responsible for the "last successful great cavalry charge" two years after Gallipoli, I direct you to the excellent website of the Australian Light Horse Association, where you can learn anything you might reasonably want to know about the subject.
Famous, infamous, and interesting World War I draft cards, including The Bambino, Groucho, Moe, Satchmo, Scarface, and Sergeant York. [more inside]