World War I was the most momentous historical event of the past century, having consequences that continue to haunt us still. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire, to take only one example, continues to reverberate through the Middle East with no end in sight. I have tried to engage with what is being written but so much of it feels remote, detached. It might just as well be about the Napoleonic Wars. Not that I have written anything that will change any of this, but I did post a piece at Quadrant Online not least because I could not let the moment go by without at least saying something. And what I have written about is my favourite book on the war, which is Frank Furedi’s First World War: Still No End in Sight which at least sees the war as the momentous event it was. The article is about the succession of wars we have fought since 1914, each one to defend very different countries even though those countries did manage to keep their names. From my QoL piece:
That WWI broke up ancient empires and created new ones is not in doubt. That we would be as different as different could be had WWI been somehow prevented I also have no doubt. But such is the way of the world. Major events happen, as they will continue to do. What Furedi does is remind you that things change and nothing stays as it is. There is no permanence, and that everything you think really matters, down to the core values by which you set your moral compass, is but windblown ephemera whose existence a century from now cannot be even remotely guaranteed.
We live in our own time in a particular place and can be lucky or unlucky in how it turns out. A hundred years from now is as unimaginable to us as we would have been to the lads who joined up at the start of the war a century ago.